Bodleian Libraries secure Heritage Lottery Fund support to develop archivists of the future

4 June 2013

Oxfam flyer

The Bodleian Libraries have received initial support for a £280,000 bid from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Developing the next generation archivist project, part of the Skills for the Future programme. The support will part-fund a programme to allow the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries to provide six trainee archivists with the skills required to become professional digital archivists. The Bodleian Libraries will be seeking additional support to cover the remaining costs of the project.

The funding will support a training program that will run between 2014 and 2019, training six archivists over this period. Bodleian Libraries will now work with the Heritage Lottery Fund to progress its plans to develop the project. 

The six trainees will receive intensive paid work-based training over a 24-month period, staggered over the period 2014 to 2019. Benefiting from the curatorial experience of staff at the Bodleian, trainees will focus on developing skills to manage digital archives, and will have the opportunity to work with the Bodleian Libraries’ internationally important collections such as the Conservative Party Archives and the Oxfam archive, which the Library acquired in 2012. Alongside their day-to-day work, trainees will undertake an accredited vocational qualification through distance learning, with their course fees met in full by the project.

This project is meant to open the door to applicants who might not have previously considered a career in archives, and it is hoped that the project will attract a wide range of applicants. One of the goals of the project is to encourage diversity in the workforce for the future, and it particularly encourages individuals with backgrounds in Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine to consider a career in archives.

This project will also reach out to the local community. Oxfordshire school pupils will have a chance to go behind the scenes at the Bodleian Libraries and see for themselves where a career path in archival heritage might lead.

The project will be centred in the Weston Library in central Oxford, which will soon become the home of the Bodleian's Special Collections. The Weston Library will re-open to the public in March 2015 following an extensive programme of refurbishment. Home to 34,000 linear metres of the Bodleian's Special Collections, as well as Special Collections staff, this new Library will also include features fit for the digital world and extensive exhibition galleries which will allow for a permanent display of the Libraries’ great treasures. The trainee archivists will be among the Weston Library’s first occupants, joining Library staff there from September 2014.

Chris Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections said: ‘This important and innovative award will allow us to help train up the archivists of the future by giving them crucial paid experience and an educational opportunity, all in the context of our fabulous collections, buildings and curatorial expertise. It will also help us to preserve and make accessible collections of scholarly and cultural wealth that would otherwise be beyond use or, particularly in the case of electronic material, be at serious risk of loss.’

Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of HLF, said: ‘Nurturing skills – of all types – continues to be a hugely important part of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s portfolio of work. Skills for the Future is one of our most successful and over-subscribed programmes with fierce competition to secure funding. The 39 projects that have won through reflect the wide range of training and opportunities on offer in the heritage industry. We’re delighted that through this significant investment 876 new placements will be created right across the UK and hope that this additional funding will help encourage growth and build resilience within the sector.’

Further information about the Skills for the Future traineeships available will be posted on the Bodleian website in early 2014.  

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