The archives are arranged as series within the United Nations office or agency that created them. The creating agency could be a United Nations department, mission, tribunal or any other United Nations functional unit.
The United Nations archives cover five broad areas.
Archives include those of:
- the International Penal and Penitentiary Commission, 1893–1951;
- the United Nations Information Organization, 1941–1946;
- the United Nations War Crimes Commission, 1943-1949;
- the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, 1943-1949;
- the United Nations Conference on International Organization, San Francisco, 1945;
- the United Nations Preparatory Commission, 1945-1946.
Fonds of the former Secretaries-General from Trygve Lie to Kofi Annan, from 1946 to 2006.
The holdings consist of two main types of archives:
- Registry files (covering all departments):
- 1946-1947 Central Registry
- 1948-1954 Branch registries
- 1954-1983 Central Registry
- Non-registry records (arranged according to the departmental organization of the Secretariat, 1946 – present), and include the archives of:
Office of the Secretary-General, Office of Legal Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Office of Public Information, Department of Trusteeship and Non-Self Governing Territories, Department of Political and Security Council Affairs, and many others.
These holdings include the archives of: United Nations Emergency Force, 1956-1967; United Nations Organization in the Congo, 1960-1964; Other missions and commissions established by the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Trusteeship Council or the Secretary-General, and cover the areas of Africa, Americas, Asia and the Pacific Europe and the Middle East.