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Archives for Everyone

Introduction

Four years ago we took bold decisions about the kind of institution we wanted to be.

We looked our biggest challenges in the eye and chose to be outward-looking, relevant, connected. We decided to think and organise ourselves differently. We began to change the way people think about archives.

We reaffirmed our leadership of the archive sector, forged new academic and research partnerships, connected with new audiences, refreshed our offer to government and led the way - globally - in thinking about digital.

Our historic mission endures: to collect and preserve the record, to use our expertise and knowledge to connect people with their history through our unrivalled collections, and to lead, partner and support archives at home and worldwide.

In 2015 we set a new course and in the four years since we have learned an enormous amount about our audiences, our capabilities and the nature of the challenges we face.

Most importantly, we fully recognised our potential.

Archives for Everyone is about that potential and how we will realise it.

Archives for Everyone

The National Archives is an essential resource for our democracy, a public good and an asset for future generations.

Our conviction is that archives are for everyone, and that archives change lives for the better. Forged through experience, this conviction tells in our relationship with our audiences and in our leadership of the nation's archives.

Archives are for everyone because they are about everyone - past, present and future.

As the living, growing home of our national story, our obligation is to connect with the biggest and most diverse audience possible, in the most innovative ways we can.

To honour this obligation, to fulfil the potential inherent in our historic mission, we must become something new.

We must become the 21st Century national archive.

Archives Inspire was the start. The last four years have brought into clearer view the defining features of the 21st Century national archive.

We now know that we must be:

  • The inclusive archive
  • The entrepreneurial archive
  • The disruptive archive

What we know we must be

The inclusive archive

The inclusive archive builds trust and tears down barriers to access, participation and understanding. It harnesses talent from diverse backgrounds. It is bold, active and outward-looking - encountered by people and communities in unexpected places and at vital moments.

The entrepreneurial archive

The entrepreneurial archive creates and realises value at home and across the globe. Operating flexibly and fearlessly, it is adept at finding and exploiting commercial, research and philanthropic funding opportunities - opening out and promoting its collection.

The disruptive archive

The disruptive archive changes everything. Constantly adapting, it rethinks and reshapes its practice to meet its contemporary and future challenges. Developing new skills and exploiting emerging technology, the disruptive archive reaffirms and transforms its historic mission for the digital age, from creation to presentation.

Making it happen

We will not become the 21st Century national archive overnight. It will take time, focus, effort and daring.

We have already begun, but now we must pick up our pace. Every choice must push us on to becoming the inclusive, entrepreneurial and disruptive national archive our country, and the world, needs us to be.

Over the next four years we will:

  • Change the culture and approach of The National Archives so that in all we do we better reflect and represent the society we serve
  • Curate unique national moments of public inspiration and participation, including through the launch of the 1921 Census - the UK's largest ever online release of historical records
  • Create new, inclusive and exciting spaces, physical and virtual, in which people can encounter our collection afresh - partnering with The National Archives Trust to widen the public experience and understanding of archives and our history
  • Lead the archives sector to fulfil the vision set out in Archives Unlocked, promoting our shared values of trust, enrichment and openness
  • Generate from our collection and expertise the cutting-edge research opportunities and commercial offers that will realise value and open out more of our collection
  • Secure the future of the Government record as an essential resource for public servants and the people - providing legal certainty through legislation.gov.uk and historical perspective through our collection
  • Lead the world in reimagining archival practice for the 21st century, pioneering new and ethical approaches to appraisal and selection, description, digital preservation and access

Beyond the next four years

Ahead of us lie great opportunities. Our response will transform The National Archives more profoundly than at any point since the founding of the Public Record Office in 1838.

Through this new and creative approach to our historic mission and through our leadership and convening power we will pioneer a new kind of cultural and heritage institution.

We will make good on our unique promise and potential as the 21st Century National Archives.