This guidance is intended for use by people who care for archival material relating to any aspect of land transport: manufacturers, operators, heritage bodies, enthusiasts and researchers alike. Their archive collection could form part of the operations of an existing company, it could be an aspect of the operations of a museum dedicated to a particular theme, company or heritage site, or it could be the accumulation of an individual enthusiast or society.
The guidance has been written primarily for the benefit of non-professional archivists, whether they are professional museum curators, volunteers, or individual enthusiasts. It recognises that many collections are held, and will continue to be held, in re-purposed premises, with little or no budget, relying on the passion of their custodians as much as resources. For that reason, a key feature of this guidance is that it is designed to be practical and pragmatic, rather than aiming for the ideal. It will also try to avoid archive-sector jargon wherever possible, and explain any specialist terms used [see Section 1. Definitions below].
Archives are unlike published sources such as books, newspapers and pamphlets in that they are unique and irreplaceable. In order to preserve archives for current and future use, they should be carefully stored and managed by their custodians. This will help to ensure that their evidence is not lost and their authenticitycan be established.Even if digital copies are available, it is the existence of the originals that guarantees their authenticity. This includes maintaining any original arrangement or order, since much of their significance and evidential value can be lost if the relationship between documents within an archive is lost.
Archival standards and principles differ subtly from those of the museums sector, so this guidance is intended to supplement not replace museum-specific guidance, the Collections Trust’s “Spectrum” Collections Management Standard, and Arts Council England’s Museum Service Accreditation requirements. Museums with small archival collections will probably not want to make significant changes to their existing procedures. However, museums with large archival collections, perhaps already administered by separate staff or volunteers, should perhaps consider separating out the archive so that it can develop its own procedures in accordance with archival best practice.
This guidance is arranged in the following Sections:
- Collecting and Accessioning
- Collections Care
- Legal issues
- Case Studies
- Templates for key documents
- Further reading and online resources
The following diagram displays a simplified potential lifecycle of an archival item from acquisition through to use. It shows how the different stages inter-relate, and which sections of this guidance relate to each stage.
The National Archives has produced Archive Principles and Practice: an introduction to archives for non-archivists which contains some useful information on subjects not covered by this suite of documents: see https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/archives/archive-principles-and-practice-an-introduction-to-archives-for-non-archivists.pdf .
For more detailed advice on specific issues, please feel free to contact the Archives Sector Development department at The National Archives, email firstname.lastname@example.org . On most occasions queries will be dealt with by the Regional and Networks Team, which exists to develop links with and support any organisations and groups that care for archives in England.
Institutions or groups with large and well-organised archival holdings, premises with suitable storage and ancillary accommodation, formal governance structures, and relevant policies and procedures, may wish to consider applying for Archive Service Accreditation. Museums can do this in addition to Museum Service Accreditation. Please see https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archives-sector/archive-sector-accreditation for more details. Even if you feel that you are not yet ready to apply for Accreditation, the standard and its accompanying guidance can act as a useful tool for future planning and continuous improvement.
If you would like people to know about the collections you hold and how to access them, consider having an entry in The National Archives’ online “Find an Archive” Directory. See https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/find-an-archive .