In India, Tamil Nadu occupies a unique place in Archives administration. By 1801, the whole of the area which later became the Madras Presidency had come into the hands of the East India Company, and the second half of the 18th Century itself witnessed a manifold increase in Government Records. The spurt in the accumulation of records compelled the Government to evolve orderly measures for their custody and preservation.
In 1805 Lord William Bentinck, the then Governor of Madras Presidency ordered the Centralization of all Secretariat records which were scattered in the various Departments of the Secretariat and appointed a Record Keeper and supporting staff to arrange, look after and to issue records promptly on requisition from various departments for reference. The records were kept in different places in the Secretariat owing to lack of accommodation until they were finally transferred to the Government Record Office (ie) “the Madras Record Office” in 1909, which later became the Tamil Nadu Archives.
The administrative blocks and six record stacks were constructed in 1909. The seventh stack was added in 1929 and the eighth and ninth were added in 1938. Further additions to the building such as the present Stationery section and Preservation Section were made in 1978 and 1994 respectively. In 1999 a new building for housing the Archival Library was constructed.
The head of the Madras Record Office was designated as the curator. The curators who served Madras Record Office had been eminent scholars and historians. After Independence, it became a separate Department and the head of the Department has been designated as Commissioner/Special Commissioner/Principal Commissioner. The head of the Department is assisted by the Deputy Commissioner, Assistant Commissioners and other officials. The Tamil Nadu Archives has District Record Centres at Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Salem, Coimbatore, Madurai and Cuddalore headed by Research Officers.