Art and Archives event series


Artist engagement with archival collections and participation in Art and Archives event series

Art360 Foundation and The National Archives are seeking four artists or creative practitioners to engage with the collections of The National Archives. Artists will be asked to present their experience of engaging with The National Archives’ collections in one of a series of three online workshops on the intersection of art and archiving, taking place on 17 November 2021.

The three workshops will be hosted collaboratively by The National Archives and Art360 Foundation, and will explore how creative practitioners have historically interacted with institutional and artists’ archives, and how they might engage with such spaces in future. Our aim is to open a dialogue with the creative community in order to understand and address the opportunities present in the archive for creative practice and the barriers preventing artists’ engagement.

Additionally, these workshops will consider how artists approach the creation of their own archives, and will discuss ways that archivists have worked with artists through the Art360 Programme.

Engagement Brief: Artists

The engagement comprises two parts: Exploration and Exchange.

Part 1: Exploration

Artists will be asked to engage with material of their choosing from the collections of The National Archives. This work can take place remotely from home with access to The National Archives’ digital collections but can also involve visits to The National Archives to view original records, depending on the needs of the artist.

Each artist will receive an introductory online session to The National Archives collections, and will be supported in locating and navigating material for exploration by The National Archives’ collections experts throughout the exploration period. They will also receive support and mentorship from the Art360 Foundation team.

Our aim is to support artists in scoping out The National Archives’ collections and to identify material that strikes them as most interesting or relevant to their artistic practice for potential further exploration in the future.

The content of this exploration is open to interpretation and could, for example, entail written notes, a visual or artistic mode of reflection, recorded monologues or conversations with others, or another mode of exploration depending on each artist’s preference.

We are interested in learning about artists’ experience of accessing The National Archives’ collections, what led them to select their choice of items for potential future exploration and their preferred mode of engagement with online or physical materials.

The project is about scoping and exploration over a limited 12-hour timeframe (including meetings with Art360 and The National Archives), and the learnings that can be drawn from sharing this experience in an open and discursive public forum. Our payment of fees to artists does not cover substantial research or a commission for artwork, and this is not an expected outcome.

Part 2: Exchange

Artists will be asked to present for 15 minutes on their experience of engaging with The National Archives’ collection at the second of three workshops, and to exchange thoughts and ideas as part of a wider discussion on how they worked with their chosen material.

We are interested in understanding how The National Archives’ collections could inform artists’ practice at the point of conceiving artworks and ideas, of reflecting on or revisiting previous artworks or projects, or as part of research or preparatory activity. Our aim is to understand how engagement with archives can fit into different artists’ practice.

For the presentation, we will ask artists to share:

–       Their experience of accessing and navigating The National Archives’ collections

–       Material selected for engagement and what initially interested artists about the chosen material. Significant contextual background on chosen materials isn’t required. Rather, we are interested in what initially drew artists to particular materials and their experience of accessing these

–       How artists engaged with the material and what mode of engagement took place (i.e. reading, visual analysis etc.)? What formats were used to document this engagement and what insights were gained from this process?

–       How engaging with The National Archives’ collections could potentially intersect with, and inform their artistic practice, and the development of their own archives

Project Aims

Artists’ participation is a fundamental part of our project. By asking artists to engage with The National Archives’ collections, we aim to:

–       Support the work of artists by making The National Archives’ collections more accessible for research and creative engagement

–       Explore how The National Archives’ materials can be engaged with to inform artists’ work within the existing structures of the archive, and start conversations around how these structures could be developed to allow for greater scope for engagement by artists

–       Understand how artists can draw on different aspects of The National Archives’ collections to develop concepts, new work and to initiate dialogue on subjects of interest

–       Exchange ideas with artists on methods and approaches to archiving their own work, as well as the challenges they face in managing their materials independently


Exploration: up to 12 hours over a flexible timeframe between late September and early November 2021.

Exchange: 15-minute presentation as part of a two-hour online workshop on 17 November. Artists will be invited to join two other short workshops on 16 and 18 November, although this is not obligatory.

Artists will also be invited to one introductory session with The National Archives and Art360 online and two follow up meetings.

Our payment to artists for participation

Successful applicants will each receive a fee of £500 for participation.


–       £300 for up to 12 hours of work engaging with The National Archives’ collections

–       £200 for presenting and participating in one online workshop with Art360 Foundation and The National Archives

How to apply

Applications are open to artists or creative practitioners at all career stages, practicing in all media. Please send an expression of interest of no more than 500 words with a brief bio or CV as a single Microsoft Word or PDF document to before 17:00 on 17 September.

Please feel free to include any information you feel is relevant such as links to your work online.

The National Archives is committed to Becoming the Inclusive Archive; we know that the Inclusive Archive is not just what we do, but who we are. We have set ourselves the challenge of becoming more representative of the people we serve and are committed to providing a fair and inclusive environment for all.

We would particularly like to encourage applicants from backgrounds currently underrepresented in the art and archives sectors, including those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT+), from Black, Asian and minority ethnic cultural backgrounds, and those with hidden or visible disabilities. If you have any additional access needs and would like us to make adjustments during the application process, please do get in touch. We look forward to meeting you.

Evaluation process and criteria

Applications will be assessed by a panel representing Art360 and The National Archives using the following criteria:

  1. Interest and innovation of artistic practice (max 20 points)
  2. Method and approach (max 10 points)
  3. Relevance to open call (max 15 points)

Applicants must be available to present their findings at an online workshop on 17 November. We will contact successful applicants the week beginning 27 September to discuss the engagement in more detail.

We will request that successful applicants share one profile image and one image of their artwork or archive with The National Archives and Art360 Foundation for the purpose of publicising the project on our online and social media channels.

A note on exploring our collections

Please note that views expressed and/or the works developed by the chosen artists during or after this event series do not reflect the views of The National Archives or its staff.

The National Archives is the official archive of the UK government, England and Wales. We are home to 1000 years of history and are the guardians of some of the world’s most iconic documents from the Domesday Book to Downing Street tweets. We believe that archives are for everyone because they are about everyone, past, present and future. Our collections contain ideas, language and imagery from original records which reflect historical viewpoints and attitudes. Some may be considered offensive. However, we think it important to show them here as accurate representations of the record to help us understand the past.