New autumn events programme now available to book

New autumn events programme now available to book

We’re delighted to unveil the new season of our hugely popular events programme, with tickets now on general sale. We’re also introducing a new ‘pay what you can’ approach this season, inviting event attendees to contribute a nominal fee toward the ongoing costs of the events programme.

What’s on this autumn

Among the varied programme of talks and webinars coming up in the next few weeks are the following highlights, all available to book from today.

Noted biographer Anne Sebba brings to life the tragic story of Ethel Rosenberg, a woman whose life was cut short due to tainted evidence for a crime she almost certainly didn’t commit.

Author Kate Summerscale reveals the darker type of haunting that is uncovered when she begins to research Alma Fielding – an ordinary woman who began to experience truly bizarre supernatural events in her home in 1939.

And Dr Caroline Bressey joins us to tell the stories of the Black British population and their lives within Victorian Britain, the context of the multi-cultural communities they lived and worked in.

All autumn events are now on general sale and available to book – please visit this page.

Pay what you can

Following extensive research among event attendees over the last year, we have decided to introduce a new ‘pay what you can’ system to invite attendees to pay a nominal fee for their ticket, based on suggested amounts. This is in line with many other cultural and heritage institutions.

Paying a fee will be optional and entirely at the discretion of attendees. Certain events, such as our Top Level Tips webinars, will remain completely free of charge to help people understand, access and research our collections.

Since our events programme moved online last year, people around the world have been able to access our virtual talks and webinars. Introducing optional fees to these events will help us keep the programme going and ensure that we can continue to engage with as many people as possible.

All events are viewable for 48 hours after the published date and time, which means that attendees who cannot view the live event can catch up at their leisure.

Towards a National Collection

Towards a National Collection

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) today announced it has awarded £14.5 million as part of its Towards a National Collection programme to five major projects involved in the research and development of emerging technologies, including machine learning and citizen-led archiving, in order to connect the UK’s cultural artefacts and historical archives in new and transformative ways.

One of these projects is Our Heritage, Our Stories: Linking and searching community-generated digital content to develop the people’s national collection, which is a collaboration between the University of Glasgow, The National Archives and the University of Manchester.

In the past two decades communities have adopted digital technologies to gather and record their collections in a form of ‘citizen history’ that has created a truly democratic and vast reservoir of new knowledge about the past – known as community-generated digital content (CGDC). CGDC has proved extraordinarily resistant to traditional methods of linking and integration, for lack of infrastructure and the complexity of the content.

Our Heritage, Our Stories will bring together a powerful partnership, including researchers in digital humanities, archives, history and computer science with world-leading archive development to dissolve existing barriers and develop scalable linking and discoverability for CGDC.

The project will make CGDC more discoverable and accessible while respecting and embracing its complexity and diversity. This new accessibility will be showcased through a major new public-facing CGDC online Observatory at The National Archives where people can access, reuse and remix these newly integrated collections.

Valerie Johnson, Director of Research and Collections at The National Archives, said:

‘We are genuinely excited to be a part of this programme. These important projects not only use emerging technologies to address the challenges of accessibility to the UK’s culture and heritage collections but also dissolve barriers between the different collections of the UK.’

This project is part of Towards a National Collection, a five-year research programme, revealing the first insights into how thousands of disparate collections could be explored by public audiences and academic researchers in the future. One of the central aims is to diversify audiences by involving them in the research and creating new ways for them to access and interact with collections. In addition to innovative online access, the projects will generate artist commissions, community fellowships, computer simulations and travelling exhibitions.

For more information please visit www.nationalcollection.org.uk.

£1million funding for archives sector

£1million funding for archives sector

We are delighted to announce that the Archives Revealed funding programme will award £1million to archive services over the next three years. Archives Revealed is a partnership programme between the Wolfson Foundation, The Pilgrim Trust and The National Archives, and is the only funding stream in the UK dedicated to cataloguing and unlocking archives. Launched in 2017, the programme provides grants of up to £45,000 for archives to create catalogues of important collections, as well as smaller scoping grants that fund expert advice on collections management and development.

The purpose of Archives Revealed is to open up significant archive collections to the public for research and enjoyment. These collections represent the lives and perspectives of people all across the UK, and are invaluable sources of information about our past and present. Since its inception, Archives Revealed has funded an incredibly wide range of archive-holding organisations, from Glamorgan Archives and Lapworth Museum of Geology to Seven Stories and Writing on the Wall. These cataloguing projects have all uncovered incredible stories that are engaging the public in new and different ways.

