Hampshire Archives and Local Studies

Access And Learning Policy

1. Introduction

1.1 Hampshire Record Office’s twin aims are to ensure that the county’s archive heritage – written, audio-visual and digital –  is preserved for the future and to make it widely available in the present.

1.2 We strive to improve the service we offer to our customers and respond to their needs and suggestions, subject to the over-riding need to protect the Record Office’s unique and irreplaceable holdings.

1.3 This policy is one of several Hampshire Record Office policies (on: Collecting; Digital Preservation; Equalities; Preservation; Records Management; Training and staff development). These are accessible via the Record Office website (www.hants.gov.uk/record-office) It replaces and revises the former Customer Services and Outreach policies.

2. Our vision for access and learning

2.1 We actively seek to develop and increase awareness of the relevance and importance of archives and to encourage their use to inform and excite people.

2.2 We want all the people of Hampshire and those people with an interest in Hampshire, to benefit from our archive service, wherever they live, whatever their needs may be.

3. Our objectives for access and learning

  • to provide access and learning opportunities for as wide an audience as possible, subject to budgetary and staffing constraints
  • to promote Hampshire Record Office as a centre for learning, inspiration and enjoyment
  • to facilitate access for people where there may be existing barriers – social, cultural, attitudinal, economic, sensory, physical, or intellectual
  • to provide a welcoming environment at Hampshire Record Office that provides for different learning styles and access needs
  • to ignite and develop an interest in Hampshire’s archives by bringing them to the attention of as wide a range of audiences as possible
  • to facilitate, through people’s engagement with archives: their acquisition of knowledge, understanding and skills; the influencing  of their attitudes, values, activity and behaviour; their progression in learning; and their experience of enjoyment, inspiration and creativity
  • to listen to our customers and respond to their needs, to shape and improve our services
  • to seek partners actively when developing access and learning opportunities, and to find ways to build on and use the skills and experience of others, including working with colleagues across the Recreation and Heritage Department, and in particular, museums and libraries, to maximise the potential of all of our collections to deliver a range of learning opportunities
  • to use the Record Office’s staff and volunteers’ skills, its resources and collections to add value to and enrich the experience of our customers
  • to work within the frameworks and objectives provided by Hampshire’s Cultural Strategy and Local Area Agreement, Hampshire County Council’s corporate strategy, Recreation and Heritage Department’s objectives, and by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council’s strategy for access and learning, including Inspiring Learning for All.

4. The challenges and opportunities for access and learning in archives

4.1 We recognise that

  • people have different, and changing, levels of interest in archives, whether for formal study, general interest, or practical need
  • many people remain unaware of archives, despite the growing leisure and heritage industries and the development of information technology
  • there is an enormous and gripping interest in hands-on family history
  • archives hold the power to fascinate, to develop and strengthen a sense of place and roots, to help people to understand their place in their community or family, to bring the past vividly to life, and to help explain the world in which we live
  • archives are the building-blocks of history, and play a vital role in telling man’s story, in conjunction with museum and other cultural resources
  • many archives require skilled interpretation due to their context,  language, format and handwriting
  • Hampshire Record Office is a single-site resource with a countywide, and even worldwide audience
  • The quality and significance of its collections for the history of the nation has been recognised by the award of Designated status by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council

4.2 In view of all this, we encourage people to discover and engage positively with archives through a range of initiatives:

  • a service supporting and enabling self-directed study of archives at Hampshire Record Office
  • provision of remote access to archive sources and information
  • an education service available to those within formal education
  • a lively programme of on- and off-site activities and events for families, groups and individuals
  • a programme of exhibitions, on- and off-site
  • articles in journals and the press, and other contributions to publications including talking newspapers
  • contributions to television and radio programmes
  • production/ sale of a range of publications and other promotional items
  • a programme for active involvement by volunteers
  • support from Hampshire Archives Trust in promoting an awareness of archives

These services are examined more closely in the appendix.

