County Record Office Under Threat

Posted by on Aug 6, 2012 in News | 0 comments

County Record Office Under Threat

News Item from Leicestershire & Rutland Family History Society

Did you know that the Heritage, Arts and Libraries Service, which includes the Record Office, has suffered a disproportionately large and unfair cut of 40% to its budget?

 

 

 

The cuts so far:

From January 2012, the Record Office has been closed on Fridays.

Deletion of the post of Chief Archivist: after 11 years at the Record Office, Dr Margaret Bonney has left.  She was involved in a wide range of major research projects, such as Prisoners of War in a local camp, Slavery, Gypsies and Travellers, Partition in India, and the 90th Anniversary of the British Legion.  These projects have shown the impact of national and international events on Leicestershire and its inhabitants. She has involved local communities, who have added to the oral history, and who have donated documents, photos and artefacts to the Archives, so that this has been a two-way process.  She will be greatly missed by her colleagues and by the local communities with whom she worked.  Who will undertake this work now?

Deletion of the post of Researcher: Pat Grundy, who contributed a regular column to the LRFHS Journal, has also gone.

More cuts are to come.  The local press reported in January this year that:

 

“In 2012 [Leicestershire County Council] announced it needed to cut 1000 posts by April 2014.  About 500 have been axed so far – but the Council says 1500 posts will have been cut by April 2016…Libraries and Museums are likely to bear the brunt of the cuts.  In previous consultations the public has said these two areas should face cuts ahead of other public services…Councillor Parsons said: ‘I highly value all of our museums and libraries, but we’re not in a position to guarantee that all of them will remain open.’

The collection, conservation and maintenance of Archives are statutory duties, and serve little purpose unless the records are freely available to both professional researchers and the general public.  However these activities do not lend themselves easily to cost-benefit analysis.  Well, the costs are easy to calculate, but the benefits are diffuse and wide-ranging.  2012 is a year of centenaries and a Jubilee, and the next few years will bring many more anniversaries, not least the start of the First World War.  How can these events be commemorated in an informed and informative manner without access to the historical record?  These centenaries bring in tourists and keep businesses going.  Tourism is something all our three local authorities are keen to promote.

The new Council Department for Communities & Wellbeing embraces libraries, museums, adult learning and the Record Office.  There is a rapidly growing lay interest in local and family history, particularly by the over-fifties, amongst people from all walks of life, including many who have often had little formal education beyond the age of 14 or 15.  Yet their researches into local and family history and their indexing are developing the records and adding material to the Archives.  We’re told that learning a new language can prevent or delay the onset of dementia.  I’m sure that developing research skills of critical analysis and lateral thinking would have a similar beneficial effect!  So some of the benefits of providing a Record Office accrue to the Office itself; but many of the benefits are experienced elsewhere, in business and commerce, and in other budgets such as health.  I hope that our elected members have the vision to see the broader picture and the financial benefits of supporting the Record Office and its services, rather than finding it a soft target to cut.

In the meantime, it’s important that our elected representatives recognise that we are not an insignificant minority that can be ignored.

What You Can Do:

Add your name to the online petition on the LRFHS website at www.lrfhs.org.uk

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