Poole Pottery pattern book courtesy Dorset History Centre D/PPY

Supporting the arts, supporting archives

Archiving the arts is an initiative to support arts archives in the UK, wherever they are held. Our team works to ensure that records of the arts are well cared for, accessible and recognised as valuable by those who look after them and the wider public.

Our work covers all arts disciplines - visual art, literature, music, dance, theatre, combined arts and live art. We want to support sustainability and collection development for archival collections of the arts, so that more material survives and is collected for the future.

Why arts?

We believe arts archives are important because the information in these records can tell us how:

  • artworks of all kinds were created and give an insight into the creative process
  • the arts and their audiences have changed over the years and how this is reflected in archives
  • the arts have been viewed, championed, questioned and preserved
  • artworks and the history of the arts has inspired new generations of artists

For more information on our areas of interest and to get involved please see below and contact us.

What we do

We want our activities, advice and initiatives to be as wide-ranging, relevant and helpful as possible to those caring for arts archives. To get an idea of what we do, here are some of our key activities:


We've been gathering knowledge of arts archives wherever they are held across the UK via targeted email surveys to archives, arts organisations, artists, funders and strategic bodies. Since July 2013 we've asked for information about archive collections, including any that should be a priority for digitisation and funding. From these responses we have so far added descriptions for well over 100 collections to the National Register of Archives, which is now available on the Discovery platform. We are also working on a report which explores our findings relating to the digitisation of arts collections, and we will be posting updates about this shortly.

We also gather knowledge on collections through individual survey visits to archive stores where we help organisations get a handle on the content of their collections.

Advice and guidance

A large part of our work is advising those who look after arts archives on their care and management. This can range from email guidance on the best places to find funding for a particular project, to an advisory visit to help with negotiations around the deposit of a collection in an archive.

If you care for arts records or archives and need some advice on any aspect of this, please do get in contact with us.


We've offered regional Archiving the Arts events aimed at archives, arts organisations and artists, as a way to share advice, showcase inspiring case studies and also offer the opportunity for networking. So far we have put on well-received events for London, Birmingham, the south east, south west and the Midlands. Our next event will be for the north region in September 2014.

Current activities

The Archiving the arts team is currently focusing on music archives as an area we are trying to engage with further. We're working to identify gaps in knowledge about music collections and where specific advice on caring for archives is needed.

As part of this we are sending surveys to many UK festivals to find out more about their archive collections and to encourage engagement with archives. If you work for a festival or look after a festival archive and would like to find out more, please contact the team.

We have also recently set up an online forum for Archiving the Arts on The National Archives Community - this is a group for all of those we have been in contact with as part of the programme. It is a space for posting news, events, guidance, and also for members to start and get involved with discussions. If you are interested in the group please do get in touch.

Archiving the arts resources

You can find useful resources and guidance on archiving the arts on our resources page.

Get involved in archiving the arts

Please get in touch with a member of the team if you need advice and guidance on:

  • looking after your records
  • archiving your website
  • depositing records with your local or specialist record office

Or if you are:

  • interested in attending any future events
  • keen to add details of your arts archives to the National Register of Archives, which is searchable on Discovery.

Fleur Soper
Collections Knowledge Manager asd@nationalarchives.gsi.gov.uk
+44 (0) 20 8392 5330 x 2548

Kate Wheeler
Collections Knowledge Manager asd@nationalarchives.gsi.gov.uk
+44 (0) 20 8392 5330 x 2460

Louise Piffero
Collections Knowledge Officer asd@nationalarchives.gsi.gov.uk
+44 (0) 20 8392 5330 x 2737