5. A high-quality service

5.1 We are proud to offer high-quality access and learning services and are committed to continuous development and improvement in response to customer needs. We work to agreed standards of service delivery and have achieved and renewed Charter Mark awards in recognition of excellence of public service.  

Staff training and development

5.2 Our staff accept the responsibility and privilege of making the work of the office, and the importance of our archives more widely known. We use Individual Performance Planning to determine individual and team training and development needs to support access and learning.

Listening to customers

5.3 We welcome comments and suggestions from customers to improve any aspect of our service. Written feedback is facilitated by forms, by a book inviting anonymous comment and via the web, while verbal comments are recorded by staff. All complaints are followed up as soon as possible, with at least an initial answer to written complaints sent within five working days and a full response within 20 days. We also respond in writing to positive suggestions.

5.3 We actively seek customer feedback in other ways: through customer surveys; regular liaison meetings with customer representatives and with schools and colleges; and evaluation forms for events and activities. We maintain a comments/ complaints database which is analysed and used to inform a departmental and corporate report.

Apprndix (to Hampshire Record Office Access and Learning policy)

Our standards of service and our performance are well publicised. We will continue to monitor our compliance with these.

Hampshire Record Office’s Initiatives To Support Access And Learning

1 A service supporting and enabling self-directed study of archives at Hampshire Record Office

1.1 Our archive collections are available for all to consult at Hampshire Record Office, without charge and during our advertised opening times. In the case of group visits to the search room (eg schools, community groups) we advise advance contact to ensure we are able to accommodate them and facilitate their visit. We provide a clean, safe, comfortable and quiet environment for our customers to work in, with full access for people with disabilities to all our facilities. Cloakrooms, lockers, and a common room are available.

1.2 Our holdings are unique and irreplaceable and many still belong to those who deposited them with us for safekeeping.  For their security customers need a reader’s ticket (County Archive Research Network; student; or temporary ticket), and to follow guidelines for the protection of our holdings, which are well publicised and explained. It may not be possible to make documents in poor condition immediately available to customers, though we consider ways to make these available in the near future. Where surrogates of records have been made, we ask customers to use these in place of the original.

1.3 Search room staff are trained, helpful, friendly and identifiable by name. They offer advice and help on the collections and how to use them. We employ available resources to provide a balanced range of services, but, as we allow access on demand, we recognise there will be occasions when we have many visitors and cannot provide the level and quantity of help which some of our customers would like.

1.4 Facilities are provided to consult original documents and surrogates, and there is an extensive reference library. We aim to provide as full access as possible, within the constraints of legal or depositors’ restrictions and with respect to Data Protection and Freedom of Information. We explain restrictions to our customers and apply them equitably. If a customer asks to see privately deposited records in connection with legal proceedings we will consult the depositor before this use is allowed. We do not give advice, opinions, or rulings to customers on legal or financial matters

1.5 We provide catalogued descriptions for all our collections as soon as practically possible and summary descriptions where it is not and make these available on our online catalogue.  We allocate considerable resources to cataloguing new collections and to improving catalogues and we report cataloguing and conservation progress at a departmental level and to the public. We set cataloguing and conservation priorities in response to public demand. We aim to give access to material from uncatalogued collections. This will usually be under staff supervision and notice is generally required. We compile leaflets and booklets giving guidance on the use of our collections, appropriate to the differing needs of customers.

2. Provision of remote access to archive sources and information

2.1 We provide worldwide access to our archives via our online catalogue, on our website, and by contributing to national initiatives to network access to archives. We aim to make all our holdings accessible in this way.  

2.2 We maintain, develop and update a dynamic website, providing information on our services, our archive holdings and their use, our access and learning programmes and other relevant information, including links to other websites.

2.3 We provide surrogate archival resources (digital, microform and audio-visual) for remote access, via the internet, to a worldwide audience, and to Hampshire audiences via countywide sites including Discovery Centres, libraries and museums, and are committed to developing this service.

