Unlocking the potential of archives

Last week, we launched Archives Unlocked, the new, co-created strategic vision for the archives sector.


The Southbank Centre Archive Studio

Archives Unlocked is the result of a nationwide period of consultation last summer with a wide range of individuals, partners, stakeholders, and users. It sets outs how, together, archives of all kinds can work to realise the power, potential and influence they wield across culture, heritage and society.

We are proud to lead a dynamic sector of over 2,500 archives. Whenever I have the privilege of visiting archives around the country, I see how they are reinventing themselves and working hard to demonstrate their value to society; in particular, in the creative ways they engage with new and existing audiences, and in how they are embracing the opportunities that digital technologies present.

The vision outlines why archives matter with three core ambitions:

Trust: people and institutions trust in the authenticity of archive records, and how they are preserved and presented.

Enrichment: archives enhance and enrich our society intellectually, culturally and economically.

Openness: archives cultivate an open approach to knowledge and are accessible to all.

Archives Unlocked signals the start of a transformation. It is accompanied by a robust plan of action which provides practical and meaningful solutions – especially in meeting the digital challenges and opportunities. At the heart of the vision are the users – how people and communities interact and experience with archives now, and how that might change in the future.

The launch of Archives Unlocked was held at the fantastic Southbank Centre Archive Studio, and we were delighted to welcome guests from across the archive sector and beyond to join us in celebration. We had the opportunity to hear from Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of the Southbank, and the Minister for Digital and Culture, the Rt Honourable Matt Hancock, whose keynote speech passionately advocated for archives of all kinds and the ambitions within the vision. It is great to have such strong ministerial support, and I hope that this encourages the sector – and everyone involved in developing Archives Unlocked – to make the best possible case for archives as an integral part of the nation’s heritage.


Attendees at the Archives Unlocked launch

I’d like to thank everyone involved in the work leading up to the launch, for organising a thoroughly enjoyable day, and for everyone involved in the creation of our new and exciting strategic vision.

There has never been a more exciting time for archives!


  1. David Matthew says:

    As far as I am concerned the issue of openness (or lack of it, particularly from the Cabinet Office) is now just more than a small issue and what researchers of all kinds want and not just what archivists think they want, in particular out-sourcing records availability (the 1939 Register and censuses). I would suggest that people are more interested in ‘real’ records (i.e. a physical file) than a digital one, else the reading rooms would not be as full as they are. It does seem to me that this project is more about archivists and not the users.

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