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A Year in

Archives 2016

Welcome to a year in archives 2016 A Year in Archives 2016 highlights some of the inspiring collaborative work that has taken place across the archives sector throughout the year.


e would like to thank all of you who have contributed to helping illustrate how archives across the country are demonstrating their value to society and their local communities. The sector brims with innovative and creative possibilities under challenging circumstances. By working together, archives are finding new ways to showcase the uniqueness of their collections, through engaging with existing and new audiences, and in bringing history into people’s lives.

This year’s publication is designed to be used in many different ways. We hope that many of you will display and share it with your users so that we can all take part in celebrating how exciting a time this is to be an archive! Jeff James Chief Executive and Keeper, The National Archives

Digital Archives are bridging the digital divide and making history available at the click of a button.


he accelerating rate of film digitisation is bringing public history to life like never before – and changing our relationship with our past. We’re used to film as something distant and glamorous. But for its entire 120-year lifespan filmmakers have carried their cameras among us. The chances are that at least once in that time, somebody has filmed your city, town, village – perhaps even your street. In July 2015, the BFI unveiled Britain on Film. This fantastically ambitious project is the centrepiece of a five-year project to open up the nation’s film archives and make them available online – mostly for free – as part of the video-ondemand platform, BFI Player ( At the heart of Britain on Film is a groundbreaking interactive map of the British Isles in film and TV. Visitors can browse well over 3,000 titles (with many more to come),

drawn from the collections of the BFI National Archive and 13 partner archives across the UK. The films cover all corners of the British Isles and date from the end of the 19th century to the early years of the 21st. Carefully chosen by expert curators, the films in Britain on Film reveal hidden histories and forgotten stories of people and places. Users can explore where they live, grew up, went to school, spent holidays as a child, or any place of interest in Britain. Visit Britain on Film at: This compelling resource is a powerful reminder of film’s unique ability to bring all of our histories to vivid life.

Accountability Archives contribute to better decision-making by providing transparent and accessible information.


he 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta was a landmark of national and international significance, highlighting not just the importance it had on society, justice and human rights as a whole, but also the importance of record keeping and how it contributes to our duty to remember. From specially commissioned BBC documentaries, to academic conferences, publication of new books, public exhibitions, local community events and a Magna Carta tourism trail, more than 1,000 events took place across the globe, making immense use of archives and the records they hold. The Parliamentary Archives kick-started the theme by delivering an outreach project in partnership with a number of regional archive services which consisted of educational and community workshops, lectures, an exhibition, all exploring the legacy of Magna Carta and Simon De Montfort’s Parliament.

Other archives decided to embrace the Explore Your Archive mini campaign theme, ‘Magna Carta and the road to democracy’. Birmingham Central Library and Archives, for example, spent the last ten years working with young people on archive collections. Some of the most engaging items have been about protest and the local population’s involvement in demanding change for themselves and their communities. Dudley Archives and Local History service used the opportunity to celebrate both the 800-year anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta and the 150 years since the Corporation of Dudley came into being, bringing a global and local history together. You can see some of the case studies online: - Partnership with Glamorgan Archives: transformingsociety/tradeindustry/ industrycommunity/case-study-so-daviesand-workplace-compensation/ - Partnership with Norfolk Record Office: transformingsociety/electionsvoting/ elections-and-voting-in-the-19th-century/

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Gloucestershire County Council, talking in a local event to mark the anniversary said, “The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta provides a timely reminder about the importance of the rule of law and the protection of human rights. We are pleased that we are able to celebrate this historically significant event by using the libraries and the archives resources we have in the county.”

Creativity Archives are boxes of treasure that can inspire wonderful creations.


outhbank Centre Archive Studio is at the heart of a project to restore Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery, to preserve and improve them for future audiences. Prominently located in the Royal Festival Hall’s foyer, overlooking the restoration works, this new temporary space – created by the architects Jonathan Tuckey Design – makes Southbank Centre’s extensive archive accessible to the public for the first time. As well as housing reference collections and incorporating changing displays, it is the venue for regular group volunteering sessions and an evolving programme of public engagement activity, linked to the varied festivals which make up Southbank Centre’s wider artistic programme. The design and construction of the studio makes creative use of heritage materials, such as Dexion steel shelving, to complement the Grade 1 listed modernist Royal Festival Hall. This integration is key to embedding the archive in Southbank Centre’s wider work. The use of ‘boxes on shelves’ provides a tangible starting

point for opening conversations about the project and archives more generally. The Archive Studio is a creative space for innovate practice in archiving in the arts, and for making the most of the interaction between archive material and the art forms on site. Planned future activities include a poet’s guide to the archive, resident student researchers from Central Saint Martins College, Date Night at the Archive for the summer Festival of Love, and a ‘Sing and Sort’ archive / choral workshop. Collaborations with other archives, so far, have included the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, for the Imagine Children’s Festival, ‘talking heads’ sessions with the Feminist Library, for the Women of the World festival and the BBC Asian Network archive film footage for the Alchemy festival of South Asian arts.