2.4 We also provide copies (photocopy, audio-visual, digital and microform) of archival material to individual customers, on request, subject to the provisions of the Copyright Act,1988 and amendments, owners’ restrictions, and any preservation risk to the material; we explain any such limitations to the customer and try to suggest an alternative approach. The scale of fees for copies is agreed each year.

2.5 We promptly answer telephone, postal and e-mail enquiries and carry out limited, specific searches for those who cannot come into the office. We offer a charged service for longer searches involving original documents. We also promote choice by maintaining and distributing a list of independent record searchers.

2.6 We also advertise our services and events in leaflet and poster formats and via local promotional publications (such as Winchester City Council’s What’s on in Winchester) including HCC’s and R&H’s public newsletters.

3. An education service available to those within formal education

3.1 We explore new and creative ways of using our resources to support the needs of school groups, including school group and student teacher visits to the Record Office, a programme of workshops in schools, the provision of resource materials including packs, CDs and videos, and e-learning opportunities via our website.

3.2 We maintain links with schools, colleges and universities, eg via our schools newsletter and training sessions provided for undergraduates and post-graduates.

4. A lively programme of on- and off-site activities and events

4.1 We offer a wide-ranging programme of events and activities, in and out of term-time, at weekends and during the week. Family and adult workshops include eg ‘make and take’ seal- or paper-making sessions at the Record Office or during the school holidays at Hampshire County Council’s schools museum resource, SEARCH; intensive day-schools or half-day workshops (eg palaeography, basic Latin) at Hampshire Record Office, Discovery Centres and libraries; and lunchtime palaeography sessions at the Record Office.

4.2 Evening and daytime illustrated talks or audio-visual presentations are offered to local groups and communities, countywide, and group visits to Hampshire Record Office, including guided tours. Monthly Beginners Evenings and lunchtime lectures and audio-visual presentations are held.

4.3 Special Open Days are held and exhibitions and stalls, manned and unmanned, are provided for ‘fairs’ such as family history fairs, Recreation and Heritage or Hampshire County Council events and, eg, the Hampshire Genealogical Society AGM.

4.4 Occasional special public events are arranged which may include talks, archive film shows, exhibitions and refreshment, usually linked to a topical theme, anniversary or celebration, such as the Hampshire Water Festival.

4.5 Hampshire Archives Trust arranges a programme of visits, including its AGM, to places in and outside Hampshire with an archival or historical link; these may include tours, talks, archive film shows and exhibitions.

4.6 Conferences and seminars on historical or archival topics are held in conjunction with such bodies as Hampshire Field Club, Southern History Society and Wessex Medieval Centre. Wessex Film and Sound Archive arranges an annual oral history seminar promoting good practice.

4.7 Where possible efforts are made to link such activities to national or local celebrations, events or learning programmes, including in partnership with other R&H or HCC services/departments and other local organisations. We subscribe to theArchives Awareness Campaign to raise the profile of archives nationwide.

5. A programme of exhibitions, on- and off-site

5.1 We have an eye-catching display on Hampshire’s archives in the Record Office foyer windows to attract passers-by and to explain the building’s purpose. We also provide an archive film presentation and archive sound listening post in the foyer, with chairs to encourage people to linger and enjoy these.

5.2 We maintain a programme of temporary themed exhibitions of facsimile documents in the foyer area, sometimes linked to national celebrations, mounted for the purpose, or sometimes loaned from other organisations. We also mount exhibitions in the gallery outside the cinema to catch the attention of cinema-users.

5.3 Exhibitions of facsimiles or originals are created for other specific purposes, such as open days, book launches, Archives Trust visits, group visits to the Record Office or other on- or off-site events. Our exhibitions policy gives guidance on the display of original materials.

