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Anyone familiar with museums will know all about the importance of accreditation.  A similar scheme for archives is being created by the National Archives to help archives make their case in these very hard times; now the archive profession is invited to have its say about the scheme.   Last week I joined in with a workshop at York University in which we did just that.

York University from Timothy E. Baldwin's photostream. Naturally had to include one with ducks in!

York University from Timothy E. Baldwin's photostream. Naturally had to include one with ducks in!

Ooh and there are many many issues to consider – all the following emerged during the workshop to heated discussion …

  • What should the standard measure and how?  Obviously collections care, financial health and customer services, but what about work with schools, advocacy, marketing, digital preservation?
  • Should all parts be compulsory?
  • Should there be levels and if so what should they be called?
  • Should it be pass/fail, and what happens to the “failures”?   How can we come up with something that works for all sizes of archive and for all archive sectors, but which is not so bland as to be meaningless?
  • Where does the mission of the parent organisation come into it?
  • Who should do the assessment – independent assessors or other archivists?
  • Should environmental sustainability be considered?
  • What indeed are archives for and how can we measure whether they are succeeding in these things?

For organisations like mine to take it up, the scheme needs to work in a way that impresses/worries those who fund us, inviting the responses “Aren’t you brilliant, must invest more in you” OR “Oh no, you aren’t good enough, must invest more in you”.   I’m not sure how easy this will be.  It also needs to justify the amount of time that will be invested in the process.  Which leads me to call for some kind of financial carrot attached, whether to boost good performers or help bring poorer ones up to standard.

I also hope that the scheme will not fixate on buildings but will appreciate virtual/online services as these are areas in which archives can grow and engage with so many more people than ever possible in physical spaces.

Anyway, that’s some of my thoughts, but what do you think?  Keep up with the process and have YOUR say via twitter (hashtag #archivesaccreditn) or see the project page for details of other ways to contribute.