An Evidence-based Culture for Documentary Heritage Collections

Nancy Bell, Julie McLeod, Michael Moss, David Thomas

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Abstract

This report considers how documentary heritage collections held in archives and libraries in the UK can build a more sustainable future in the face of economic, social and technological changes. The expansion of digital access to such collections by an ever more diverse community of users blurs the boundaries between collections and user interfaces, calling into question the whole notion of ‘a collection’ as an intrinsically valuable physical asset.

Economic factors include the ongoing reductions in central, higher education, and, significantly, local authority spending, which for many local councils will entail the loss of more than 60 per cent of income by 2020. Further retrenchment of already pinched resources is inevitable: funding will be focused on the delivery of essential front-line services that can be shown to have value and be valued by the public.

Recently published statistics suggest further impact on the documentary heritage sector. The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Taking Part survey reports a decline of 3 per cent over the last two years of on-site visitors to archives, largely 65-74 year olds. A similar downward trend in accessing archive or record office websites is also reported, while library access is static. This downward trend expected to continue as more content is available online and available through a greater number of portals. Academic services and privately held collections have also witnessed a decline in staffing, and ‘efficiencies’ gained through mergers with other collection services.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherNorthumbria University
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

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