New funding announced for charity archives

The Institute of Education (IOE) is to lead a British Academy funded project to help voluntary sector organisations preserve and digitise their historical archives.

The five-year scheme, funded by the British Academy, will reach across the UK and seeks to digitally preserve key voluntary sector records, particularly those dating back to the creation of the modern welfare state in 1945. It aims to ensure that records relating to welfare reform, which transformed the relationship between charities and the state, are not lost.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), a member of the project steering group and the project’s key link to the voluntary sector, is calling for charities to engage with their history and help keep vital records of post-war Britain safe. Historical documents can not only show how a charity’s mission and value has developed over time, but can also show how the sector’s relationship with government has changed.

Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of NCVO, commented:

This project is a timely collaboration between academics, voluntary organisations and the library and archive sector. Charities in the UK hold a vast wealth of information relating to public life and we welcome the opportunity to protect and celebrate this important resource. An archive showing the voluntary sector’s involvement in the welfare state over time will be very significant and useful for charities involved in public service delivery today.

Dr Georgina Brewis, John Adams Fellow at IOE and Director of the ‘Digitising the Mixed Economy of Welfare in Britain’ project said:

By adopting this project, the British Academy is sending a strong signal about the significance of the voluntary sector to our understanding of modern Britain as well as the growing importance of digital preservation of the past.

While some voluntary organisations have excellent records management and archives strategies in place, others need greater support, particularly in a period of austerity. I am delighted to be able to work closely with partners in the voluntary and community sector over the next five years through the research and knowledge exchange programme that this grant will support.

The first stage of the five-year project will begin in July 2014 with a scoping study and awareness-raising programme. NCVO is asking voluntary organisations to think about their history and records, including if they know where and how they are stored, and how the project could benefit them. NCVO will advise the project, assisting in collecting submissions from charities and promoting awareness of the new digital archive.

This will be followed by a knowledge-exchange programme to assist voluntary organisations to recognise the value of records as strategic assets. The project will culminate with the creation of an open-access resource bank of digitised documents, telling the story of the welfare state in Britain over the last 80 years.

The project is led by Dr Georgina Brewis (Institute of Education, University of London) with Nick Ockenden (Institute for Volunteering Research, NCVO) and Professor Irene Hardill (Northumbria University).

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