Archive Service Accreditation refreshed

Certificates awarded to some of the accredited archivesSince 2013, over 120 archives have been awarded Archive Service Accreditation 1, making it a good moment to take stock of progress and evaluate the scheme. Over the past nine months, therefore, many archive services and those who work with archives have been helping us with the Archive Service Accreditation Refresh Project.

As the name ‘Refresh Project’ suggests, rather than a major overhaul of the Scheme and Standard, the intention has been to make Archive Service Accreditation easier to understand – for those wanting to learn more about the Standard and for those planning an application.  We are pleased that the outcomes of the Refresh Project do reflect this.  Equally, they also build on the successes of Archive Service Accreditation to date.

The project, led by contracted consultant Elizabeth Oxborrow-Cowan, included consulting with groups with a particular interest in Archive Service Accreditation: archive services who have already applied for Archive Service Accreditation, those yet to apply and those who have worked with the programme itself, alongside a dedicated reference group. This was achieved through a series of workshops, an online survey and direct discussion. The feedback identified a number of concerns that then informed on the development of the documentation and scheme. Some of the concerns included:

  • clarification of wording and meaning of some questions, in the application form
  • repetition around requirement 3.2 Access Planning of the Standard
  • lack of understanding around Scalability
  • some uncertainty around expectations around meeting some requirements of the Standard;
  • the need for the assessment to take account of future change

Now, following the latest Archive Service Accreditation meeting (April 2018), we can tell you about some of the outcomes of the ‘Refresh Project’ and what they mean for archive services planning to make an application for Archive Service Accreditation.

The Standard

It is reassuring that the Standard itself still remains relevant to archive services since its launch five years ago and there and there is only one change to the Standard. We hope that merging requirements 3.2.1 and 3.2.2 into a single new requirement will reduce repetition and clarify what is required here.

The new requirement says: ‘the archive service understands the community it is established to serve, and has effective methods in place to gather information on, analyse and evaluate existing and potential stakeholder needs and interests.’

The application form

The application form has also been updated to incorporate new questions concerning incremental changes around the management of digital records (already published here) and to reflect the merging of requirements 3.2.1 and 3.2.2. Additionally, new questions examine an archive service’s ability to plan for and manage future change successfully around governance, premises, funding and staffing.

Both the layout and content of the guidance document have been revised to help clarify expectations around meeting the requirements of Archive Service Accreditation. For example, for each requirement there is now a section on Significance (why it is important), on what the assessment is looking for, more detailed scaled guidance for different types of archive services, and some question specific guidance.

Lastly, the guidance document has been updated with references to the most current building and conservation standards.

New ‘Getting Started’ documentation

The guidance documentation also includes a new document ‘Getting Started’ (with a yellow cover).  This is an introductory guide for archive services who might want to find out more about the Standard and the Scheme, or who are in the early stages of planning an application for Archive Service Accreditation.  As well as providing an overview of the scheme, it also looks at the benefits of Archive Service Accreditation based on the experience of applicant services and describes the application process in more detail – from eligibility, a demystification of scalability, through to what happens post award.

What happens next

We are aiming to publish the refreshed documentation, in both English and Welsh, on our website in June 2018 and we’ll let archive services know when this is available.  At the same time, the online application system, which is currently closed to allow for revisions to the application form, will re-open.

The UK Archive Service Accreditation Partnership, composed of the Archives and Records Association, Archives and Records Council National Records of Scotland, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Scottish Council on Archives, The National Archives, The Welsh Government’s Museum Archives and Libraries division (MALD), continues to support Archive Service Accreditation across the UK.


  1. Archive Service Accreditation is a developmental standard, supporting improvement and forward planning to ensure the long-term acquisition, preservation and accessibility of archive collections. Working towards accreditation provides the opportunity to strengthen archive services and ensure their work is well-organised and understood within their parent organisation.


  1. Jenny Mitcham says:

    Great to see a bigger focus on digital in the new iteration of the standard and thanks for sharing. I just had a look at the new form and have a few thoughts (if not too late).

    The Data Seal of Approval has recently been replaced with a new standard called ‘CoreTrustSeal’ ( – the premise is similar (if not the same) as the old DSA standard in that your application is peer reviewed by default, though of course you can use the standard just to do a self assessment as an initial step. So, I guess in Q S3 you would want to have CoreTrustSeal self assessment and peer review as the 2 options instead of DSA. Re ISO16363, I would imagine the first (and perhaps only) step for most archives would be a self assessment against this standard, so it may be helpful to have this option?

    It is interesting seeing this section of the form about digital archive certification standards sitting with questions that are essentially about storage. This might give the wrong impression as clearly the standards mentioned are not all about storage – they cover the whole OAIS model – from deposit to access to preservation planning, with storage as just one element. Wondered if this might lead to confusion or misinterpretation?

    Hope this is helpful.

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