Jeff James, CEO and Keeper of The National Archives said:

“At a time when the archive sector, like many other sectors, is going through a challenging time and looking for innovative ways to open up collections to a new and diverse audience, £1million will allow us to make more grants than ever before. This programme is a very real demonstration of how different organisations can make a huge impact when they work together.”

Paul Ramsbottom, CEO of the Wolfson Foundation, said:

“The Wolfson Foundation is delighted to continue its support for the Archives Revealed programme alongside The National Archives and The Pilgrim Trust. Archives are the pathway into our shared heritage. What could be more wonderful than a partnership to support projects allowing remarkable collections to be opened up for researchers and for the public alike?”

Sue Bowers, Director of The Pilgrim Trust, said:

“Opening up archives and significant collections for the public to enjoy and learn from is one of the Pilgrim Trust’s priorities. That’s why we’re delighted to continue supporting the Archives Revealed programme and to work in partnership with the Wolfson Foundation and The National Archives. Together, we’re enabling even more people to learn about the UK’s diverse and rich heritage.”

One example is the museum Aerospace Bristol, who used their £29,000 grant to catalogue all 328 boxes in their archive collection, transforming this significant material into an accessible resource for everyone. In these newly available records, Aerospace Bristol has found stories of the supersonic airliner Concorde, its advocates and its critics. While detractors discussed the environmental impact of Concorde, early marketing material found in the collection describes how Concorde would cut journey times and connect people by shrinking the world.

Aerospace Bristol built their travelling exhibition ‘The World Shrinker’ around this theme and attracted around 7000 visitors to their marquee at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. They have also used the collection in new learning workshops and outreach activities, especially during the 50th anniversary of Concorde’s first flight. Researchers and the public can search the collection on The National Archives’ catalogue Discovery and visitors to Aerospace Bristol can now also interact with the collection at the Concorde Gallery archive station.

As well as providing grants directly, Archives Revealed helps archive professionals to secure future funding by providing post-application support and building the funding skills and confidence of applicants. To ensure that Archives Revealed remains a supportive funder, the programme has recently reviewed its cataloguing grants, leading to a simplified first phase of the process and improved help and resources.

Find out more about the Archives Revealed funding programme: https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archives-sector/finding-funding/archives-revealed/

Opening up the archives to more visitors

Opening up the archives to more visitors

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that England will soon move to step 4 of the government’s roadmap, we are pleased to announce the details of how we will be able to expand our visitor offer from Tuesday 20 July.

As well as increasing capacity and services in our reading rooms for researchers, we are delighted to be able to welcome our wider community of visitors back to the archives.

For visitors to our reading rooms:

  • More seats will be available in both of our reading rooms, with current capacity more than doubled.
  • Booking will no longer be compulsory for our reading rooms, but we will encourage visitors to continue to use our booking service – booking a visit will guarantee a seat in our reading rooms, and also means that visitors’ documents will be ready upon arrival.
  • Increased enquiry services to provide research help and advice to reading room visitors.
  • You may also now bring more items into the reading rooms, although as we are carrying out contactless checks on items for security reasons we advise keeping them to a minimum in order to speed up your entry.

For all visitors:

  • Walk-in visits will be welcome, without the need for advance booking.
  • Re-opening of our exhibition spaces, including our most recent exhibition ‘With Love’.
  • Family activities available throughout the summer holidays, both bookable and on demand.
  • Café and shop hours extended gradually over the coming weeks.

These changes are in addition to those already introduced on 8 July, which included extended opening hours and on-demand document ordering, meaning that visitors to our reading rooms can now order unlimited documents during their visit in addition to the 12 ordered in advance.

We recognise that it may take some time for visitors to adjust to the new arrangements made possible under step 4, and that some visitors may be taking their first steps back into the archives and other public spaces. We therefore recommend that all visitors continue to wear face coverings while visiting the archives, as a courtesy to other visitors and our staff and in line with government guidance. We will also encourage all visitors to be considerate and maintain a reasonable distance from each other while in our building.

Our transition out of lockdown

We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a huge amount of disruption to our services in the last 16 months, and we have enormous sympathy for researchers who rely on access to our collections to carry out their work.

