Cultural records in front of National Register of Archives database

Supporting the arts, supporting archives

We're gathering knowledge of arts archives wherever these are held across the UK. Since July 2013 we've asked for information about these collections, including which should be a priority for digitisation and funding.

To get involved please see below and contact us.

Archiving the arts is an initiative to ensure that the records of the arts in the UK are well cared for and accessible, and that their value is recognised, by the people who create and look after them and by the wider public. We want to support sustainability and collection development for archival collections of the arts, so that more material survives and is collected for the future.

We believe arts archives are important because the information in these records can tell us:

  • how art works of all kinds were created and give an insight into the creative process
  • how the arts and their audiences have changed over the years and how this is reflected in archives
  • how the arts have been viewed, championed, questioned and preserved
  • how art works and the history of the arts has inspired new generations of artists

Get involved in archiving the arts

If you need advice and guidance on:

  • looking after your records
  • archiving your website
  • depositing records with your local or specialist record office
Please get in touch.

We'd like to know more about the records held in established archives:

  • Can we list details of these collections on the National Register of Archives?
  • Which of your collections are suitable for digitisation?
  • Are there potential projects and partnerships which you would like to discuss?
  • Would you like advice on improving practice, collection development or access to funding?
  • Can we share news of your projects and partnerships for arts archives?

Fleur Soper
Collections Knowledge Manager
+44 (0) 20 8392 5330 x 2548

Kate Wheeler
Collections Knowledge Manager
+44 (0) 20 8392 5330 x 2460

Existing collections held by archives

Arts archives are held in many places from established archives to arts organisations and practitioners who have created and gathered archives over the years. We want to work with the people behind these collections in a number of ways as part of this initiative, including:

  • making sure that people can find out about these collections and know where to go to view them
  • identifying collections that are good candidates for digitisation and helping to unlock funding to achieve this
  • brokering partnerships between archives and other heritage bodies, academics and other interested parties
  • helping archivists to access sustainable funding streams for their collections so that they are enabled to make the best use of the material and continue to preserve it for future generations
  • sharing best practice so that organisations have access to the latest skills and knowledge
  • helping arts practitioners to discover inspiring collections and to make creative use of them

Material not held in an archive

Lots of important material relating to the arts is not part of an established archive. Sometimes this is because the material is held by the person or organisation who created it - and who may still be using it. Sometimes it is because the organisation does not know whether the material is valuable or not (and what to do with it if it is). We want to work with the people who own these records to help them to:

  • review the material and work out what should be selected for a permanent archive
  • make good long-term decisions about how to store their collection. Whether that is helping them to look after it well themselves or helping them to find an archive who might be able to work with them to store it
  • access funding to support good work with the collection
  • catalogue their collection, to an appropriate level, so that people can find it, learn about it and potentially begin to use the information it contains

We also want to encourage them to think about the underlying rights in their archive and whether they are making the best use of these.

What about arts practitioners?

We are very keen to work with artists from all disciplines. We want to encourage artists to start thinking about their own records and to make good decisions about how their working papers, audiovisual material, photographs and journals might be preserved - whether these are physical or digital. We also want to support artists to use existing archives as sources of inspiration to help them to create new art works. We aim to build strong connections between artists and archivists that will create tangible benefits for everyone involved.

We are really interested in how we can make initiatives sustainable for creators, audiences and archives - so that all this great work survives for the long term in a physical and digital space. We are keen to hear from collecting organisations, strategic and funding bodies and arts practitioners with a core interest in archives and the arts.

Archiving the arts resources

You can find useful resources and news on archiving the arts on our resources page.

Find out more

Fleur Soper
Collections Knowledge Manager
+44 (0) 20 8392 5330 x 2548

Kate Wheeler
Collections Knowledge Manager
+44 (0) 20 8392 5330 x 2460