Part of The National Archives’ work with the wider archive sector is about exploring and promoting the rich variety of different types of archive that are found across the UK and beyond. I was at Unilever Archives last week, finding out more about the way the company works with its historic records, and the records of companies it acquires. I was impressed as always by just how much business archives have to offer their parent company, as well as the valuable work they do preserving business records of wider research value.
Business archives are one of the parts of the archive sector that we are specifically targeting for Archive Service Accreditation (my day job), so they’ve been on my mind. The new Accreditation scheme is the first time a national standard for archives has been open to applicants from the corporate sector, so it has been a learning experience for us all in creating something that reflects the differing needs and priorities of archives in commercial settings. We’re going to be working with groups representing business archives to ensure we have a good understanding of what is realistic in a business archive setting. For example, if your service collects only records of your parent company, what kind of planning can or should you do about growing your collections? How is the pressure of external interest in a company archive balanced against supporting internal business use, which is often the primary reason the service is maintained.