ARA Announces Winners of its 2019 Excellence Awards

David Mander OBE, Debby Rohan, Mark Allen, Elaine MacGillivray and JulieDevenney Honoured

ARA AwardsLogo RGBARA Announces Winners of its 2019 Excellence Awards

David Mander OBE, Debby Rohan, Mark Allen, Elaine MacGillivray and Julie Devenney Honoured

25 July 2019

The Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland) (ARA) today announces the winners of its annual Excellence Awards for 2019.

Distinguished Service Award

The winners of this year’s DSA are David Mander OBE, Debby Rohan and Mark Allen.

David Mander, OBE is a former chair of the ARA Board of Trustees. David’s long and distinguished career in records began in 1974 in Marylebone Library, City of Westminster. In 2005 David was a key figure in the establishment of Archives for London, serving as its Chair from 2005-2011. An independent voice for archives in the city, Archives for London brings together users, practitioners and enthusiasts. Its success as an advocacy body for the sector can be seen in its continuing activity and relevance.

In recent years David has provided high quality consultancy advice in archives, culture and heritage with Creative Cultures. His advice has assisted many services across the UK in their growth and development in key areas like audience development, evaluation, performance indicators, organisational reviews, volunteering, partnership working and advocacy. David’s extensive and additional contribution to the ARA deserves particular mention. David helped shape and influence a number of important improvements and additions to the association, including:

  • The revision of the ARA’s Vision and Mission statements
  • The drafting of a new, revised Code of Conduct
  • The introduction of a new Supporters member category, widening the ARA’s reach
  • Helping revive the ARA’s Northern Region in 2018, and serving as chair (current).

Debby Rohan has spent a lifetime in the conservation of archives, her dedication having both a huge positive influence on the many trainees she has guided and also in changing and modernising the profession in the UK and Ireland, and more widely. Her combined academic and practical approach has been nothing less than inspirational. She brought to her work a strong grounding in the world of craft, which ensured rigour in thinking through processes and a confidence and mastery of all materials.

Debby spent her early career in the 1980s at Wakefield Record Office, where she trained under Ken Thornton and Allen Denison, both former instructors on the (now) ARA conservation course. Many currently-practising archive conservators across the UK have benefited from her expertise and her willingness to share knowledge. She has always been pro-active in supporting, encouraging, and promoting conservation within the recordkeeping community. Her friendly and pleasant demeanour aided her teaching skills by creating a warm, inclusive and friendly environment in which to learn.

Since her recent retirement from Cambridge Archives, Debby has been working as a preservation volunteer at the Edinburgh City Archives. She has always ‘given back’ to the profession throughout her working life and typically continues to give back in retirement, equally happy in a formal leadership role or working with ‘the troops’ as a volunteer. Nominated – as she was - by her senior peers, it is entirely appropriate, therefore, that Debby should be the first-ever conservator to receive a DSA.

Mark Allen, RCARA is the second-ever conservator to win a DSA! Mark began a book-binding apprenticeship in 1984 at St Deiniol’s Library (now Gladstone’s Library) in Hawarden, north Wales, working on the books and incunabula of William Ewart Gladstone. He attended college day-release at Liverpool on a City & Guilds in bookbinding and attended night classes for two years with Paul Delrue, a well-known fine-binder, in Chester. He joined Flintshire Record Office (FRO) in 1992, moving into archive conservation, and took the then Society of Archivists’ (now ARA) conservation course.

In the course of his more than 20 years at Flintshire, Mark has become the go-to specialist for conservation across Wales and beyond and is frequently asked to advise on complex conservation projects. Mark has always given – and continues to give - back to the community. His volunteers routinely take a skill away with them, such as box-making. He has run book-binding courses for all-comers, including one that ran for several weeks and enabled attendees to repair and/or re-bind their own books. He has received an “Outstanding Tutor” award from Flintshire’s adult learners. He regularly trains/mentors the student archivists at Aberystwyth University, as visiting lecturer, and teaches on training days run by MALD (the Welsh Government body for Archives, Museums and Libraries). Arguably his biggest contribution to archive conservation is his long-standing role as an instructor on the ARA conservation course book-binding and parchment-repair modules.

