Posted on Monday 5th September 2011
Designated Status for Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service Collections
We are delighted to announce that on Tuesday 2 August 2011 the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) formally announced that the collections held by Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service had been awarded Designated Status by the panel of assessors. Two other archives also achieved this status yesterday.
Sir Andrew Motion, MLA Chair, said: “We are delighted to welcome these important organisations into a scheme that is playing an increasingly vital role in helping the public to identify the very best collections across the country. Designation is only awarded to the most compelling cases, and we warmly congratulate these successful applicants on their achievement”.
What is designated status?
The designation scheme is currently administered by MLA and identifies the pre-eminent collections of national and international importance held in England's non-national museums, libraries and archives, based on their quality and significance. Originally a museum scheme, it has been extended to archives and libraries. It helps to raise profile and promote awareness of collections in archives, libraries and museums and in so doing helps to safeguard them. Organisations holding designated status are expected to work towards the provision of high quality services with the fullest possible access.
A collection must be outstanding in terms of its evidential, aesthetic, scientific, historical, cultural, literary or economic importance. It must demonstrate richness and variety and where appropriate the uniqueness or rarity of individual items or groups.
The application is in two stages, with a Stage 1 application to establish eligibility and then a Stage 2 full application. The Stage 2 application was submitted at the end of March by the then County Archivist, Thea Randall. This was her last major piece of work for the Archive Service before her retirement on 31 March 2011. Her considerable length of service (over 35 years) and extensive knowledge of the collections held meant that she was uniquely qualified to prepare the application. It is a fitting testament to her work and knowledge of the Archive Service that our entire collections should receive designated status.
The benefits of designation are principally that it recognises the significance of the collections held in the County and City and in doing so these collections will have a higher profile. It will help to protect these collections for the long term future and enable the Archive Service to promote them in a local, regional and national context. Quite simply it reinforces pride in the county of Staffordshire and its heritage. It will also assist the Archive Service in attracting external funding for specific cataloguing or conservation projects.
Why are the collections so important?
The application covered over 7,000 unique archive collections dating from the 10th to the 21st centuries, reflecting virtually every aspect of life in Staffordshire. These collections equate to approximately 5 miles and about 11,000,000 items. The major strengths are in family and estate archives, industrial and ecclesiastical records. The principal, overriding and unifying theme of the collections is the history of Staffordshire and the impact of the county and its people in the national historical and cultural context. The range of subject matter within the collections is very wide, with strong inter-connectivity across several themes.
Designation reinforces the importance of the archival heritage of the County and City and the importance of the work of the Archive Service. Normally particular collections within an archive are designated. Only two other comparable entire county archive collections have achieved designation - Hampshire and Norfolk, so it really is an important achievement and one which we believe will help to increase awareness of the collections' significance and pride in the history of the county and city.