Most archive services acquire new material for their collections and make them available to researchers through longstanding arrangements, very often by transfer from their governing body, or by deposit from businesses, families, organisations and individuals.
However, manuscripts and archival collections do come up for sale. This is sometimes through specialist auctioneers and dealers, but increasingly through non-specialist antique dealers and amateur sellers, almost always online. When important documents are put up for auction how can we help ensure that they go to the right archive service – somewhere where they can be seen in context alongside other, similar material and where researchers will be able to access and enjoy it?
The sales monitoring service, which is run by the Archive Sector Development team here at The National Archives, was set up to support this effort.
In the last sales year, we monitored around 350 catalogues from over 100 sources. Where we see lots that fit within the collecting remit of one of the UK’s archive services, we notify that institution so that they can decide whether they want to buy the manuscript or collection.
The unique overview our work gives of all aspects of the buying and selling of archives means that we have real expertise on the value of archival material, collecting practice across the archives sector and also how the market in manuscripts works. Continue reading »