Mapping inclusive practice across English regions

Call for investigators

The National Archives is seeking six investigators for a project to understand the inclusion work being undertaken in archives across the different regions of England.

Application deadline extended to: 12pm (noon) on 6 December 2021

Background

The National Archives is the official archive and publisher for the UK government and guardian of over 1,000 years of iconic national documents. Since 2012, The National Archives has held the responsibility for leadership of the archives sector. Part of its purpose is to ensure sustained or improved preservation of and access to the nation’s archive collections across the private, public and voluntary sectors.

The Archive Sector Development department (ASD) is responsible for leadership of the archive sector in England, which comprises over 2,500 archives. Our work is framed by the strategic vision, Archives Unlocked. Our approach to the leadership role is a collaborative one, supporting partnership working to encourage a sustainable and innovative archive sector. Diversity and inclusion are among Archives Unlocked’s priorities for 2020-22.

In 2021, The National Archives launched the Becoming the Inclusive Archive strategy, which spans The National Archives’ workforce, audiences, practices, and position as a global leader. The strategy has a commitment to listen, understand and learn from others pursuing inclusive practice.

What do we mean by inclusive practice in archives?

Our broad working definition of inclusion is ‘work that is using archives to foster a sense of belonging for as many people as possible within communities and diverse groups’. Inclusive practice includes ‘business as usual’ activities and project work. It may take place on site at the archive, online, and within local communities at external sites.
Examples could be:

  • Work addressing barriers to access (for users and staff); focusing on well-being; providing citizen advice; supporting COVID-19 recovery
  • Work pursuing anti-racism and dealing with potentially upsetting histories; intentional work to increase skills in research and accessing information
  • Providing support for financially insecure families; access to digital infrastructure
  • Promoting and supporting topics of relevance to a specific local community or region

Project description

The National Archives is embarking on a new research initiative to understand inclusion work being undertaken in archives across England in different regions. To do this, we are recruiting six investigators to explore inclusion work in the North East, North West, Midlands, East/South East, South West and London. The research will take approximately nine days over a six-week period (10 January 2022 – 19 February 2022).

This project will culminate in a research day where we will compare findings about inclusive practice, opportunities and barriers in the English regions and collaborate on a document to understand opportunities and barriers in each region and across the country. This sharing day has been provisionally scheduled for 22 February 2022.

Over the 9 days the investigators in each region will explore:

  1. archive services’ understanding of inclusion
  2. how much of the work done is ‘business as usual’ and how much is project work
  3. how this work is funded
  4. barriers to doing this work and opportunities to build on this work
  5. the nuances and particularities of the region as well as different experiences and issues within the region

The research will include publicly discussed work from archives, but will go beyond ‘desk research’ to uncover further insights and more in-depth information. Consequently, research may involve interviews and site visits.

We know that archives may not necessarily use the brand of ‘inclusion’ for the work they are doing to be more inclusive and to offer more inclusive environments. Investigators should identify inclusive practice even if it is not branded as such. Many archives exist within larger parent organisations, such as a business, charity, university library, or museum. We are particularly interested to know what the archive service itself is doing, or the role it is playing in the parent organisation’s initiatives.

Outcomes

  1. presentation of research findings (in written or audio/visual format)
  2. participation in the sharing day on 22 February 2022 (date to be confirmed), where we will collectively explore recurrent issues across the regions, as well as highlight region-specific issues and opportunities

What you will receive

This is a paid opportunity and each investigator will receive a fee of £3,600 (including VAT).
Investigators will collaborate with sector leaders and explore best practice through innovative research methods. They will gain experience in undertaking applied research in policy and will be co-authors on a report on inclusive practice across English archives.

Support

  • induction session about inclusive practice in archive services, including what we already know and what we hope to find out – three hours during the week of 13 December 2021 (to be confirmed)
  • one-to-one mid-point review of research and further support as needed – one hour
  • ongoing support from the Inclusion and Change Manager and Project Manager and access to The National Archives’ regional Sector Development Managers, who can support with further context and contacts

How to apply

To apply, please send your CV and a short expression of interest (approximately one side of A4) to Rachael Minott, Inclusion and Change Manager, at rachael.minott@nationalarchives.gov.uk by 12pm (noon) on 6 December 2021.

Your expression of interest should include:

  • your areas of interest in this project and your understanding of the brief
  • the strengths you have to conduct this work well
  • the region you would like to explore
  • your method for conducting this research over the 9 days, including time management and contingencies

For more information and to share any access needs, please also contact Rachael Minott at rachael.minott@nationalarchives.gov.uk.

Eligibility

This opportunity is open for researchers and practitioners at all stages of their career. We are looking for investigators with:

  • understanding of the archive sector (essential)
  • a good approach to researching heritage work (essential)
  • strength in communicating research (essential)
  • knowledge of the region they want to research (desirable)

Evaluation

Submissions will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Understanding of brief (maximum score of 10)
  • Strength of methodology (maximum score of 15)
  • Demonstrable relevant interest (maximum score of 10)
  • Good time management (maximum score of 5)
  • Good communication skills (maximum score of 10)

The maximum total score for an application will therefore be 50.