Nick Kingsley: Archives for the 21st Century Consultation

Consultation on this TNA strategy from May-August 2009. Received 625 responses. Over 1400 people viewed the document.

87.4% agreed that strategic direction was needed at this time. Some concerns about the timing of the strategy in the current financial climate.

70.5% agreed that the document identified the right challenges. Of those that had issues, it was mainly that certain elements had been left out rather than any objection to what was in it. These will be looked at in redrafting.

The ‘fewer, bigger, better’ was controversial – 50.7% agreed there was value in this but many wanted clarification as to what exactly was meant. Regional archive centres had not been intended. More people left comments on this than any other question. Concerns centred on community engagement and the user experience and the ability of local authorities to manage services in partnership and across boundaries.

84.7% agreed with developing active participation in partnership with other cultural and learning services. The caveats were that loss of identity shouldn’t occur and that there had to be clear benefits for all partners.

85.4% agreed that strengthened leadership and a responsive skilled workforce were essential to raise the profession’s profile. Some disagreed that there was a current leadership problem and saw the question as an attack on the existing workforce. Some felt the question implied that the current archival workforce was under-performing. The ability to release staff for training was more of an issue than budgets.

94% felt it was importnat to develop a coordinated response to managing digital information and access.

93.5% agreed that it was importnat to ensure comprehensive access to archive catalogues and content. Strongly felt that catalogues should take precedence.

73.8% agreed with the model of excellence set out in the policy. Some felt it was too bland and applicable to any public-facing organisation. Some unwilling to aspire to excellence as made funding vulnerable.

Other comments: 40% of respondents left comments. Desire for legislation was strong and also for the extension of the designation scheme. Some identified a patronising attitude to older people which sursprised the TNA.

Legislation: respondents felt that making archives mandatory and statutory was essential. The 2003 investigation showed a lack of cross-government support for such a course. There were also funding concerns in imposing a new duty on local authorities.

Fewer, Bigger, Better: possibly sent out the wrong message and this will be clarified in the final document. What was actually meant was together, bigger, better.  Really meant thatsome services could operate in partnership such as sharing an outreach officer.

 Traditional v Digital skills Latin and palaeograpghy still important as without them records cannot be interpreted. The challenge of digital records cannot overshadow the need to develop the traditional ones.

Cataloguing: this was seen as a major issue and not one to solve easily though cataloguing grant schemes could help.

Nick also noted that the responses were interesting and sometimes surprising.

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