The new Hull History Centre: an example of a transformational new archive building
It’s been a good few weeks for news of new developments for archive services across the UK. With the invaluable help of the Heritage Lottery Fund there has been a series of announcements of substantial support for some key projects which will ensure safe storage and high quality access for important collections. Among the recent good news stories are Manchester Archives+ , the project to transform the historic Central Library; West Yorkshire Archives Service’s Wakefield development and the funding for the Battersea Arts Centre. Experience from across the sector shows how new archive buildings can also reinvigorate services: acting as beacons to highlight the potential of the collections they hold, freeing up staff time from managing an inconvenient former home and offering scope for new activities where once the premises were too cramped to contemplate such work.
Designing a new or converted archive building is exciting, but also challenging. What goes into an archive building? The simple answer is: space for researchers, space for staff and space for collections. But exactly what that comprises depends on the space available, the collections to be housed and the activities it will host. The building needs to be well specified, to cover all the functions it will deliver, but not over specified, full of specialist spaces that are underused.
WORK 29/3284 Time passes: for the clock face of 'Big Ben' as for the rest of us!
It’s a year today since The National Archives formally took over the sector leadership responsibilities of the former Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. It seems like a good moment to reflect on what has changed and how far we have come.
What’s happened since then? Quite a bit!
- We’ve refreshed the action plan to accompany the government policy Archives for the 21st Century, taking account of changes to the sector and renewing the deliverables to take us up to 2015.
- We’ve launched a new section of The National Archives website, to support our work with the archives sector.
- We are developing our work with partners, including building key relationships with Arts Council England, the Archives and Records Association and the Local Government Association. In these challenging times, working in partnership is more important than ever if we’re to deliver our remit.
- We’ve continued to create and deliver key initiatives. We are now well into piloting the new archive service accreditation programme after an extensive co-creation exercise with the UK archives sector.
- We’re developing our engagement approach for the public archives sector while continuing our longstanding role in support of private archives.
- We’re delivering the Record of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, bringing core organisational records to The National Archives and supporting collection of records in local areas to document this memorable experience. Continue reading »
Isobel Siddons, Head of Engagement
A few months ago, my blog post focused on the work of the Private Archives Team. It seems like a good time to introduce another way that The National Archives is working in its archive sector leadership role. So I talked to Isobel Siddons, Head of Engagement, about how our work is developing in this area.
Q: What’s new and different about how The National Archives is working with the archives sector through engagement?
Isobel: The National Archives has a longstanding relationship with the sector around regulation of the keeping of public records and support for development against best practice standards. We want to maintain that, but within a context of engagement for sector development. We are taking a broader focus than preservation and access of collections, taking a step back to see archive services in context – if you like, turning the telescope round! In particular, we want to work with parent bodies of archives, what their priorities and challenges are and how archives can help; to identify local opportunities and broker partnerships; and to highlight new ways of working.
The National Archives also has a longstanding commitment to supporting services in crisis, which we need to maintain. But we also want to work with services to support innovation and positive developments. That will help us to highlight good practice, identify the ingredients for success and suggest models to follow.
So there’s a new range of relationships added to The National Archives work, and we aim to use our position as lead sector body to talk with senior managers, funding bodies, politicians and others who can open doors for archives.
The Holburne Museum, Bath
It seems appropriate for a holiday period to talk about a place I have just visited while on holiday: the lovely and recently expanded Holburne Museum in Bath. There are many reasons to enjoy the museum, but I was particularly interested after having recently heard their Director talk about the role archive documents had played in creating one of the new displays.
The core of the Holburne Museum’s collection was amassed by the private collector Sir Thomas Holburne (1793-1874). He kept this extraordinary mixture of furniture, ornaments, paintings, porcelain and much more in a Bath townhouse where he lived with his sisters. It must have been a bewilderingly rich and crowded experience to visit the Holburnes, given the size of their collections relative to the size of even a gracious townhouse! One area of the redisplay recreates just a small part of this richness, inspired by a detailed inventory of the town house. The inventory is also available in audio for museum visitors, who can listen in growing amazement, as I did, to the list of tables, chairs, knick-knacks, sideboards, fire-irons, netsuke, figurines and more which occupied just one room in the Holburnes’ house.
If you’re a regular follower of this blog you will have gathered that we are obsessed with records. Whether finding, caring for, managing or coming up with exciting ways to use the information they hold, we live and breathe archives.
This passion extends across the country. We are lucky to have a network of archives looked after by people who work hard to preserve the records in their care, and make them accessible to everyone who needs them. Where there are archives in businesses, charities, country houses, universities, local authorities and many more, there are people who are fascinated by records. At The National Archives, our aim is to support this network of archives to be the best they possibly can.
In April, my colleague Melinda talked about our developing role as archives sector leader for England, and how we would continue to support archives and their funders to demonstrate the valuable contribution they make to society.
With this in mind, we’ve recently updated our action plan for archives, which helps archives providers use the resources they have to strengthen and develop their services within the current challenging economic climate. The action plan builds on the government strategy for archives, Archives for the 21st Century and sets out The National Archives commitments to archives over the next three years, but also asks the archives sector to think about ways in which they can work, with the resources they already have, to build innovative, sustainable services.
Continue reading »
Knebworth Cottage Home (Copyright the Childrens Society ref 1540)
I wanted to bring you a flavour of what my colleagues in the Private Archives team do, because it really underlines the breadth of our work supporting the archives sector. Today’s blog is an interview with Philip Gale, Senior Adviser – Private Archives (Private and Institutional Owners). I thought you might enjoy hearing from Philip in his own words!
Philip has a particular focus at present on supporting the institutional archives of the voluntary sector, so I started by asking:
Q What is the value of institutional archives?
The theme of my next couple of blog posts will be about reconstructing the world we currently live in. Over the bank holiday weekend I attended an event that gave me new insight into a, for me, little-known digital world and gave me lots to think about in my work in digital preservation.
It has been 30 years since the release of the ZX Spectrum. To celebrate the impact this device has had on the UK in that time Imperica, the online magazine, held an event entitled Horizons. The theme, apart from reflecting on the ‘Spectrum at 30’, was very much binary, reflecting the past, and, exploring the future of computing.
The past. My first computer, still alive and kicking today.
Continue reading »
Sharp-eyed visitors to The National Archives website will have spotted some big changes last week. For the first time since the website was launched in this form, we have added a new headline section. The bright green Archives Sector section now joins About Us, Records, Information Management and Shop Online.
Archives Sector website on launch day
This is a really important change for us, a key step on the path we are taking as we develop our role as archive sector leaders for England. The new section is designed to support archive services and their funders to develop and improve provision across the entire sector. That means more sustainable services, excellent preservation for the future, and increasing the options and quality of access to archives for all users.