Archives Unlocked

The government’s strategic vision for the archives sector, Archives Unlocked, focuses on the needs and potential of archives across the country, and realises in practical and tangible terms their unique relevance in preserving the diversity of our nation’s heritage.

The vision and the priorities that emerge from it are the result of extensive consultation and development work with the archives sector, our partners and beyond, including a two-stage consultation process between April 2016 and January 2017.

Refreshing Archives Unlocked

The Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) has commissioned The National Archives to refresh Archives Unlocked, the government’s strategic vision for archives.

We have partnered with BOP Consulting to carry out an extensive consultation of the archives sector and its stakeholders to inform the refreshed vision. BOP have written a provocation paper – please read this first to help you consider the various themes that you might want the refreshed vision to focus on.

Read the provocation paper

You can take part in the consultation as an archive professional by attending one of our eight roundtables. These roundtables will be held in each region of England, with two roundtables online for those who can’t travel.

Roundtable dates and locations

  • 3 June – online
  • 11 June – Durham University
  • 20 June – Lancashire Archives
  • 26 June – Essex Record Office
  • 5 July – Birmingham Archives
  • 10 July – The Box, Plymouth
  • 12 July – online
  • 16 July – London Metropolitan Archives

Sign up for a roundtable

If you can’t attend any of the roundtables, you can complete our online consultation form, which will allow you to feed in as thoroughly as the roundtables.

Online consultation for archive professionals and strategic partners

There is also an online consultation form for users of archives such as academics, researchers and members of the public:

Online consultation for archive users

About BOP Consulting

BOP Consulting is a global research and consulting practice for culture and the creative economy. With a 25-year track record across over 50 countries the consultancy plans, designs and delivers sustainable cultural projects, demonstrating their impact and identifying opportunities for growth. Backed by a team of industry experts and experienced thinkers at the top of their fields, BOP’s bespoke tools give leaders and decision makers an unparalleled understanding of their cultural and creative assets and how to make the most of them.

David Hingley BEM, Senior Consultant: David has over 25 years-experience in developing and delivering visitor experience within some of the UK’s leading commercial and cultural
organisations. His recent clients include Fáilte Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, and Churches Conservation Trust.

Teodora Lazar, Senior Researcher: Teodora is a skilled mixed-method senior researcher supporting the delivery of strategies and evaluations for cultural organisations, funding bodies and government agencies. Her recent work includes projects for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Arts Council England, Arts and Humanities Research Council, British Council, V&A Dundee and the University of Oxford.

Patrick Fleming, Associate: Patrick is a specialist associate at BOP, with a diverse career in in library and archive management, media and the commercial sector, including a tenure of 12 years at the British Library in a number of high-profile roles. He is Board trustee of the London Library and formerly of the Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust.

Our strategic priorities 2023-25

Read the Archives Unlocked strategic priorities 2023-2025

The vision

Read the original Archives Unlocked vision document (PDF, 12.7 MB)

Read the accessible version of the original Archives Unlocked vision document (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Progress made through Archives Unlocked

Since the publication of Archives Unlocked, we have made progress in a number of important areas of work. The below list summarises some highlights.

  • In 2019, we launched the Collaborate and Innovate funding programme to empower archives and archive networks to develop creative solutions to shared challenges. In its first year, we awarded £142,500 to archives across the country to support collaborative and innovative projects. This work now continues as the Research and Innovation grants programme.
  • In 2020, we launched Plugged In, Powered Up, our ambitious digital capacity building strategy for the sector. Work delivered since then includes Archives School, our hands-on digital preservation training taught by leading experts at Kew, and Novice to Know-How, a game-changing online learning pathway, which we developed in collaboration with the Digital Preservation Coalition. Over 1000 professionals have now completed a Novice to Know-How course. We created the Digital Archives Learning Exchange (DALE) and a new peer mentoring programme, which have provided advice, inspiration and coaching for archivists. To build on the success of Plugged In, Powered Up, we have launched our new digital capacity building strategy, Our Digital Century.
  • In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary closures and changes to service provision, we provided up-to-date guidance, resources and support, including worksheets to support archives in re-opening inclusively when it was safe to do so. We carried out research into the different impacts of the pandemic on archive services, we advocated for the needs of the sector. We secured £500,000 of funding from central government for a new COVID-19 Archives Fund to help secure vulnerable and at-risk archive collections that might otherwise be lost or destroyed as a result of the crisis. This work continues through our Resilience grants and our Records at Risk grants.
  • Between 2019 and 2022, our Bridging the Digital Gap programme, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and in collaboration with host institutions across the country, ran traineeships for 24 people with much-needed digital skills but no previous experience of archives. Our ambitions to diversify the archive workforce and bring new talent into the sector continue through the Level 7 Archivist and Records Manager apprenticeships, which we launched in autumn 2023.
  • We continue to distribute £660,000 of New Burdens funding each year to local authority places of deposit as part of the 20-year rule programme.

Current steering group members

Emmajane Avery (Chair)
The National Archives

Guy Baxter
Museum of English Rural Life (University of Reading)

Paul Bristow
Arts Council England

Alistair Brown
National Lottery Heritage Fund

Beth Brunton
The National Archives

Justin Cavernelis-Frost
Rothschild Archive

Isabel Churcher
The National Archives

Alison Kay
National Railway Museum (Science Museum Group)

William Kilbride
Digital Preservation Coalition

Emma Markiewicz
London Metropolitan Archives

Tina Morton
The National Archives

Anna Sexton
Forum for Archives and Records Management Education and Research (FARMER)

Richard Wragg
Natural History Museum