Joint report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Families and Communities (Staffordshire County Council) and Director of Housing and Community Services (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 (Stoke-on-Trent City Council) detailing the predicted performance outturn for 2018/19 (Schedule 1 to the signed minutes).
The Service Plan set out annual targets for the Joint Archive Service and Museum Service for the County Council. Performance against these targets contributed towards achievement of the overall objectives contained in the Services’ ten year Forward Plan 2015-2025, which had been reviewed and updated in 2018.
With regard to Objective 1 - “Developing an Active Partnership Approach”, the joint working which had been established between the Archive and Heritage Service and William Salt Library was continuing with the assessment of alternative proposals for the Staffordshire History Centre (SHC). However, stakeholder meetings had been paused pending a decision on an appropriate way forward for the Project.
Preparatory work to establish a Development Trust to continue fundraising for the SHC project after funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund had ceased, had been completed. Whilst a SHC Charitable Trust had not been established pending a decision on the Stage Two bid, the development of new partnerships and special interest groups had been very successful in delivering three elements of the Project.
Volunteers had continued to be recruited in support of the delivery of two externally funded projects and new Lichfield History Access point. Volunteer hours to the end of March 2019 were estimated to amount to approximately 5,200.
In addition, the service had also participated in a national survey of visitors to British archive services.
With regard to Objective 2 – “Resilience and Sustainability”, the service had raised £832,000 match funding for the SHC Project which represented the full amount required for its delivery. As a result, three elements of the Project were being implemented and the Project Team were considering alternative proposals to ensure the remaining funding could be retained.
From May 2018 various collections formerly held at Lichfield Record Office were now available from the Staffordshire Record Office which had generated an increase in requests for documents from the new Stafford Archive Outstore. Also, the Staffordshire County Museum had completed their move from the Shugborough Estate to new stores in the Stafford area. A decision regarding an exhibition space for the museum would be taken when the future of the Staffordshire History Centre (SHC) Project was known.
The Service had continued with their annual work programme which focussed on conservation, cataloguing and improving descriptions of collections. The ‘Doulton Described’ project which involved cataloguing records from the Minton Archive was continuing with support from the National Archives Cataloguing Grant.
A new model for exhibitions at the Staffordshire Record Office had been trialled during January 2019 with Museum objects being placed on display in the Reading Room. It was intended to extend this model by providing a larger exhibition area so that archive material could be included from in March 2019.
With regard to objective 3 – “Reaching and Engaging New Audiences”, work in this area had focused on completing the Activity Plan for the SHC project. Suitable initiatives included within the Plan were now being identified as smaller funding bid proposals. In addition branding, which had been developed for the SHC project, was to be used by the Service to support new events and offers which aligned with its vision.
Following a successful pilot in 2017, the Service continued to attend community events, fetes and history fairs etc. During the period approximately 700 people had visited stalls at 14 separate events and 44 talks had been given by staff. In addition, various learning activities had been provided in support of Staffordshire History Day together with two Partnership Study Days.
With regard to objective 4 – “Online Presence and Remote Access”, work to develop a Digital Plan which identified digitisation priorities had been completed together with the development of a website to make access easier for users. Online content had increased with the addition of new name indexes to the Staffordshire Name Indexes site and 2,787 new images had been added to the Staffordshire Past Track website. The final phase of the Peculiar Wills and Marriage Bonds project had been published by the Find My Past website and visits to online content remained high at 1,241,003.
In addition, work on digital preservation had progressed significantly owing to participation in the Archives Sustainability Fund. The service were reviewing their Digital Preservation Policy and investigating the possibility of joining a consortium to procure an alternative system at lower cost than the existing. Also, digital access to Lichfield collections was now available following the launch of the History Access Point in December 2018.
Members noted that it had been a difficult year for the service owing to the unsuccessful SHC Project Stage Two bid. However, notwithstanding this disappointment, considerable success had been achieved in raising all the required match funding, completing Plans on-time and hosting a visit by representatives of the Heritage Lottery Fund. In addition, work produced in the development phase of the project was being reviewed with a view to developing alternative proposals.
A major achievement for the service during the year had been the lunch of the new History Access Point in Lichfield Library.
During the year ahead, the focus was to be on agreeing a way forward for the SHC Project and delivering various elements using alternative methods. In addition, the service was to move forward on remodelling its staffing structure with a view to achieving its vision and delivering the savings identified on Partners’ Medium Term Financial Strategies.
During the discussion which ensued the Chairman again expressed his disappointment regarding the outcome of the SHC Project Stage Two funding bid. However, he was confident that various elements of the Project could be completed and paid tribute to the work of all the staff involved. He also commented on the importance of the service retaining their Archive accreditation during 2019/20.
RESOLVED – That the report be received and noted.