A strategic vision for archives

In 2016, the Culture White Paper highlighted archives as a key part of the Government’s strategy for the culture sector.  Archives are at a crossroad with as many challenges as opportunities – driven by digital technology and all it has to offer. The previous government policy for archives spanned a time in which digital preservation and presentation were in their infancy.  Today these opportunities are of a different magnitude and we need a strategic vision for the role of the archive in a digital era.

The National Archives, as sector leader for the 2,500 archives across England, has led a consultation to develop a strategic vision for archives in collaboration with the archives sector.

The consultation

Our engagement with the sector started last summer. We heard from people from across the archives sector, a range of funders and partners from the wider culture, heritage and information world, and archive users.

Our consultation was in two stages:

Sector and partner engagement on the priorities and challenges facing archives (April-October 2016)

  • Roundtables in Wiltshire, London, Manchester and Birmingham attended by 179 people from across the archives sector.
  • An online survey which received 235 responses.  The results of the online survey helped refine the ideas and views emerging from the roundtables.

Public consultation on the draft vision (October 2016-January 2017)

  • Publication of a draft vision on our website and call for views
  • An online survey which received 100 responses
  • Six expert panels which were attended by over 100 strategic partners to explore the emerging themes.

Throughout our consultation we were supported by a reference group from across the archives sector.

Responses

A number of key messages emerged from the roundtables, workshops and in response to the public consultation:

  • The vision should be ambitious and make an engaging and compelling case for funders and decision makers
  • The vision should be underpinned by an action plan, supported by a wide range of partners to build a coordinated approach
  • The vision should address the needs and opportunities of the whole of the archives sector, including large and very small archives, as well as those in a wide range of parent bodies including local government, businesses, charities and higher education
  • The vision should stress the vital societal role archives play as sources of information and evidence, as well as their cultural and heritage value
  • The vision needs to set out a future where archives confidently manage digital as well as paper records and where access is expanded to new fields of research and a diverse audience
  • The vision must address the financial challenges archives face.

Next steps

This feedback will form the basis of a strategic vision for archives underpinned by a four year action plan, both of which will be published in Spring 2017.