5.4 We offer our exhibitions for display by other organisations, such as libraries and museums, in order to take them to a wider audience, and mount them on our website. We also work with our museums colleagues to develop joint exhibitions and invite contributions of museum objects to our themed exhibitions.

5.5 Where demand exists we will provide text in larger font-sizes. Where appropriate, exhibitions often include audio-visual elements.

6. Articles in journals and the press, and other contributions to publications

6.1 We compile articles and contribute material on Hampshire’s archive resources for local and national newsletters, journals (eg Hampshire Field Club, and HCC/R&H/ Museums and Archives newsletters) and newspapers, including press releases relating to current events, activities and developments. We also contribute content to other websites, such as the BBC’s.

6.2 Subject to any constraints (eg copyright) we support the publication of  copies of archives, by granting formal permission and on payment of  reproduction fees where appropriate (not normally applicable to local non-profit-making publications). Commercial use of material from WFSA is subject to a scale of fees agreed by Hampshire Archives Trust Executive Committee

7. Contributions to television and radio programmes

7.1 We welcome and encourage media interest in our work and wherever possible we respond positively to requests from local radio or television to take part in programmes, and we seek to build up closer relations to promote Hampshire’s archives and the services we provide. We work particularly closely with television companies seeking to use our audio-visual resources for their programme series.

8. Production/ sale of a range of publications and other promotional items

8.1 We publish Hampshire Record Series: transcripts or calendars of documents, from originals, and Hampshire Papers: carefully-researched illustrated monographs on topics related to Hampshire’s history, of a good academic standard but with a wider than academic appeal. These give remote access to the material, put the records into their historical context, and in the case of medieval Latin texts, make the information comprehensible to those without specialist skills. We make these widely available at an affordable price and keep down costs by using County Council services as the principal marketing outlets.

8.2 We also occasionally produce microfiche publications, including popular printed indexes long out of print; postcards of documents and other materials for sale, and make these available in our sales area alongside other promotional materials such as maps, videos and other books. We aim to develop the sale of such materials, both via the on-site sales area and via a departmental online shop.

9. Provision of help and advice through Hampshire Archives Trust

9.1 We work in partnership with Hampshire Archives Trust, which supports both the preservation and the access and learning work of Hampshire Record Office. It is a member organisation whose aim is ‘to promote the preservation of archives for the benefit of the public and to advance public education on matters connected with archives’.

9.2 The Trust’s individual and corporate membership, including local history societies and other community groups, creates a countywide network giving direct links into Hampshire’s communities. The six-monthly Newsletter, the Annual Report, AGM and visits programme give opportunities to engage with the archives world and help to maintain the relationship with members. Members are encouraged to speak out for archives on occasion and play a generally supportive role.

9.3 The Trust also supports access and learning by its projects and initiatives, such as a recent Heritage Lottery Funded digitisation project of 10,000 historic photographs (Hampshire Photographic Project), and its plans for community archives development. Such projects, often carried out in partnership with the Record Office, build on the Trust’s community network and benefit from its Charlotte Bonham Carter Hampshire Archives Rescue Fund.

10. A programme for active involvement by volunteers

10.1 The public sector, the voluntary and community sector and Government all recognise the value of volunteering for the benefit of the community. Volunteers play a valuable role in supporting the work of Hampshire Record Office and Hampshire Archives Trust, adding value through hands-on involvement with documents, sorting, listing and packaging. Such interesting and enjoyable work also has positive benefits for the volunteers themselves.

10.2 We actively encourage volunteer involvement and aim to develop the role of volunteers, linked to community development plans, enabling their input to extend to supporting the Record Office within their local communities, eg running stalls, organising exhibitions, and giving talks.

10.3 We aim to develop a Hampshire Archives Volunteer Scheme which will formalise the relationship between the Record Office and volunteers, to establish a clear structure for recruitment, training and support, and place our volunteers on a firmer footing in line with Hampshire Council’s Code of Practice for volunteers.

27 December 2006