Archives for London Seminar: London's Local Archives - the Shape of Things to Come
On 8 September 2011 I attended the Archives for London (AfL) AGM which was followed by a seminar entitled London's Local Archives - the Shape of Things to Come. At the seminar there were three speakers: Oliver Morley (Chief Executive and Keeper at The National Archives); David Mander, OBE (Chair of Archives for London); and Isobel Watson (Friends of Hackney Archives).
Oliver spoke about TNA’s new responsibility for the archives sector arising from the demise of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) with effect from October. His PowerPoint presentation began with a picture of ships at sea which he felt was appropriate given the current situation. He said that it was not a picture of battleships, as some had suggested! Rather, it was a convoy to illustrate the concept of together for strength in tough times.
There has been limited time for TNA to plan for this given that it was only in July 2010 that closure of MLA was announced. This was followed in December 2010 by the announcement that responsibility for museums and libraries would be transferred to the Arts Council England (ACE), with no mention of what would happen to archives. In April this year the new role for TNA was confirmed.
Wider funding such as Renaissance grants will stay with ACE but TNA will liaise with ACE.
TNA’s goal will be to create a stronger sector in tough times taking note of:
- The unique statutory position which requires archives to be maintained and access provided
- The essential local legacy
- The fact that archives are often at minimum sustainable level already
- There are more ways to scale up
- Looking for partners that can work together
Within the culture sector, archives has taken the least hit so far – about 5%.
With the merger that gave rise to the Archives and Records Association and the demise of MLA there are fewer partners and so it will be easier to come together when necessary.
TNA understands users in a way that some other bodies do not.
TNA will have a three-pronged responsibility to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport:
- Leadership and consultation
- Policy – information and advice
- Strategic engagement.
Currently TNA is involved in 15 new cataloguing projects; 26 traineeships; 104 archives in a national digitisation project; £1m funding for research and support for a web continuity project. In the future it will be providing single leadership for the sector; integrated support services; technical and commercial support; and an archives accreditation scheme. In October TNA will relaunch its website to reflect its new role.
David Mander spoke about the proposed merger of Bexley and Bromley library services. The plan seems to be to streamline back office functions while minimising changes to front line services.
Hammersmith and Fulham Archives is likely to be the first to adopt the partnership model put forward by London Metropolitan Archives.
The cuts proposed for Camden have been reduced and acceptable solutions are being looked for.
In the current climate, the choice appears to be between locality on the one hand and quality and cost on the other.
In the final talk, Isobel Watson gave a very impassioned plea for local history centres which was well received. In some ways the general public recognises the value of these centres more than archives but they can be seen by professionals as of less value. Very often a wealth of local knowledge is provided by staff at local history centres that is not always available at archives.
Sadly I had to leave at the start of the Q&A time in order to catch my train for the journey back to Northamptonshire.
FFHS Archives Liaison
16 September 2011