Why did we need to change?
- Archives represent more than their face value. Understanding our history and heritage can help us understand ourselves and work together for a better future. The archives held in care by Suffolk Record Office are of both personal, national and international significance. However, this amazing resource could be exploited to everyone’s interest to a much greater degree.
- ‘The Hold’ project is about enabling the 900 years of history stored on 9 miles of shelving in Suffolk’s three record offices to be brought alive to many, many more people, and in particular, children and young people.
What are the key benefits?
- Accessibility and public engagement
- 21st Century care of the archives
What does this mean in practice?
“As an artist, I understand the importance of research, investigation and study of materials to inform artistic practice and see The Hold as essential for the preservation and sharing of our community past, stories and
traditions” – Ryan Gander, conceptual artist
Accessibility and public engagement: In the past, our Record Office has had a great record in attracting people to special events and talks, the audiences are generally a committed few who attend most events. They don’t reach or engage a diverse cross-section of the Suffolk population and the facilities had a range of issues that limited their ability to attract visitors. For example, the listed Victorian premises in Ipswich were at the end of their useful life and had poor disabled access arrangements. The viewing of archives was uncomfortable and poorly arranged, and there was no permanent display space. There was also a limited online presence and online cataloguing was more restricted than we would like.
The Hold’s design and location will increase accessibility and drive deeper engagement – increasing the volume and diversity of visitors, creating a destination that many more people will wish to visit. This will have an impact in terms of economic value, as well as social value through contributing to the understanding, health and wellbeing of visitors.
Education: The old education room was limited to 30 people and was under-resourced for school visits. The archive service ceased having an education officer in 1999, and this area of work was significantly underdeveloped. In addition, there were no strong connections between the University of Suffolk’s curriculum and teaching other than History, which misses a range of opportunities for post-18 students to develop skills and work experience across the academic spectrum.
In partnership with University of Suffolk (UoS) The Hold will open up Suffolk’s heritage assets to more students. It will provide two heritage career paid trainee positions, six internships, two post-16 summer placements, and work placement opportunities for every University of Suffolk History BA student. It will introduce career-path work placements for the University’s History MA students when this course is implemented. The Record Office will also work with UoS on course programming to deliver relevant, collections-based ‘live projects’ across their full academic offer. This will have a direct impact on the future employability and direction of those students who will receive training, work placements and apprenticeships within the Hold.
In addition, the Record Office plans to use increased educational opportunities to engage with more primary and secondary school age classes, through visits and a programme of outreach activities. Our plans will support local and national priorities to improve educational attainment, through high quality teaching and learning resources using archives. The Hold’s Activity Plan focuses on county-wide school participation. A supplementary school will be targeted to ensure it reaches a truly diverse population. Meanwhile, The Hold itself will focus on encouraging school group visits.
Care of archives: The collections were at risk from a lack of accrual space, and a continual flood risk. Without space for the collections to grow, important elements of Suffolk’s heritage could have been lost. The Suffolk Record Office couldn’t reach Archives Accreditation standard for this reason.
The Hold is purpose-built with the appropriate storage conditions for ancient and fragile artefacts. It is also built to cater digitally for past, present and future records. There were risks to the storage of heritage assets from flood damage and through out-dated facilities that didn’t meet British Standards.