Archives & Access

The Archives & Access project (2012–2017), funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Tate, has been a five-year programme of digital access, participation and learning with archives. The project digitised over 52,000 items and pieces from Tate's Archive while developing associated engagement activities at Tate Britain, on the Tate website, and with partners across the UK.

As a result of the project, Tate has accrued experience that can be shared with others who are embarking upon archive digitisation initiatives.

Nigel Henderson
Photograph of Eduardo Paolozzi ([c.1949–c.1956])
Tate Archive

Archives Unboxed

Archives are preserved for the generations: they enrich society intellectually, culturally and economically, cultivating an understanding about past and contemporary moments alike.

This is an exciting time to be working with archives: digital both offers opportunities and presents challenges to the sector. Technological developments – specifically digital innovations – can be used to allow these public resources to serve audiences more widely, on a local, national and global scale. The provision of digital access to archives removes some of the barriers – things like geographic location, opening hours, or physical mobility – that might stop members of the public visiting archive repositories.

Moreover, publishing archives digitally affords novel approaches to indexing, searching, discovering and utilising collections. For instance, digital metadata allows archives to be searched thematically across collections at speed (e.g. it is possible to search across collections for topics such as 'football', 'Yorkshire', 'magic', etc.). This allows for new connections to be made within and between collections.

This is beneficial in many ways. For instance, increased visibility can offer ways to increase representation – the stories of lesser-known figures may be celebrated and championed by virtue of circulation. Further, digital technologies provide alternative terms of engagement with information – say, via a smartphone when sat on your sofa – offering additional, recreationally-led means of access.

Practice sharing

The Archives & Access toolkit pages are designed to serve as a resource for individuals or institutions who are considering or underway with providing digital access to their archives. Within them, learning outcomes garnered from Archives & Access are shared, with the aim of informing and supporting archive digitisation work undertaken by colleagues.

For further advice about the information provided on archive digitisation, please contact

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