Joint report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities (Staffordshire County Council) and Director of Resources – Assistant Chief Executive (Stoke-on-Trent City Council)
The Committee considered a joint report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Families and Communities (Staffordshire County Council) and Director of Housing and Community Services informing them of the 2018 review of the Service’s Forward Plan “Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive and Heritage Service Vision” and detailing the predicted performance outturn against the targets which had been set (Schedule 3 to the signed minutes). A copy of the proposed revised forward plan was appended to the report for Members’ information.
The Forward Plan 2015 – 2025 had been approved by the Committee at their meeting on 26 March 2015. Whilst the Archive service had previously worked to a three year planning cycle, the scope of the current plan had been extended to cover ten years having regard to the time needed to deliver some of the changes required and its role in achieving the transformation of the service.
The proposed revised plan included:-
· Updated context headlines in order to reflect progress made by the service since 2015 and changes which had occurred including closure of the Lichfield Record Office on 1 January 2016.
· Updated list of Partners who worked with the service to reflect the changes which had occurred following the transfer of the Shugborough Estate to the National Trust on November 2016.
· Inclusion of a new section on the project vision, aims and objectives for the Staffordshire History Centre (SHC).
· Inclusion of Information on collections, buildings, outreach, volunteers, partnerships and resources with current statistics and key achievements.
With regard to “Developing an Active Partnership Approach” Members noted that the joint working with the William Salt Library Trust had been strengthened by the adoption of a shared vision. In addition, new partnerships had been identified with local groups across the County and City and following engagement with stakeholders regarding future ways to interact with the service, a new Staffordshire History Centre Network was proposed. To date over 47 groups and organisations had agreed to support the project in some way.
Work was progressing on the establishment of a Development Trust in order to continue fundraising activity, in support of the History Centre, following the ending of the HLF grant.
During 2017/18 an estimated 7,800 hours had been given to the Archive and Heritage Service by volunteers in to support the delivery of the Annual Activity Plan.
With regard to “Resilience and Sustainability”, five matched funding bids had been to submitted to support the work of the service one of which had been successful, two had passed the first stage application process and a further two were still to be considered. In addition a further four bids were being developed for submission in 2018.
A major depositor event was held in November 2017 to showcase the SHC project and encourage donations. A further depositor had made a separate approach to the service and was making a donation of £100,000 towards the project. In addition Friends of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service continued to fundraise in support of the service focussing specifically on the SHC. During 2017/18 the value of this support had amounted to £123,000.
Various conservation programmes had been completed across the service during 2017/18 including the Minton Archive. However, the annual cataloguing programmes were still to be delivered although substantial support had been received from volunteers and donors to help with this work.
With regard to “Reaching and Engaging New Audiences” Members noted that the service had piloted new activities during the year including (i) engagement with schools and pupils in order to test new leaning activities; (ii) attendance by staff at village fetes and fairs to raise awareness of the service and obtain feedback on proposals for events and the new offer at the SHC.
Plans for the public spaces at the SHC and outreach offer had been developed and tested. In addition, digital newsletters had been launched for the Archive and Heritage Service and the SHC project and both had succeeded in reaching new audiences.
Activity and Interpretation Plans had been developed for the SHC project with stakeholder input. Both plans covered a four year period and included measures to reach new audiences through events and community projects. The Interpretation Plan outlined how collections were to be viewed at exhibitions both onsite at the SHC and through touring exhibitions.
With regard to “Sharing Knowledge Across the Sector” Members noted that the Archive and Heritage Service had contributed to the wider sector working with a number of different organisations. It was an active member of Archives West Midlands with two County Council staff members being trustees. In addition, staff had given presentations to two conferences during the year on conservation and Archives West Midlands. Furthermore two case studies had been published in the National Archives’ Volunteer Cataloguing Guidance and in the Touring Exhibitions Group’s journal on the First World War.
The service had worked closely with local history groups and museums in the County and City areas to share knowledge and support work in local communities. It was planned to widen this role following the established of the Staffordshire History Network referred to above.
With regard to “Online Presence and Remote Access”, Members noted that a Digital Plan had been developed as part of the SHC project which focussed on digitisation priorities and the development of a website to make access easier for users. The Service continued to add content to its existing online platforms including (i) two new name indexes; (ii) additional images on Past Track and; (iii) more collections added to the online catalogue.
Work had also progressed on plans for managing digital archives as part of a consortium with Archives West Midlands. The service took part in a survey to assess readiness for handling digital archives and tested a software package.
During her presentation of the report the Deputy Chief Executive undertook to provide the Committee with further details of the work undertaken by volunteers in support of the Archives and Heritage Service to a future meeting with a view to making a report to the Staffordshire People Helping People Board who oversaw the development of a community based approach in the County.
In the discussion which ensued the Committee welcomed the good progress which had been made in achieving the various aims set out in the Forward Plan and paid tribute to the volunteers who had made such a valuable contribution to the work of the service during the year.
RESOLVED – That the report be received and noted.