The Director General's authority is set forth in the Norwegian Archival Act and in the Archives Regulation. The Director General is the Chief Executive of the National Archives and of the regional state archives, which receive and make accessible to the public older, closed archives from public administration bodies.

The Director General is responsible for guidance and supervision of archival work conducted in government entities. This entails the authority both to set general rules and to pass special resolutions regarding issues regulated by the Archives Act. The act particularly emphasises the rules for preservation and disposal of public records. The general rules issued by the Director General are laid down in a separate regulation.

Pursuant to the Norwegian Archives Act, the Director General is also charged with certain tasks relating to the preservation of archival material from the private sector: to keep an overview over private archives worthy of preservation; to maintain a register of private archives that are being preserved in public and private storage institutions; and to make decisions as to whether an archive is particularly worthy of preservation.

The Norwegian Public Administration Act and the Public Administration Regulation grant the Director General further authority over material stored in government archival institutions. The Director General has the power to extend the duty of confidentiality for information when required due to privacy concerns, as well as the power to disclose confidential data for research purposes.

The position of Director General was established in 1840. The post is currently held by Ivar Fonnes, who assumed duty on August 1, 2006.

Appointed in 1840, Henrik Wergeland was Norway's first Director General. Up until 1904, the Director General served as head of the National Archives only. As of 1904, the role also includes final authority over the regional state archives. In 2004, the National Archives of Norway could look back at 100 years as a government agency.