ARA announces winners of its Distinguished Service Award

ARA announces joint inaugural winners of its Distinguished Service Award

Kim Collis (West Glamorgan Archive Service), Steve Connelly (Perth & Kinross Council Archive) & Dr Ray Refaussé (Church of Ireland’s RCB Library)

16 May 2016

The Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland) announced today at its annual general meeting in London the winners of its inaugural Distinguished Service Award (DSA).

Kim and David

The ARA’s awards panel, a group of senior members, selected Dr Raymond Refaussé of the Church of Ireland’s Representative Church Body (RCB) Library, Stephen Connelly of Perth & Kinross Council Archive in Scotland and Kim Collis of West Glamorgan Archive Service in Wales. The panel therefore decided unanimously that all three should receive the inaugural award.

‘Exceptional candidates… (who) have set definitive benchmarks’

In announcing the award winners, David Mander, OBE - ARA’s Chair and also a member of the awards panel - said:

“The ARA set up the Distinguished Service Award to recognise record-keepers and conservators that have made an outstanding contribution to local community service. All three winners were nominated by their peers and have devoted considerable personal time and energy over many years to archive rescue and development, supporting local research and education, and innovation in the sector. I congratulate Steve, Ray and Kim on their most worthy achievements and recognition.”

Mr Mander presented a trophy and certificate to Mr Collis (photo above) at the meeting. Mr Connelly and Dr Refaussé’s awards will be presented in person at a later date.

Sam Johnston, ARA board member and chair of the awards panel, added:

“Many record-keepers and conservators in the public, private and voluntary sectors go beyond the call in their commitment to community and professional service. But Ray, Kim and Steve have set definitive benchmarks. As well as recognising three very special people, these inaugural awards seek to motivate current and future generations of professionals and honour the memory of the many men and women who inspired, trained and supported today’s winners and colleagues more broadly.”

Update on Other ARA Awards

Nominations for Record-keeping Service of the Year and Record-keeper of the Year have closed. The nominations will soon be posted on the ARA website before the end of May 2016, along with details of how members can vote for their preferred candidates.


ARA’s annual general meeting was held at The Friends’ House in London on 16 May 2016. At the meeting, David Mander stood down as ARA’s Chair (after completing his two-year term) and was replaced by Geoff Pick of the London Metropolitan Archive (ARA’s incumbent Vice-Chair).  The ARA’s annual conference will take place at the Hilton Wembley, from 31 August to 2 September 2016)

Background on the winners

Steve Connelly has been council archivist at Perth and Kinross Council since 1978. Since 1989 he has been a member of the Archivists of Scottish Local Authorities Working Group (ASLAWG) – helping archive services across Scotland - as well as being its former Chair. Since 1997 he has been a Fellow of Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and was, from 2001-2005 Director of Scottish Urban Archaeology Trust Ltd. Locally, Steve has been a member of the Abertay Historical Society since 1980, as well as being a former president and vice-president of the society. He is currently also a member of the Scottish Council on Archives. His nomination reads:

“Steve was one of the first local authority archivists in Scotland to use the Manpower Services Commission Youth Opportunities Scheme to (help set) up the (Council) archive (in 1978).   He has continued to offer work experience opportunities to the unemployed and those with disabilities, making the archive truly relevant to the community.   He (has also) added to - and built up - the archive’s holdings from both the Council and private sources. 

Throughout his time as Council Archivist he has given numerous talks promoting the Council Archives and their value to society. (Examples include) … a chapter on “Arthur Kinmond Bell” for the Ten Taysiders – Forgotten Figures from Dundee, Angus & Perthshire (published by Abertay Historical Society in 2011), and… extensive research on Polish troops in Perth and Kinross during the Second World War. Steve… is known to staff at the A K Bell Library (where the Archive is situated) as the ‘oracle’: his knowledge of the… area being so vast.  He will be sorely missed when he retires at the end of March 2016.” 

Kim Collis began his career in 1985 at the then Public Record Office before taking up posts at Shell International, Tate Gallery Archive, Warwickshire County Council, the Library of the Society of Friends and Sheffield City Archives. Since 1992, he has worked at the West Glamorgan Archive Service. From 2005-2011, he was vice-chair and then chair of the Archives and Records Council Wales. He has also been chair of the project board of the ground-breaking Cynefin (Wales Sense of Place) project since 2012. Kim’s award nomination reads:

“Kim has made a major contribution to the development of archive services in Wales since 1992. Kim produced West Glamorgan Archive Service: a guide to the Collections in 1998 and created the first version of the archive service’s web site in 1999, which may have been the first local authority archive website in Wales. Successive years have seen a steady rise in visitors, an online catalogue, a service to schools and an interactive portal to the service’s screen and sound archives. 

Kim (is) an able innovator, a highly-capable service manager and a diplomatic and energetic leader. His persistence and creativity were vital to the success of the Heritage Lottery Fund Cynefin bid,… an online showcase based on digitising all the Welsh tithe maps, using crowd sourcing to support transcription and geo-referencing and linking the web site to… related digitised sources, including other historic maps. The project included six local projects… (such as) recording ancient woodland in West Glamorgan and public houses in mid-Wales… (B)oth his paid work and his extensive voluntary contribution deserves the recognition and acclamation of us as his professional colleagues.”

Ray Refaussé served as Assistant Librarian in the Department of Manuscripts at Trinity College, Dublin from 1976 to 1981. He was appointed the first Church of Ireland archivist at the Representative Church Body (RCB) Library (the Church’s records repository) in 1981. Following the retirement of the Librarian three years later, he became the first combined Librarian and Archivist in 1984, a position he will hold until his retirement in June 2016.

During his time at the RCB (, Ray established and professionalised the archives of the Church of Ireland in Ireland, including securing agreement with the Public Record Office of Ireland (now the National Archives) that the RCB Library was the appropriate place of custody for Church of Ireland parish registers. Over 1,100 parish record collections, thousands of manuscript collections, papers of diocesan, cathedral and other central administrative records of the Church at all levels have been secured, stored and catalogued during his tenure. Ray has also pioneered public access to this material through the establishment of an exemplary publication scheme since the early 1990s. Ray’s nomination reads:

“Ray has been a long-standing advocate for the profession in Ireland. In 1988 he co-edited with Seamus Helferty the first ever Directory of Irish Archives and jointly continued this service through to the publication of the Directory’s fifth edition in 2011. Ray served as Regional Councillor of the Society of Archives (SoA) Ireland between 1984 and 1986 and as Chairman between 1987 and 1990. He has been a Member of the National Archives Advisory Council, the body overseeing the work of the National Archives of Ireland, since 2003. He has also been heavily involved in the Irish Society for Archives, a discussion and advocacy forum promoting the place of archives in Irish society, serving as Chairman since 2001.

“(Ray’s long) involvement in and commitment to (many) different aspects of the Irish archival profession… attests to his own commitment to archives in Ireland (and) his understanding of the need for Irish archivists to connect as professionals and with the broader user community.  In the course of his career, (Ray) has made a genuinely distinguished contribution both to his own archive and to the profession generally. He (therefore) deserves recognition at the highest level.”