Accreditation of archival services is the UK standard for archival services and accreditation is evidence of how an archive acquires, preserves and provides long-term access to its holdings. The program is supported by a partnership of organizations across the UK and I have the pleasure of chairing the Accreditation Committee for the Archives Service.
To guide the archive services accreditation program through the pandemic, the committee had to be closely involved with the impact of COVID-19 on the archives sector. In order to balance the needs of accredited services and potential applicants with the desire to keep the program open, we had to be very flexible with the reporting deadlines and evaluation options. In addition, we had to reconcile the number of applications with the lower capacity of the review panels and individual reviewers. It has been a complicated time for everyone and we would like to thank all archive services for staying in touch with their review panels to give us a realistic feel of where the services are as the pandemic progresses.
Photo credit: Simon O’Connor
Both the full committee (which leads the development of the program) and the accreditation bodies (which award awards) continued to meet during this time, although we have of course, like so many others, switched to online meetings. Through reports and evaluations, we’ve seen archive services adapt their offerings, manage the separation of collections for different time periods, and often make a quick transition to better online access.
While we have to wait and see how this could expand into a longer term change in the way archives are accessed in the future, we in the committee recognize that accreditation needs to keep pace with such major changes.
The pandemic was not the only area that challenged the previous implementation of the accreditation program. The archives sector has clearly expressed a desire to have a more explicit approach to supporting equality, diversity and inclusion and the committee was keen to see how we could incorporate this into the standard.
Credit: David Tett Photography
At the last meeting in May 2021, the committee agreed on a roadmap for developing equality, diversity and inclusion in accreditation in a step-by-step process. The aim is to first give archive services more opportunities to demonstrate their previous work and then to initiate the longer process of holistic development of accreditation with regard to equality, diversity and inclusion.
As with all changes to archive service accreditation, there will be coordination with the archive industry, both with accredited and with services that have yet to be applied for, as well as with persons and organizations with expert knowledge in this area. This consultation will begin shortly. Since this is an area that many archive services have actively developed in recent years, we have merged the first changes so that the services can still use them to benchmark their own work – and also reflecting how well the incremental changes are working.
Archive Service accreditation was introduced in 2013 and we always expected that after 10 years a full review of the program would be required. Our current activity puts us in a good position to decide what this review will involve.
We plan a rate of change within the accreditation that is realistic for working with archive services and that leads to a supportive framework to support continuous improvement and development. If you are interested in taking part in the discussions about the future of Archive Service Accreditation, please refer to the Archive Service Accreditation website for information on the next options.
Geoff Pick chairs the Archive Services Accreditation Committee.