Advice for arts archives

Advice and guidance

In addition to support from The National Archives, there is a wide range of useful resources available to help you look after records and archives of the arts. If you need further advice please email us.

Getting started

A selection of basic guides for looking after arts records and archives:

Managing your current records

Organisations produce records every day in many different formats – it’s vital to manage the current records you use long before they become your archives:

The National Archives – Caring for archives

The National Archives – What to keep and Why (PDF, 0.11MB)

The National Archives – Managing electronic records (PDF, 0.66MB)

University of Bristol Theatre Collection: Caring for Your Own Records

Whilst originally developed for managing Charity records, the Management Framework for Retention and Transfer also provides an excellent overview of the categories of records that organisations should preserve long-term.


Digitisation is the process of creating a digital copy of a physical item and its associated information. This can be in order to improve or increase access, or for preservation purposes.

The National Archives – Digitisation at The National Archives

National Preservation Office: Managing the Digitisation of Library, Archive and Museum collections

SHARE Museums: A Guide to Digitisation

Transforming Tate Britain: Archives & Access

Managing your digital records

Digital records need the same level of care and management as paper, though they offer their own particular challenges. We’ve put together some key resources to give guidance on how to manage your digital records.

The National Archives:

Association of Performing Arts Collections – Preserving born-digital material

OCLC Research: You’ve Got to Walk Before You Can Run: First Steps for Managing Born-Digital Content Received on Physical Media

Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR): Born digital: Guidance for Donors, Dealers and Archival Repositories

Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC):

Library of Congress (LOC): Personal Archiving: preserving your digital memories

Moving archives

Moving your archives from one location can be a complicated task – these resources offer some advice on how to go about this:

British Library Preservation Advisory Centre: Moving Collections

Major Archives Project Learning Exchange (MAPLE)

Risk Awareness Profiling Tool

The National Archives can also offer advice and guidance on planning a collections move, please contact us


Identifying the owner of copyright for arts collections can be a complex process, but there are a number of resources that can help you

Copyright user – specifically for the creative community; offers easy-to-understand and practical help

Own-it – Intellectual Property know-how for the creative sector from the University of the Arts London

CREATe: UK Copyright and Creative Economy Centre

Intellectual Property Office

Intellectual Property Office: copyright notice for digital images, photographs and the Internet

Intellectual Property Office: Orphan works and cultural heritage institutions

The National Archives: Orphans works: guidance for archive services on reasonable searches to identify rights holders

The Space: Digital Rights Toolkit

Design and Artists’ Copyright Society: Licensing artworks

For archivists with arts archives

Detailed resources for preservation, management, review and access to records and archives:

Collections Trust: Benchmarks 3.0 – Conservation Planning Tool

Collections Trust: Reviewing Significance Framework

Dorset History Centre: Archiving the Arts – Introduction and Guidance for Potential Depositors

Museum of London: e-learning tools on collection care

Screen Heritage UK: Screen Heritage UK handbook

The National Archives: Art and artists research guide

The National Archives: Collection Development

The National Archives: Film, television and the performing arts research guide

The National Archives: Large Cultural Infrastructure Projects guidance

The National Archives: Managing Mixed Collections guidance

Archiving the Arts

Archiving the Arts was an initiative to support arts archives in the UK, wherever they were held. Our active work on Archiving the Arts drew to a close in March 2016. We reached over 250 organisations and individuals, providing advice on good practice, development, partnerships and sources of funding.

The original Archiving the Arts pages have now been added to the UK Government Web Archive.

Where else to look

There is a range of specialist organisations and networks offering advice on particular elements of arts collections

Association of Performing Arts Collections (APAC)

Art 360 Foundation

Film Archives UK

BFI National Archives

ARA Section for Film, Sound and Photography

The Photographic Collections Network

Arts Council list of Subject Specialist Networks

British Library Sound Archive

British Library Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project

Group for Literacy Archives & Manuscripts

Art UK: Advice for Collections

UK & Ireland Art Libraries Society (ARLIS)

V&A: Caring or Your Possessions – advice on caring for a range of collections types and materials

The Space: Resources for delivering art projects on digital platforms

Joan Mitchell Foundation: Creating a Living Legacy Programme for Visual Artists

Or see our Networks and Collaboration pages