Explore Your Archive launched at Houses of Parliament

The biggest public awareness campaign ever undertaken by the archives sector– EXPLORE YOUR ARCHIVE – was launched in the Houses of Parliament on21 November

Lords, Members of Parliament, the Campaign’s ambassadors, leaders of cultural institutions and many archivists joined in the celebration. 

The launch was sponsored by the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Archives and History Dr Hywel Francis MP.

cake cutting 249x204Four of the Campaign’s ambassadors were present to cut an Explore Your Archive cake and guests viewed the films featuring the Campaign’s ambassadors.

Caroline Williams, President of the Archives and Records Association, said it was clear the Campaign, which began on 16 November had been successful: at least 200 archives were staging events, exhibitions and open days to encourage the public to visit an archive in person or online; social media has been used widely to share some of the extraordinary stories held in archives; and thousands of campaign badges were being proudly worn all across the UK and Ireland.

Caroline said : ‘Public awareness of the role of archives is essential. Especially in the difficult times we find ourselves in. There are too many people who do not understand what an archive is or what an archivist does. Those who use our services think very highly of us  – we constantly receive satisfaction rates of up to 97% - but millions of people in the UK and Ireland have yet to walk into an archive or access our information. We hope this campaign will bring many new people to an archive – in person or online. We also hope that those who do not necessarily want to visit archives themselves recognise that they are a good thing – for everyone.’

Gary Brannan, an Archivist from West Yorkshire Archives Service, spoke about being an archivist: ‘I'm proud because I help people make sense of where they have come from, and where they may be going. I can provide a defence in their time of legal need. I can provide a resource which can help older people develop their skills in IT, help kids see history brought to life and see personal and national pasts investigated and re-interpreted time and again.gbexplore249x166

‘I am proud. Proud to keep the records of the forgotten, so they can be rediscovered. Proud to keep the memories of great deeds alive, and proud to keep the memory of our less-great days alive too, so that in the future we can learn and not make the same mistakes again. Proud to let communities connect with a past that binds them, and proud to know that when I'm gone, the work I have done will benefit someone’.

Clem Brohier, Acting Chief Executive of The National Archives, believed that working on the Campaign together as a sector had ‘raised our game’: ‘Explore Your Archive has given archivists the tools, the skills and the experience they need to find, to delight and to keep new audiences’.

explore your archive 21 november 249x373Photos left  show Explore Your Archive ambassadors cutting the Campaign cake. From left: Professor Joanna Bourke, Dr Hywel Francis MP, Dr Gus Casely-Hayford and Professor Lisa Jardine.

Photo right shows Gary Brannan speaking at the launch.

Photos Simon O'Connor for the ARA.


The Explore Your Archive campaign website is at www.exploreyourarchive.org








The Campaign’s ambassadors are

Paddy Ashdown
Antony Beevor
Dr Gus Casely-Hayford
Professor Joanna Bourke
Dr Hywel Francis MP
Tristram Hunt MP
Professor Lisa Jardine


There were Explore Your Archive Campaign launches in Gwent and Dublin on 14 and 20 November respectively. Read about Explore Your Archive in Wales and in Ireland.