We’ve worked hard to continue to deliver our services within the parameters of government and public health guidance, while prioritising the safety of our staff and visitors, and we’re proud of what we’ve been able to achieve. More than 7,000 researchers have visited our reading rooms since our initial re-opening in July 2020 to carry out their research, while more than 150,000 people around the world have downloaded our free digitised collections online.

We know how important it is for researchers to make up for lost time, and we’re doing all we can to accommodate this increased demand as fairly as we can. We’re also keen to open our doors for our local community – cultural institutions play an important role in helping the nation recover, and we’re keen for archives to play a part in this.

The last year has offered us an opportunity to try new approaches in delivering our public services, to meet the changing needs of visitors and researchers. While some of the changes we’ve introduced have been out of necessity, it’s possible that some may stay in place as we work through our own recovery period.

We continue to welcome feedback on all of our services via our website.

More Prime Minister’s files from 1997 released

More Prime Minister’s files from 1997 released

Today we have released files from the Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office, covering the early months of Tony Blair’s government in 1997.

The newly released Cabinet Office files (PREM 49) shed light on a range of subjects both at home and abroad under Blair’s leadership.

Some examples of files being released include:

PREM 49/2: Details of how the government was dealing with the BSE agriculture crisis.

PREM 49/18: Discussions about devolution for Wales and Scotland.

PREM 49/98: Plans for data protection and a Freedom of Information Act.

PREM 49/108, PREM 49/109: Correspondence relating to Northern Ireland.

PREM 49/185: Preparations for the visit of President Bill Clinton to London.

Also included are files covering UK relations with other countries such as France, the United States, Japan, and Russia.

The files can be searched using our catalogue, Discovery, with almost 200 available to view online.

You can also find out more about our previous file releases.

Seeking new delegates for our User Advisory Group

Seeking new delegates for our User Advisory Group

Would you like to represent the views of archive users and help to improve our services? If you are a regular archive user who would like to get involved at a more strategic level we’d love to hear from you, as we are seeking new voluntary delegates to join our User Advisory Group (UAG).

The User Advisory Group aims to give everyone who use our services the opportunity to participate in our planning and decision-making processes.

Delegates represent the collective voice of different sections of our user community, not only their own interests. As well as attending meetings, each delegate has a responsibility to engage with members of their respective user communities, sharing information and gathering feedback.

We would particularly like to hear from users who feel they could effectively represent one or more of the following user groups:

  • Student users: current under/post-graduate students in subjects that make use of archives
  • County/external archive users: staff or users of other archives
  • Online users: users who rely on digital resources and tools to undertake their archive research and to interact with other researchers.

Representatives will also need to demonstrate they have the qualities to actively participate in the group, including:

  • Willingness to express the views of their communities in the setting of a large meeting
  • Time to prepare for meetings, including reading papers and networking
  • Ability to think strategically and consider ‘the bigger picture’.

Meetings are usually held at The National Archives in Kew four times a year but are currently being held virtually by video conference. The meetings are usually scheduled on Tuesdays during working hours. Dates and times are published well in advance and delegates are expected to make every effort to attend. Delegates may claim travel expenses.

We ask prospective delegates to commit to a minimum term of one year’s service. Find out more about the groups already represented and our current delegates on the UAG pages.

How to submit an expression of interest

If you would like to express interest in representing one of the groups listed above, please email us at the address below with the following information:

  • Indicate in the subject line of your email that it is an expression of interest
  • Indicate which sections(s) of the user community you would like to represent; if you list more than one, please rank them in order of preference
  • Check the list of the sections of the user community which are already represented; if you feel that there is a group that we have not listed, and that you would like to represent, please specify this
  • Tell us about your experience as an archive user and why you feel that you would be suitable as a delegate (please write no more than 150 words)
  • Give examples to show that you have the personal qualities required as a delegate of UAG (please write no more than 150 words)
  • Indicate your ideas and suggestions for how you would disseminate details of the group to the user community or communities that you would be representing, and how you would gather feedback (please write no more than 150 words)

Delegates will be selected based upon the information provided.

It is important to us that our organisation is more diverse, so we encourage applications from people of all backgrounds and identities. We’re especially keen to hear from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic candidates who are currently under-represented.

Please email your expression of interest to [email protected] by 17:00 on Friday 13 August 2021.