We’re celebrating here because Derbyshire Record Office is now officially an Accredited Archive Service. If you are an archive user (and if you read this blog, then you are) then you may not be very aware of the Archive Service Accreditation Standard. It’s a relatively new standard and archive services that hold public records (like hospital or court records) all have to be Accredited by 2017.
So what does it mean to be Accredited? Well in the words of The National Archives, who run the Accreditation scheme,
Accredited archive services provide a high level of service to their users, preserve their collections in line with national standards and are robust, sustainable services which plan and deliver ongoing improvement.
Becoming Accredited involved taking a good hard look at the service we provide, thinking about what we do well and what needs to improve. There was a hefty online form to fill in, and finally, a small group of assessors came to visit, talk to staff, check that we can back up our statements with real documents (like our disaster plan and the truly enormous staff manual!) and get a sense of what the service is really like. It’s thankfully a very pleasant and friendly visit – nothing like I imagine an OFSTED inspection would be, for instance.
Going through the Accreditation process is hard work for all (including the assessors) but a very helpful exercise and it’s great to get an external assessment of how we’re doing. The assessors particularly praised our bright and welcoming public spaces, and the ways we try and share our collections with everyone, including through this very blog.
Being Accredited doesn’t mean we rest on our laurels, as there is always room for improvement, but it’s good to know that we are heading in the right direction. Huge thanks go to all the staff at the Record Office for helping to prepare the Accreditation application, and for all the hard work, ideas and dedication that go into making us a service worthy of Accreditation.
We’re the first archive service to be Accredited in Derbyshire, but we don’t intend to be the last. Accreditation is open to all sizes of service, including volunteer-run archives. We’ve already been talking to one such group about how we can support them to become Accredited so if you’re involved with an organisation that keeps archives, do think about having your service externally recognised through Accreditation.
If your organisation might be interested, more information about the standard is available on The National Archives’ website. Don’t worry that you’ll be assessed as if you were a large service like ours (with a 200 page staff manual. I think perhaps we need to cut that down a little…). The assessment is scaled down for smaller services, and if it looks a bit daunting, don’t panic! Get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to provide some advice to get you started.