Our leadership statement

A new approach to leadership

Since The National Archives has now held the leadership role of the archives sector in England for more than ten years, we have taken the opportunity to review our approach to archives sector leadership.

We commissioned Activist Group to independently undertake a comprehensive survey of the sector to gather feedback on where we have succeeded in our leadership role and where we need to focus our attention going forward to make improvements. Over 140 people responded to the survey and a further 100 stakeholders were consulted during the process.

We have listened to the sector and to the recommendations in Activist Group’s report, and have identified three key areas of focus that will allow us to develop our strategic leadership of archives in England:

  • Partnership working
  • Advocacy
  • Sector leadership across The National Archives

Sector leadership across The National Archives

If we are to provide the most effective strategic leadership to the archives sector, our leadership role must be embedded in all parts of The National Archives. As a result:

  • We have developed a prominent strategic intent for our leadership role within The National Archives’ overall strategy, Archives for Everyone: ‘Consult on and implement a new approach to sector leadership, delivering a clearly defined role advising government on policy for the archives sector and advocating for its financial and other support’.
  • As the strategy’s name conveys, we are passionate and committed to being an archive that welcomes everyone, working for the longer-term outcome of a sector to which everyone can bring and find themselves.
  • By working across the entirety of The National Archives, we can share knowledge from all our departments, from conservation to digital, with other archives and we can share knowledge from the sector in return, benefitting archival practice across the country.

Partnership working

Working in partnership is crucial to delivering the ambitions of Archives Unlocked, the vision that we co-created with the archives sector and launched in 2019. We will therefore be devoting additional time and effort to building partnerships within and outside the sector. This includes:

  • Forming a UK-wide archive sector leadership and engagement network with counterparts in the Home Nations to provide an effective forum for identifying opportunities – for example, to collaborate, or attract funding.
  • Developing our strategic relationships with other leadership voices such as Arts Council England, the Local Government Association and funders, such as the National Lottery Heritage Fund, to advocate for a resilient archive sector.


  • We hold leadership responsibilities under legislation, in the form of the Public Records Act 1958 and the Historical Manuscripts Commission (HMC) Royal Warrant (which expands our remit to all archives, rather than just public institutions and public records)
  • We will advise government on policy for the archives sector and advocate for its support, both financially and in other ways.
  • Part of improving our leadership offer is clarifying where we will act and where others are best placed to. We will represent the sector to government but as a government department we cannot lobby or criticise government or comment on contemporary political issues. We will not lead on issues where the role of the Archives and Records Association as the professional body is paramount, such as pay, personal conditions or professionally supporting individual archivists.
  • We will continue to represent institutions, collections, public records, and private archives, and we will advocate for archives within and beyond the wider cultural heritage sector.