Main Document 0.15 MB
The word most commonly used to describe the pattern of archive repositories in the UK is 'network'. Its appeal lies in the implicit sense that this is a structured, contrived, almost geometric pattern.
Certainly it is the case that the existence throughout England and Wales of a pattern of local authority-provided archive services allows one to talk of such a network, though the word conceals, as has been discussed before by the Archives Task Force, substantial inequalities of provision and there remain some isolated gaps and disproportionate distribution in geographical coverage, such as in London with its ‘multiplicity of archive voices’.1 In Scotland, the pattern is less complete. In Northern Ireland, there is no equivalent of such a network and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland is the official place of deposit for public records of Northern Ireland, as well as being virtually the only repository for private records.
To this core can be added archives based within universities. These are of two categories: the administrative records of the universities themselves, and archives of wider significance taken in to support research. All universities have the former category of material but by no means do all universities employ an archivist to care for their own administrative records. There is no requirement for universities to collect material of the second kind, but many do so, usually with an archivist to administer the material, sometimes heading up a separate department, but quite commonly operating within the university library or its Special Collections. Such collections are sufficiently widely spread to provide an overlay to the group of local authority archives and thus to weave an added richness to the pattern.