Collaborating with the archive sector

Collaborating with the ARA

During the Covid-19 pandemic, archives have demonstrated an impressive ability to continue innovating and engaging with archive users, but the sector faces many short and long-term challenges. In response to this, the Archives and Records Association (ARA) and The National Archives are working together to support the record-keeping sector in as many ways as possible.

As part of the annual grant to support the ARA’s work, we have provided additional funding to help the ARA support those working and involved in the archive and record keeping sector through the extensive challenges that continue to emerge as a result of Covid-19.

The ARA has set up its ARA Together Covid-19 Support Hub and Online Community to provide advice, guidance, a listening ear and a place to share concerns, ideas and solutions around a variety of topics including business continuity, continued professional development and health and wellbeing.

Additionally, both partners have funded the creation and launch of History Begins at Home – a social media and online initiative which aims to help family members connect through conversations about the past and to capture and share these conversations through a host of means online. History Begins at Home is designed to help with people’s mental health and well-being during this period of isolation, encouraging people to think about the past within and beyond their families and to spark a new interest in history.

At a time when many of us have been working from home, both The National Archives and the ARA have been running surveys (see below) to gauge the impact of Covid-19 on services. Many events are being converted to a webinar format, including our business continuity webinars and inclusive re-opening webinar. These events were well attended and led to discussions that we will explore further. Given the need to develop digital skills, we also launched Novice to Know-How last year with the Digital Preservation Coalition, allowing archive professionals to develop a proactive digital preservation workflow for their organisation. So far, over 2000 people have benefitted from this programme.

If you have questions about any of these projects or the support available, please contact us via email.

The Records at Risk Fund

The Records at Risk Fund provides support of up to £5,000 for urgent interventions to save physical and digital records facing immediate peril across the UK. The fund is administratively and financially supported by The National Archives, the Archives and Records Association and the British Records Association. This funding is a response to the increased risks of vulnerable collections being lost or dispersed in the wake of the pandemic and builds on our experience of delivering the COVID-19 Archives Fund in 2020.

Find out more about the Records at Risk Fund

Covid-19 sector impact survey and business continuity research

During April 2020, we conducted a survey into the impact of Covid-19 disruption on the wider archive sector. The main purpose of the survey was to capture a national picture of the impact of Covid-19 disruption to archive services in order to inform our plans for sector support now and in the future, and to understand the reality of this sudden change to our normal ways of working.

Headline findings from the survey and webinars (PDF, 0.35MB)

Graphs of findings from the survey and webinars (PDF, 0.83MB)

We have carried out a second, more detailed survey to capture the medium-term effect of Covid-19 on the sector and to give us a benchmark for future work. Read a summary of our second Covid-19 impact survey results.

We continue to work across Government to raise awareness of these issues, and with other cultural sector bodies to ensure advice is joined up where possible. We have been identifying areas of risk that archives need to think about and have set down broad principles for reopening safely, without trying to cover all scenarios. We’re also constantly updating and revising our re-opening checklist and resource list as things move on.

Business continuity survey

As well as our sector impact research, we have also carried out a survey on business continuity. You can find out more about the results on our ‘business continuity survey‘ webpage.

Inclusive re-opening survey and webinar

In June 2020, we ran an inclusive re-opening survey which asked archive users and employees for their concerns about re-opening services. This survey focused on the nine protected characteristics that form part of the Equality Act 2010: age, disability, sex, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity.

Read the results and interpretation of the inclusive re-opening survey (PDF, 0.45MB)

Following this survey, we ran webinars in August 2020 and May 2021 where participants could discuss a series of scenarios based on some of the most commonly listed concerns and queries mentioned by respondents. The participants looked at how these scenarios can be managed to best benefit those concerned. We have created a worksheet of additional scenarios which archive services can work through to consider how they would respond to different situations.

Download the inclusive re-opening scenarios worksheet (PDF, 0.26MB)

Collaborating to deliver online activities

Since many of us continue to work from home, or are undertaking Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities while furloughed or working reduced hours, we are working to adapt our learning and networking activities for online delivery. The Higher Education Archive Programme (HEAP) has run two webinars on ‘Adventures in online teaching for HE Archivists’ with valuable contributions from colleagues in the sector. HEAP also joined forces with History UK to run a Twitter chat to support academics and archivists as they explore the questions that arise from a shift to virtual or blended teaching. We have more collaborations in the pipeline and would love to hear from you if you have suggestions for additional themes and potential partners. Please contact us at with your ideas.

Other network meetings, such as the Major Archive Projects Learning Exchange (MAPLE) and the Digital Archives Learning Exchange (DALE), have also moved online. You can watch one of the DALE webinars ‘Engage! Producing outstanding digital resources’ on YouTube.