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NCVO reminds charities of the importance of historical archives

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) is calling for charities to protect their historical records, as part of a new project to archive charity sector documents.

The five-year scheme, funded by the British Academy, will reach across the UK and seeks to digitally preserve key voluntary sector records, particularly those dating back to the creation of the modern welfare state in 1945. It aims to ensure that records relating to welfare reform, which transformed the relationship between charities and the state, are not lost.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), a member of the project steering group and the project's key link to the voluntary sector, is calling for charities to engage with their history and help keep vital records of post-war Britain safe. Historical documents can not only show how a charity’s mission and value has developed over time, but can also show how the sector’s relationship with government has changed.

Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of NCVO, commented:

‘This project is a timely collaboration between academics, voluntary organisations and the library and archive sector.

Charities in the UK hold a vast wealth of information relating to public life and we welcome the opportunity to protect and celebrate this important resource.

An archive showing the voluntary sector’s involvement in the welfare state over time will be very significant and useful for charities involved in public service delivery today.’

The first stage of the five-year project will begin in July 2014 with a scoping study and awareness-raising programme. NCVO is asking voluntary organisations to think about their history and records, including if they know where and how they are stored, and how the project could benefit them. NCVO will advise the project, assisting in collecting submissions from charities and promoting awareness of the new digital archive.

This will be followed by a knowledge-exchange programme to assist voluntary organisations to recognise the value of records as strategic assets. The project will culminate with the creation of an open-access resource bank of digitised documents, telling the story of the welfare state in Britain over the last 80 years.


Notes to Editors

  • Digitising the Mixed Economy of Welfare in Britain was awarded British Academy Research Project (ARP) status in July 2014 and will run until the end of 2019.
  • The Project Director is Dr Georgina Brewis (Institute of Education, University of London) with a steering group involving Professor Irene Hardill (Northumbria University) and Nick Ockenden (NCVO)
  • The project is supported by a Stakeholder Advisory Committee involving: Dr Justin Davis Smith (NCVO) (Chair); Professor Virginia Berridge (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine); Jude England (Head of Social Science, British Library); Dr Sarah Mills (Lecturer in Human Geography, Loughborough University); Professor Perri 6 (Queen Mary University of London); Jo Reilly (Head of Participation and Learning, Heritage Lottery Fund); Professor Chris Taylor (Co-Director WISERD Civil Society, Cardiff University); with Philip Gale (The National Archives) as observer.
  • The British Academy will award approximately £25,000 to the project over five years.

For more information please contact Helen Raftery at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 020 7520 2424.

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