Mark has had a profound impact on the archive profession. He is passionate about passing on the knowledge and skills he has acquired to the next generation of conservators. His own journey demonstrates the potential for successful, ‘non-traditional’ routes into the sector. He has contributed to important advances in technique, made valuable contributions to the creation of conservation policy at local and national level, raised the profile of archive conservation amongst archive professionals and non-professionals alike; and has inspired and trained a new generation of conservators to take up the torch.

Record-keeper of the Year

The 2019 winner of Record-keeper of the Year is Elaine MacGillivray, currently at the University of Edinburgh and previously an archivist at Glasgow City Archives, Elaine has worked on projects such as The School of Scottish Studies Archive new facility and currently works on Wellcome Trust funded projects, bringing life to nationally significant collections.

Elaine was nominated for her work on the Wellcome-funded project ‘Evergreen: Patrick Geddes and the Environment in Equilibrium’ over the last 18 months, ie conserving and cataloguing two geographically diverse collections of papers of Sir Patrick Geddes (1854-1932), a pioneer of the environmental movement, and engaging with a wide range of researchers.

Elaine’s nomination centred on one traditional area of recordkeeping and two innovative approaches to advocacy and ‘giving back’: she has been producing a high-quality catalogue that is opening the door for researchers to access what is a highly complex and extensive collection; also, she has pro-actively built relationships with stakeholders to facilitate engagement with the records on a global scale, including internationally (notably in France and India). She has also supervised and supported the next generation of information professionals by running 35+ high-quality volunteering opportunities and mentoring activities.

New Professional of the Year

Julie Devenney is the 2019 New Professional of the Year. Julie became social media officer for ARA Scotland in June 2017 and very quickly became an integral part of the committee. Her main responsibility was the ARA Scotland Twitter account and, since she took on the role, account twitter followers have risen from just over 500 to well over 3,400, making @ARAScot one of the most popular ARA-related accounts on twitter. Julie’s innovative use of Graphics Interchange Formats (GIFs) and commitment to posting several times a day has raised awareness of ARA Scotland activity and helped the group to grow its membership by engaging with a worldwide audience.

In the last year, Julie has innovated and made the monthly @archivehour activity on social media a mainstream ARA activity, with sections and nations/regions queuing up to take part. She has also run an innovative new social media campaign almost every month. Archivists and records managers from all over the world participated in her #Archive30 campaign in April 2019, content for which was translated into over 18 languages and reached over three million people. Her #ArchiveZ social media activity ran for the 26 weeks before the 2018 ARA Conference in Glasgow, showcasing the collections held in repositories across Scotland. This had a demonstrable and positive impact on both Conference attendees and in encouraging online participation by those unable to attend.

In addition, in the last 18 months, Julie has generously volunteered her own time to speak at events for various groups in the records sector, sharing her extensive knowledge and providing help and advice to a wide range of colleagues. For a new professional to show such leadership, dedication and innovation so early in a career has had an inspirational effect on many of her peers and colleagues.

Philip Milnes-Smith of Shakespeare’s Globe in London was a worthy runner-up in this category.


All recipients will receive their awards either at the ARA Conference, at the Queens Hotel in Leeds, on 29 August 2019 or at individual ceremonies later in the year.

Notes for Editors:

The ARA’s Excellence Awards began in 2016 and are open to archivists, records managers and archive conservators across the UK and Republic of Ireland. The awards cover four specific categories:

  • Distinguished Service Award
  • Record Keeper of the Year
  • Record Keeping Service of the Year
  • New Professional of the Year

All candidates are nominated by their peers or stakeholders in the archives, records and conservation community. An open vote determines the winners of the Record Keeper of the Year and New Professional of the Year awards. The ARA’s Board of Trustees votes for nominees for the Distinguished Service Award (DSA) – though anyone can nominate. DSA winners are normally limited to a maximum of three people per year.

The Record Keeping Service of the Year will not be awarded in 2019 because there were no nominations in that category.

The Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland) acts is the leading professional and membership body for archivists, records managers and conservators in the two countries. It currently has around 2,400 members.

For further details on these awards and the work of the ARA, please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +44 (0)7587 635402.