Speakers: Andrew Flinn (University College London), Laura Millar (Independent Consultant and Scholar), Anthea Seles (International Council on Archives), Jo Fox (School of Advanced Studies, UoL) and Richard Ovenden (Bodleian Library).

This webinar is one of a series of six organised by the British Records Association Advocacy of Archives Group which will be held during 2021 and 2022.  The aim of the series is to raise and debate questions surrounding the criticality and value of archives and records as information and evidence; questions such as: 

  • What does the record - be it in hard copy paper format, digital or other media - mean to us? 
  • Why should we be concerned about its survival? 
  • How can the authenticity and significance of records be assessed? 
  • How can perceived barriers to the access and use of records be broken down?

There are many types of records and many differing reasons for their creation which impact on how, and where, and whether, they are kept. Gaps and manipulation in record keeping (accidental or deliberate) can have a profound impact on people; recent examples include Windrush and the government’s demand for evidence of citizenship; the Grenfell Tower fire; and the management of hospital and virus data around the COVID-19 crisis.

Knowledge is power and the lack of knowledge, combined with a breakdown of trust, is a matter of concern for society.  Information needs to be available so that society can question evidence and assess its importance, but to do so there needs to be an understanding of the context, and therefore, value of information.   Even if the record is lacking or does not always reveal the complete picture, it needs to be consulted and used, not least because a combination of records, or a different   interpretation of records, can often lead to a wider understanding of events. Climate change, for example, is not understood simply through meteorological data but also through photographs, diaries, journals, and government reports. 

In spite of many issues facing the preservation of information and records, many of which are exacerbated in a digital world, possible solutions are being developed. 

A panel of experts will debate these critical issues: each bringing wide experience in the use of information and records to research different issues and keen awareness of the context surrounding the creation and preservation of records.

Andrew Flinn (Speaker) is a Reader in Archival Studies and Oral History at UCL with a background in social and labour history. He is interested in documenting the impact of social and political movements and particularly in promoting community-led research and widening access to cultural heritage. He edited and contributed with David Wallace, Wendy Duff and Renee Saucier to the recent publication Archives, Recordkeeping and Social Justice (Routledge 2020).

Jo Fox (Moderator) has worked on the history of propaganda, focussing on World War II. She is now Dean of the School of Advanced Study and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Public Engagement for the University of London. 

Laura Millar (Speaker) is an independent Canadian scholar who has published extensively on records archives and information management.  Her latest book A Matter of Facts: the Value of Evidence in an Information Age (2019) explores issues around the threats to evidence and the role diverse sources of evidence play in fostering identity and memory. 

Richard Ovenden (Chair) Librarian of the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, President of the Digital Preservation Coalition and author of Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack (2020) has studied the many issues facing libraries and archives in preserving information and has explored a range of possible solutions.

Anthea Seles (Speaker) is Secretary General of the International Council on Archives and has lectured extensively on digital preservation, artificial intelligence and the importance of records management for accountability and transparency. In 2018 she delivered the BRA’s Bond lecture on Research in the Digital Age.  

IHR Partnership Seminar Series: The Shock of the Record: archives and truth