Arts Council England and The National Archives collaboration agreement 2021-2024

This Collaboration Agreement builds on the framework for cooperation outlined in the previous Memorandum of Understanding 2016-2019 between Arts Council England and The National Archives.

This refreshed agreement sets out the role of each organisation and describes how they will work together to achieve their separate and common goals.

Responding to periods of crisis

Arts Council England has set out three phases to support sectors through the COVID-19 crisis: response, stabilisation and reset. The Arts Council is working with the government as part of the Cultural Renewal Taskforce and sector working groups. From early 2021, the Arts Council’s aim will be to support the sector to reset for the ‘new normal’. The commitments outlined in Let’s Create will be more important than ever. The Arts Council will invest in artists, creative practitioners and cultural organisations to produce work that will deliver social and economic benefits for their communities and the taxpayers and National Lottery players who fund our work. This in turn will be central to our national renewal.

The National Archives has been working with partners across the archives sector and the wider cultural and research sectors to support our constituents during the present times of uncertainty and rapid change. Drawing upon informed best practice from within The National Archives and national and international partners, we have provided up-to-date information, guidance and resources during the COVID-19 crisis to archives across the sector and have continued to provide support to services and individuals through our Archives Sector Development team. Our Covid-19 Archives Fund is delivering additional resource to help secure archives that might otherwise be lost as a result of the crisis. We continue to carry out research across the sector to understand the different ongoing impacts of the pandemic on services and collections better and continue to adjust our programmes and priorities to best support the sector during these challenging times. Our strategic response to COVID-19 outlines the work we will do by 2022 to deliver our mission, which includes leading the archives sector to a secure and sustainable future.

Arts Council England and The National Archives are co-signatories on the 2018 joint statement on museums and risk, setting out a commitment to a coordinated approach in response to situations when museums or collections are at risk.


Arts Council England is the national development agency for the arts, museums and libraries, investing money from the Government and The National Lottery to support the arts and cultural sector.

The National Archives leads the archives sector for England and performs the Historical Manuscripts Commission’s functions in relation to independent archives. Its support and advice help archives across the UK to develop and enhance their services, facilities and collections.

This agreement recognises that while both organisations have distinct roles, their strategic visions, programmes and aims reflect many areas of shared interest. Archives, libraries and museums often share audiences, workforces and stakeholders and frequently operate interdependently. This agreement and its action plan reflect our common values, goals and realities.

This agreement has been developed in line with the direction of central government.

Arts Council England

Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. Our 2020-2030 strategy, Let’s Create, sets out our vision that by 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where every one of us has access to a remarkable range of high quality cultural experiences. We invest public money from Government and The National Lottery to help support the sector and to deliver this vision.

The National Archives

The National Archives is the official archive and publisher for the UK government, and England and Wales. In our role as the leadership body for the archives sector in England, we work with over 2,500 archives across the country.

Our current strategy, Archives for Everyone, sets out The National Archives’ ambition to become the 21st-Century National archive, one that is inclusive, entrepreneurial, and disruptive. Our strategic vision for the sector, Archives Unlocked, outlines our leadership priorities under the themes of trust, enrichment and openness, and describes our work to encourage a sustainable and innovative archives sector.


This agreement outlines how both organisations will continue to build on the work completed to date to ensure there exists a comprehensive cultural offer for the public, which includes the rich diversity of arts, museums, libraries and archives.

Shared objectives

Through collaboration, Arts Council England and The National Archives will:

  1. Act strategically and practically across the full range of cultural and heritage sectors to help communities and people across England benefit from opportunities to engage with culture, and to make sure our sectors’ collections and activities are open and accessible to all.
  2. Continue to recognise archives as part of the wider cultural landscape, particularly within the context of museum and/or library services.
  3. Actively identify shared challenges, opportunities and audiences nationally, regionally and locally.
  4. Work together to develop inclusive workforces, collections, schemes and programmes that better reflect the diversity of contemporary England and include diverse perspectives and points of view.
  5. Explore shared approaches to opening up data and developing digital capacity across the cultural sector.
  6. Work together to develop a more sustainable and resilient cultural sector, making the most of available advocacy, skills sharing and funding opportunities.

Statement of intent

Arts Council England and The National Archives recognise that they have complementary expertise and overlapping interests.

The two organisations will endeavour to cooperate and work together in so far as their separate interests, legal constraints and corporate aims permit.

Arts Council England will continue to provide input into the strategic direction of The National Archives’ leadership role for the archives sector through membership of the Archives Unlocked steering board.

They will share knowledge (so far as they are legally permitted to do so), expertise and best practice in relation to matters of mutual interest and, if there is an overlap or mutual interest in a particular area, they will consult as appropriate.

Both parties are committed to the principle of good communication with each other.

Both Arts Council England and The National Archives will seek to alert each other as soon as is practically possible to relevant developments within their respective sectors.

This Collaboration Agreement will be published on both organisations’ websites.

Frequency of contact

Senior members of staff from Arts Council England and The National Archives will meet on an annual basis, normally within the setting of the DCDC conference, to discuss matters of mutual interest, share lessons learnt from our respective sectors, and review the direction of this agreement. These meetings will be underpinned by regular liaison between their officials, on a quarterly basis, and at other times as and when required, to review the action plan resulting from this agreement.

The organisations will ensure that it is clear who the appropriate contacts for particular matters are, and that contact details are kept up to date.

Frequency of review

This Collaboration Agreement will be reviewed in the summer of 2022 to align with the DCDC conference, and annually thereafter, or more frequently if developments in either organisation make it necessary.

This Collaboration Agreement records a formal agreement between the Parties and the Parties acknowledge that this Collaboration Agreement does not create a legally binding contract.

The Parties agree that they enter into this Collaboration Agreement intending to honour all of their obligations and both agree to act in good faith and work collaboratively to achieve the purposes set out in this Collaboration Agreement.

This Collaboration Agreement replaces and supersedes any existing MoUs between the Parties.

Each Party confirms it is acting on its own behalf and not for the benefit of any other person.

On behalf of Arts Council England          On behalf of The National Archives

Darren Henley, Chief Executive               Jeff James, Chief Executive and Keeper