It has been ‘Explore Archives’ week in the UK, with various record repositories running special events. As one-place researchers, we are heavily dependant on the contents of archives of all kinds. All the work that is done to preserve, catalogue, and digitise records depends on the buildings and staff that make up those archives. With the explosion of on-line resources we are less and less likely to visit archives in person. Unfortunately, as we happily access documents on-line in the comfort of our own homes, someone somewhere, with no knowledge of historical research, is making funding decisions based upon physical footfall in our archives. So the more that goes on-line, the emptier the archives become and the results are reduced opening hours, staff redundancies and record office closures.
Aside from the fact that there are so many one-place gems that are not on-line, most archives will admit that they have huge numbers of documents that remain uncatalogued. These are resources that we may need and which will not be available to us in actual or digital form without archives and archivists to bring that about.
There are various ways in which we can support archives, even if it is not practical for us to visit in person very often. There are many ‘Friends of’ archives associations that can be joined. Some archives seek volunteer help and this does not always involve being physically present in the building. In the light of threats to archive opening hours and staffing there are campaigns and petitions that we can sign. Our own one-place research can raise awareness of the value of archives. Many of us have websites that are accessed by residents of our places. We could use these to acknowledge the role that local archives have played in our research.
As researchers we are more aware of the value of our archives than most. It is our responsibility to spread that awareness to the wider community. Can we take a little time away from our research in the next few days to show support for the archives upon which we depend?