Archives of WHO

Distinction between library collections, archives and current records

Read carefully the distinction between the documents kept by these three units of WHO so that you go to the right place depending on the type of study you are making. In every case, it is advisable to conduct initial research in the library.


The WHO Library holds and stores all the published information produced by WHO, including proceedings of the World Health Assembly and Executive Board, monographs, periodicals, unpublished technical documents, press releases, fact sheets and administrative documents of the governing bodies.
With rare exceptions (in particular unpublished technical documents), outside visitors are able to consult on the spot, immediately after their creation, all the Library collections published and issued, even in the case of documents less than 20 years old. Only WHO staff may borrow certain documents.


The WHO Archives preserves the historically valuable documents produced by WHO units and also by organizations involved in international health prior to the foundation of WHO.
The Archives holds mainly textual paper documents, such as correspondence, reports and certificates, but also numerous photographs and some sound tapes. For reasons of confidentiality, most documents may be consulted only after a 20-year period.


The WHO Records unit mainly handles active records, i.e. documents used by the different units of WHO for their current work. They comprise correspondence, contracts and statistical reports.
For this reason, they are still covered by the 20-year confidentiality rule. Very few of these records are available to outside researchers.