“Southbank Centre wanted the space to be as visible, open and accessible as possible in order to encourage public engagement and awareness of the archive while at the same time functioning as a secure working archive environment.” Matthew Farrer, project lead, from Jonathan Tuckey Design.

Learning Archives are the perfect environment for hands-on learning experiences, be it in a professional or a personal context.


he Royal Albert Hall is the ‘world’s most famous stage’ and its archive collections are a unique culture, arts and science heritage resource. 2015 saw the Archive Team provide greater access than ever before to the Hall’s incredible heritage; with the biggest achievements being the launch of the world’s most extensive venue performance database and the Hall’s first ever online archive catalogue. For the first time, researchers can search 30,000+ performances by date, performers, title or keyword, from the opening concert in 1871 right up until the latest performance!

of children on topics such as Shakespeare, circus and sport. The team has also assisted the Hall’s in-house musicians, ‘Albert’s Band’, to create ‘The Royal Albert Hall Songbook’. This is used with great success working with elderly and vulnerable groups in the community.

The Archive Team answered a record number of enquiries, gave public talks and displays, engaged with the media, created record amounts of digital content, as well as working with the Hall’s Education & Outreach Team, using archive material to inspire their projects. For example, archive images and content have been used in ‘Discovery Workshops’ for groups

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) is engaging Year 4 and 5 students in a hands-on discovery of astronomy.


primary school visit with a twist, the experience explores German astronomer Caroline Herschel, who discovered eight comets whilst assisting her brother William in his observations. Created out of Herschel’s observation notebooks held in the RAS archive, the astronomer is brought to life by actors narrating her journey from domestic servant to the first woman to receive a salary for scientific work. The students get a taste for palaeography as they decipher Herschel’s accounts of her discoveries and have

the chance to draw their own comets, inspired by photographs of Halley’s Comet. The visit exposes students to the diverse tools of discovery available to them beyond the classroom. The RAS has collected books and manuscripts written by its members since 1820, building a rich bank of resources. Through this, the archive supports the Society’s role in promoting the study of astronomy and geophysics. This is reflected by the incredibly positive response to the school visit. “The activities were hands-on and educational, varied in objective, so the children were engaged and learning all the time”, remarked one teacher.

Community Archives are helping connect people to their communities, organisations and their nations, instilling a sense of belonging in everyone.


ampshire Archives & Local Studies’ Archive Ambassador training offers members of the public the opportunity to learn valuable practical skills which they can apply to their local archive collections. Sessions cover cataloguing, preservation, digitisation, and oral history recording. Archive Ambassadors also receive a handbook including further information on more specialist areas such as copyright, the preservation of film and sound archive material, and exhibitions. Over the last four years, over 200 people from across Hampshire, and occasionally beyond, have received the training and become Archive Ambassadors, and demand continues. In this way the Archive Ambassador scheme is able to

support a wide range of projects and activities including capturing local memories through oral history recording; repackaging and cataloguing of archives to improve their preservation and accessibility; and the digitisation of archives so that electronic copies can be held and accessed locally. Through this engagement and wider community archives work, Hampshire Archives & Local Studies has developed an enthusiastic network of supporters, giving them the impetus to act as ambassadors in their local community, sharing their knowledge with others, encouraging people to deposit records, ensuring that any archives kept locally are looked after appropriately, and spreading the word about Hampshire Archives & Local Studies. The Archive Ambassador training scheme continues to be popular, with sessions booking up weeks in advance. For more information visit their website at

Continued positive feedback shows how much the Archive Ambassador training sessions are valued by those attending: • Brilliant day! • Really good day - I will definitely recommend people to come on further Archive Ambassador days • Very well delivered and left me feeling my project was definitely possible! • Excellent guidance for amateurs • We learnt so much and found out how much more there is to learn! • The course was invaluable and has broadened our horizons as to how much more we can do with our archives

The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU Tel: +44 (0)20 8876 3444 Facebook: Twitter: @uknatarchives

Š Crown copyright 2016 You may re-use this document/publication (not including logos) free of charge in any format or medium, under the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0. To view this license visit; or write to the Information Policy Team, The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU; or email: Any enquiries regarding this document/publication should be sent to us at

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A year in archives 2016  

A Year in Archives 2016 highlights the inspiring collaborative work that has taken place across the archives sector throughout the year.

A year in archives 2016  

A Year in Archives 2016 highlights the inspiring collaborative work that has taken place across the archives sector throughout the year.


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