Written evidence submitted by The National Archives





The National Archives is a non-ministerial department and the official archive and publisher for the UK Government, and for England and Wales. The institution holds more than 11 million historical government and public records, from medieval times through to the period of change and growth the UK is experiencing now. The National Archives leads and supports a network of more than 2,500 archives, serves as a cultural, heritage and academic institution, and collaborates with a range of archives and sister-institutions domestically and worldwide.


The National Archives long-term strategy, Archives for Everyone[1], sets out their response to the changing external context and environment for archives, reiterating their ambition to become a 21st Century national archive. They aspire to connect with the biggest and most diverse audience in the most innovative ways possible, enabling people to access their archival heritage and to experience archives wherever they are.

The National Archives staff include internationally renowned experts in records/collections, research, conservation, information and records management and digital archiving, and they provide important cultural heritage, educational and public services to many thousands of users in the UK and around the world. The National Archives collection is a rich source of cultural material and as such, a significant asset in promoting the value of the UK on the cultural and heritage global stage.


In response to the inquiry’s terms of reference


The nationwide strategic vision for archives[2] endorsed by the UK Government in 2017[3] presents the case for harnessing the value of archives as vital resources for the UK’s culture and heritage. Archival collections provide a rich source of cultural material and as such, a significant ‘soft power superpower’ asset in advancing the UK’s overseas profile and international relationships, especially in the wake of the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Recognising the added value archives hold offers a timely and valuable opportunity to support the country’s recovery, in re-engaging tourists, and for the Government to engage in high-profile promotional and relationship-building as the UK seeks to consolidate and grow its global network of friends and partners.


In translating this on an international scale, The National Archives strives to drive the growth of an exciting future for archives. A successor international strategy (currently in development) aligns with their long-term strategic ambitions and the Government’s aspirations post leaving the European Union. The National Archives is a longstanding and influential member of the International Council on Archives and plays an active part in an international network of more than 160 national or central archive institutions. This includes participating in wider activities and events to enable people access to their archival heritage wherever they are, advocating the importance of archives across the world, and in preserving documentary heritage of all kinds via broad inclusivity plans and objectives.


Over the course of the last five years, The National Archives’ international work has delivered a wide range of tangible outcomes that speak to their strategic goals (Inclusive, Entrepreneurial, Disruptive), working in greater partnership with the archive sector and other institutions across the UK and further afield. This includes:








The activities and alliances highlighted demonstrate ways archives can increase the UK’s cultural and heritage profile internationally, in particular the societal and economic values archives can realise post-pandemic.




[1] https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/our-role/plans-policies-performance-and-projects/our-plans/archives-for-everyone/

[2] https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archives-sector/projects-and-programmes/strategic-vision-for-archives/

[3] https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archives-sector/projects-and-programmes/strategic-vision-for-archives/strategic-priorities/

[4] https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archives-sector/projects-and-programmes/plugged-in-powered-up/novice-to-know-how/

[5] https://beyond2022.ie/?page_id=2#vision

[6] https://www.prizepapers.de/what-is-the-price-papers-collection

[7] https://www.ica.org/en/building-digital-bridges-digitisation-for-collaboration-and-networking-unesco

[8] https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/information-management/

[9] https://www.ica.org/en/expert-group-on-legal-matters-eglm

[10] https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/news/1921-census-online-publication-date-announced/

[11] https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20s-people/

[12] See Annex A: Sustainability accounting and reporting, pp. 103-111, The National Archives annual report and accounts 2020-21: https://cdn.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/annual-report-accounts-national-archives-2020-2021.pdf

[13] https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/news/the-national-archives-joins-the-climate-heritage-network/

[14] https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/our-role/plans-policies-performance-and-projects/our-plans/sustainability-and-climate-action-statement/

[15] https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/archives-supporting-environmental-sustainability-tickets-174196294807

[16] https://www.iccrom.org/news/our-collections-matter