Developing partnership

Much of our work with the archives sector is concerned with partnership.

Parnership is identified as a key priority in Archives in the 21st Century, the government policy on archives, because it can help increase sustainability in the sector.

Benefits and challenges of partnership

Develop more sustainable ways of working:

  • secure funding
  • pool resources
  • share expertise and develop new skills
  • get involved in activities that wouldn’t otherwise be possible
  • achieve greater visibility and influence
  • improve access and engagement


  • partnership working isn’t necessarily easy!
  • partnerships are relationships – it’s important to communicate, build trust and be flexible as circumstances change

Types of partnership

Partnership working is becoming the norm across the archives sector – see our partnership case studies.

There are many types of partnership working (from informal to formal). The term ‘partnership’ is understood differently by different people. To some, partnership implies formal, large-scale working relationships (for example, archive services with joint governance or shared buildings), while smaller, less formal relationships are better described as ‘collaboration’.

This variety means that there is no one template for partnership working, and no ‘right’ way to do partnership.

See our Guide to collaboration between the archive and higher education sectors (The National Archives and Research Libraries UK) below. This guide offers practical advice and examples that relate to all types of partnership and collaboration, not just with the higher education sector.

Many local authority archives have entered alternative governance arrangements (trusts, mutuals, joint arrangements) or are considering doing so, and many of these arrangements involve partnership. See In a spin: guidance on spinning out local authority archive services.

Success factors

It helps if partners if you:

  • don’t force it – think of a ‘coalition of the willing’
  • already have a track record of joint working
  • build on existing relationships between individuals, services and parent bodies
  • identify how leadership will work within a network of peers
  • can commit some money and a lot of time. Time may be more scarce than money – especially for senior people
  • are pragmatic – not all issues can be tackled at once
  • have a clear workplan and timetable
  • use the Archive Service Accreditation standard to identify priorities

Guide to collaboration between the archive and higher education sectors (PDF, 0.48MB)

Examples of our work

As an organisation, we are becoming increasingly involved in fostering, brokering and supporting the development of partnership working within the archives sector.

The Archive Service Accreditation standard is a tool to help archives examine their offer more widely and encourage collaborative working between organisations. Archive services can submit examples of partnership working as part of the evidence for their accreditation applications.

The National Archives’ Engagement Team has supported the development of collaborative service networks:

  • Greater Manchester Archives & Local Studies Partnership
  • London Archives Partnership
  • South East Midlands
  • West Midlands
  • Archives South Central
  • Yorkshire Archives and Tourism

The purpose of these networks is for the participating services (mostly local authority archives) to make best use of limited resources by working together. The services in each network explore their strengths and challenges and create a shared vision, work plan and timetable with senior manager support.

We belong to partnership programmes such as the First World War Centenary Partnership, led by the Imperial War Museum, which is a network of thousands of organisations marking the centenary of the 1914-1918 war.

We offer events, conferences and workshops with a partnership theme, for example:

Keep an eye on our programme of events and training workshops, as some of these will involve case studies or guidance on partnership working.

How we can help

If you are considering entering into a partnership, we can:

  • put you in contact with other archives who have entered into partnerships
  • provide guidance on things to consider when you are setting up a partnership, or trying to sustain one

We are keen to learn from you about what’s working well or not well, but we don’t want to come between partners or take sides – the partners themselves are responsible for the partnership. And we can’t take decisions for you.

Contact the team for advice. In England, contact your regional Engagement Manager in the first instance.

Further guidance