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Archives for the 21st Century

The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and The National Archives are committed to taking forward the Government's new vision for publicly funded archive services, ensuring they are as relevant in a digital age as they have been in the past. The policy, Archives for the 21st Century, re-asserts the vital importance of archives as the gateway to the nation’s common legacy, whilst reflecting the technological transition society is going through.

The Government announced yesterday a new vision for publicly funded archive services, ensuring they are as relevant in a digital age as they have been in the preceding centuries. In challenging times, the policy re-asserts the vital importance of archives as the gateway to the nation’s common legacy, whilst reflecting the technological transition society is going through.

Archives for the 21st Century recognises the role archives have to play in linking people with their communities, their heritage and their responsibility to future generations. In addressing the fragility of digital information, the policy also highlights a pressing issue that could threaten the survival of the public record as a whole.

Michael Wills, Justice Minister with responsibility for The National Archives, said:

"Archives are a growing presence in the public consciousness, and, in this digital age, have a huge potential to produce real benefits for communities, local authorities and the wider general public. This policy seeks to guarantee a sustainable future for them and the information for which they care."

Margaret Hodge, Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism, said:

"Our archives are the contemporary witness of Britain’s history, and play a unique role in understanding our rich past, and learning for our future. Making this information easily accessible now, and in the future, is a key part of this country’s cultural offer."

Barbara Follett, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, said:

"Archives have a vital role to play in the communities they serve. By allowing people to explore their past, these windows into history give them new insight into their present. More importantly, they help to develop a real sense of local and national identity."

To create a more dynamic and sustainable archive sector that participates actively within the many diverse communities it serves, the policy sets out five recommendations:

  • Develop bigger and better services in partnership– working towards increased sustainability within the sector;
  • Strengthened leadership and a responsive, skilled workforce;
  • Co-ordinated response to the growing challenge of managing digital information so that it is accessible now and remains discoverable in the future;
  • Comprehensive online access for archive discovery through catalogues and to digitised archive content by citizens at a time and place that suits them;
  • Active participation in cultural and learning partnerships promoting a sense of identity and place within the community.

Over the coming months, The National Archives and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) will be agreeing a detailed action plan with representatives from across the archival sector. CyMAL (Museums and Libraries Wales) will work with representatives from the archival sector to produce a parallel version for Wales. This will help deliver the policy’s five key recommendations with the aim of strengthening this key part of the nation’s historical, cultural and information offering.

Archives for the 21st Century is available to download at: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/policy/aft21c/

For further information, please contacts Séverine Gould-Chanroux (The National Archives) on 020 8392 5277 (severine.gould-chanroux@nationalarchives.gsi.gov.uk) or Sunita Sharma (Museums, Libraries and Archives Council) on 020 7273 8299 (sunita.sharma@mla.gov.uk).

Notes to editors

  • As the departments most closely linked with archives, the policy has been developed by The National Archives, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, the Department for Culture, Media and Communities and Local Government. In Wales, the policy is supported by the Welsh Assembly Government.
  • A consultation took place from 6 May to 12 August 2009. A report on the consultation is available at: www….
  • The implementation of the policy and ensuing action plan will be supported in England by The National Archives and MLA. A policy for Wales will be supported by CyMAL: Museums and Libraries Wales (www.wales.gov.uk/cymal)
  • For further information, please go to: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/policy/aft21c/

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