The 18th annual report and accounts for The National Archives have now been published.
We are a non-ministerial department, and the official archive and publisher for the UK Government, and for England and Wales. We are the guardians of over 1,000 years of iconic national documents, expert advisers in information and records management, and a cultural, academic and heritage institution.
We fulfil a leadership role for the archives sector and work to secure the future of physical and digital records. Our collection is accessible to everyone all over the world.
This year’s annual report and accounts covers the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on our work and our response. Throughout, we have remained committed to our long-term vision set out in Archives for Everyone, which completed its second year. In September 2020, as part of The National Archives’ strategic response to COVID-19, we published five refreshed business priorities.
Read a selection of our 2020-21 highlights by clicking through the tabs below.
We provide expert advice and scrutiny, ensuring that the record survives and thrives
● Throughout the pandemic, we have adapted to discharge our legislative and regulatory obligations, supporting government departments by launching and maintaining a COVID-19 Information Hub, and delivering advice and guidance about managing the disruption to public records work.
● Despite the national lockdowns, we accessioned more than 91,000 government records transferred from over 20 public records bodies, including files from the Prime Minister’s and Cabinet Office covering events in 1997 and 1998.
● We began a multi-year project with the Ministry of Defence to transfer their collection of 9.7 million Armed Forces personnel files.
● We have continued to offer access to original records to government colleagues where requests were received to support the Government’s response to the pandemic.
● Legislation.gov.uk played an important role to aid legal certainty during the pandemic, supporting the legislative response of the four nations. The UK Government and devolved administrations enacted 815 new pieces of Coronavirus legislation.
● As the UK’s Transition Period with the EU ended and the future relationship began, legislation.gov.uk played an important role to aid legal certainty. Over the course of the year, we published the remaining 559 EU Exit Statutory Instruments, taking the total number of amendments to UK domestic and direct retained EU legislation to 147,517.
● The Freedom of Information (FOI) Centre resolved 2,236 cases in 2020-21. This was achieved despite restricted access to the physical records.
We work to inspire new ways for people to use and experience our diverse collection
● When our reading room service was suspended at Kew, to continue to ensure that our records were available to as wide an audience as possible, we provided access to digitised copies of our records free of charge. This commenced in April 2020. The initiative has resulted in a significant increase in the number of users of our digital downloads service, from 51,614 in 2019-20 to 139,037 in 2020-21.
● From March 2020, our public engagement programme switched to online with What’s Online, involving webinars, films, blogs and podcasts. We increased the range and frequency of our online communications. Our subscriber base grew to 298,967 by the end of March 2021 (an increase of 23 per cent year on year).
● Our education and young people’s programme successfully moved entirely online. In the year, we taught over 10,000 participants in online sessions, including PGCE trainees, compared to 2,581 online participants in 2019-20.
● With Love: Letters of love, loss and longing (our on site exhibition cut short owing to the pandemic) was relaunched online in January 2021 attracting 5,375 visits by March 2021. Alongside the online exhibition we uploaded three short films to YouTube; an expert tour of the gallery, a biopic of Wallis Simpson, and a diverse history film – Hidden Love – exploring LGBTQ histories in our collection. These films combined attracted a further 5,061 views.
We are an effective leader and collaborator, and support archives of all kinds to sustain and develop their services
● In response to the pandemic and the necessary closures and changes to service provision, we provided up-to-date guidance, resources and support to the archives sector. We also carried out research into the different impacts on archive services to inform our own response and advocate for the needs of the sector, including ongoing issues around finances and staffing/redeployment.
● The National Archives received £500,000 additional funding from HM Treasury, and we launched and delivered a support fund for the archives sector to prevent the loss of documentary cultural heritage arising from the increased risk of failure, dissolution or reduced capacity faced by businesses, charities, local authorities and arts organisations as a result of the pandemic. The fund received 85 applications from across the United Kingdom of which 25 were successful and provided further evidence of the current risks faced by the archives sector.
● We distributed £660,000 of New Burdens funding to 54 local authority places of deposit, who accessioned nearly 2.5 kilometres of public records in 2019.
We lead, enable and inspire pioneering research through fostering community, collaborative engagement, and inclusive practice. We work to generate new knowledge and drive progress for archives, the wider community and society as a whole
● Our success in winning research funding includes six projects as co-investigators, and two as principal investigators. The two we are leading are part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) Strategic Priorities Fund ‘Towards a National Collection’ research programme. These projects are partnerships between Higher Education Institutions and Independent Research Organisations.
● We were successful in the highly competitive funding call, ‘Capability for Collections’ from the AHRC, securing £264,000 towards new scanning equipment for our digitisation programme and critical upgrades for our Heritage Science and Conservation Research Laboratory.
● In 2019, our Collection Care Department created a Treatment Round Table, a forum to discuss conservation treatment options for The National Archives’ unique collection items. The Table rapidly evolved into an international forum, regularly attracting over 70 speakers and participants from around the world. The agenda feeds into the wider conservation and archives sectors as well as higher education.
● Despite the national lockdowns, we continued to highlight our collection through our loans programme. Exhibitions in the UK, Europe, and the US enabled access to our collections for 523,821 visitors.
Over the last few years, we have made important changes to the ways we think and work, in order to become a digital archive by instinct and design
● We pioneered the development of DiAGRAM, the Digital Archives Graphical Risk Assessment Model, working with the Applied Statistics and Risk Unit at the University of Warwick and a group of other archives. DiAGRAM was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
● We started work to develop a private beta for a new website for The National Archives, which will better meet the needs of our users and help us to more creatively engage the public.
● We have been working on developing a private beta for a new service to Transfer Digital Records from Government departments for open records. We also improved the catalogue, with 471,546 enhancements to catalogue descriptions made during the year.
● We were an active and contributing member of the Digital Preservation Coalition, the DLM Forum and the Open Preservation Foundation, as well as continuing to participate in the Archives Portal Europe Foundation.
Core financial tables 2020-21
Download core financial tables 2020-21: Public spending and Administration budget (XLS, 66 KB).
Summary of public records transmitted to The National Archives
This report is produced annually. It provides a summary of the public records transmitted to The National Archives from various sources. It gives a brief description for each piece, including the dates covered.
Download the summary of public records (XLS, 63 KB) transmitted to The National Archives 2020-21.
Exercise of delegated powers conferred on the Secretary of State by the Public Records Act 1958
This report is produced annually. It gives details on how The National Archives has exercised particular powers delegated to our Chief Executive and Keeper by the Secretary of State. These documents provide information on:
- Approval given for the transfer of public records between The National Archives and places of deposit, in either direction.
- The appointment of approved places of deposit for public records with specific local relevance or particular specialist and administrative requirements, which are held outside The National Archives.
- Approval given for the presentation of public records that have not been selected for permanent preservation at The National Archives to other appropriate bodies.
Download the Exercise of delegated powers 2020-21 (DOC, 27 KB).
Staff engagement survey
Read the results of our staff engagement survey in the Transparency section of our website.
Accounting officer system statements
Alongside our annual report and accounts, HM Treasury ask that government departments prepare Accounting Officer System Statements. Visit GOV.UK to find out more about them.
Reports and accounts in the UK Government Web Archive
See reports and appendices from previous years: