Agenda item

Joint Archive Services: Annual Report 2015/16

Joint report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities (Staffordshire County Council) and Chief Operating Officer – Resources Directorate (Stoke-on-Trent City Council)


The Committee considered a joint report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families Communities and Chief Operating Officer – Resources, giving details of the Annual Report for 2015/16 (schedule 1 to the signed minutes) which had been produced in accordance with the Joint Agreement.


The Annual Report provided an account and review of the work and performance of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service for the financial year from 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016.


This was the first year in the current three-year planning cycle for the Service. The report highlighted some significant achievements towards meeting the overall strategic objectives of the service within the current Forward Plan 2015- 2018 including:- (i) developing an active partnership approach; (ii) developing resilience and sustainability; (iii) reaching and engaging with a wide range of people and building new audiences; (iv) sharing knowledge across the UK and; (v) increasing online presence and remote access.


It had been a productive year in terms of performance, achievements and associated activity with the most notable successes being (i) the acquisition of the Minton Archive and completion of the first phase in its cataloguing; (ii) a successful stage 1 bid to the Heritage Lottery fund for the Staffordshire History Centre; (iii) a successful bid to the National Manuscripts Conservation Fund in respect of the Minton Archive; (iv) a successful bid to the Welcome Trust to catalogue Medical Officer for Health records and (v) two collaborative doctoral awards to research and improve catalogues of environmental records. In addition, work continued on the Heritage Lottery funded project ‘Staffordshire Appeal’ for the digitisation and indexing of rare Military Tribunal Records.


With regard to (i) and (iii) above, Stoke-on-Trent’s Archive Service had transferred the Minton archives into their strongrooms and commenced the first phase of the cataloguing work. With assistance from their Digital Development Officer and a number of volunteers the catalogue had also been launched on line with its own microsite including many images of documents from the collection. With the award of a conservation grant, work to conserve the collection was to commence later in the year. In addition a further bid for grant aid had been submitted to enable completion of the remaining part of the catalogue.


With regard to (ii) above significant progress had been made in respect of proposals to change the delivery of the County Archive and Heritage Service and William Salt Library in Stafford. The results of a consultation undertaken in 2015 had indicated that over half of respondents supported proposals for the service to operate from one site. Subsequently the preferred option to redevelop the sites into a design for a Staffordshire History Centre had been taken forward in collaboration with Robert Limbricks Architects. A bid for funding had been made to the Heritage Lottery Fund in February 2016 and confirmation that it had been successful was received in May 2016.


With regard to take-up of services by the public, 2015/16 had seen a fall in personal visits to reading rooms by 4% and hits on the Archives Service webpage by 3.9%. However, this was to be expected owing to the expansion of online access to catalogues such as ‘Gateway to the Past’ which had increased by 1.6%. However, the number of volunteers who had given their time to the Archives service over the year had remained relatively high at 119, which totalled 8,641 hours or 4.4 full time equivalent members of staff. Notwithstanding these encouraging statistics, efforts had continued to be made to promote the service online particularly using social media such as Facebook and Twitter.


The Committee noted that the Service had produced good performance results against its local targets for public service delivery and had achieved a 98% customer satisfaction rating in the Local User Survey.


The Member representative of the County Council echoed the comments of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities and Chief Operating Officer – Resources made in the report, paying tribute to the Archives teams at both Authorities for their work during the year which had led to the many achievements/successes. However, he expressed concern that the number hits on the Archives Service’s main website had declined over the year and emphasised the need for greater engagement with the public. Continuing he suggested that appropriate media campaigns incorporating social media should be run by each Authorities’ Communication Teams in order to publicise the collections on offer.    


The Chairman agreed with the representative of the County Council and added that items from the Minton Archive would shortly be on permanent display at the City Central Library which he hoped would help to generate interest from.               


RESOLVED – (a) That the report be received and noted.


(b) That the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service Annual Report for the period 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016 be approved. 

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