1. Introduction

1.1 The Definition and Role of Archives was given by Archives for the 21st Century, (The National Archives, 2009) as follows: “Archives are the record of the everyday activities of governments, organisations, businesses and individuals. They are central to the record of our national and local stories and are vital in creating cultural heritage and supporting public policy objectives. Their preservation ensures that future generations will be able to learn from the experiences of the past to make decisions about the present and future”.

1.2 Archives provide rich and vital sources of evidence about past and present life. This evidence is unique in its ability to foster and inspire a sense of place, time and belonging. Archives help to bring the past to life, help us to understand why our present world is as it is and support the role of today's citizen. They provide authoritative evidence of past events for everyone to use, for educational, and academic, social, legal, business, medical and other uses. Archives may be used to solve problems and defend rights, and to cultivate pride in individual and community identities.

1.3 Archives are created as documentation to accompany human processes of many kinds. As time passes these records are often the sole survivors of organizations, institutions and individuals, and provide unique evidence, however flawed, of past events and previous generations.
Archives and documents in all media (including paper, parchment, maps, plans, photographs, films and electronic) provide unique evidence of the historical development of places and people’s daily lives.

1.4 Ceredigion Archives (and its predecessor body Dyfed Archives, Cardiganshire Area Record Office) has protected the archival record since its creation in 1974, safeguarding irreplaceable information assets for current and future use by means of correct management of the archives to professional standards. We collect, protect, preserve, manage, share and promote the archival legacy of the county of Ceredigion and Cardiganshire for the use of current and future generations.
We also contribute to the modern county of Ceredigion achieving its priorities especially with regard to sustainable development, a strong economy, better education and skills and independent healthy living; and we act, with our Information and Records Management Service, as the corporate memory of the authority and its predecessor bodies.

1.5 Statutory framework for the archive service is provided under:

• Local Government Act 1972 and Local Government (Records) Act 1962
• Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 section 60
• Parochial Registers and Records Measure 1978
• Public Records Acts 1958 and 1967

1.6 Access to collections complies with:

• Freedom of Information Act 2000
• Data Protection Act 1998
• Environmental Information Regulations 2005

2. Mission Statement

To preserve, manage and make available evidential material (both historic and contemporary) relating to the county of Ceredigion through our Archive Service, and to support the local authority through our Information and Records Management Service. To make the information in our care available to all who need it, within a framework of legal compliance and a good understanding of our user’s needs. To provide training in Information Security and Data Protection to the authority and to have responsibilities for, and an advisory role in the responses to Subject Access Requests for the authority.

3. The Purpose of this Policy

3.1 The purpose of the policy is to demonstrate how we meet our service aims in providing and promoting access to archive collections.

3.2 This policy demonstrates how access is provided to archives both on-site and remotely and any restrictions that affect access to archive material.

3.3 Ceredigion Archive Service also complies with the Customer Service Charter for Ceredigion and Welsh Language Standards.

3.4 This policy supports our mission statement as set out above and should be used in conjunction with the Ceredigion Archives Forward Plan and Annual Business Plan which documents plans for the years ahead and previous key achievements.

4. Onsite Access at Ceredigion Archives

Access to collections is available to all stakeholders in our searchroom which is supervised by archives staff. The searchroom is free to use but charges apply for some additional services.

4.1 Booking and arrival

Prior booking to use the searchroom is not required.

The office is signposted from the street with onsite signage on arrival to guide researchers to the appropriate section of the building and to the searchroom.

Researchers are asked to sign in on arrival and are made aware of the searchroom rules.

Researchers may be required to produce proof of identification to use the search room and access original documents. Ceredigion Archives is a member of the County Archive Research Network (CARN) and researchers can sign up to the scheme if they wish.

4.2 Security

In order to protect our collections and building various security measures are in place:

• The searchroom is supervised at all times
• CCTV monitoring of the search room and other public areas of the building
• Limiting number of documents issued to researchers
• Handling guidelines
• Searchroom rules

4.3 Research facilities

Our catalogues and lists of recent accessions are available on-line and researchers can access them in the searchroom or remotely to identify documents relevant to their research.

The searchroom also holds hard copy parish register lists, indices of monumental inscriptions, indexed census transcripts for parts of the county, marriage indices for the county for certain periods, microfiche burials indices, and maps.

A searchroom reference library is also available on open shelves which consists of secondary material such as reference books, local studies publications and pamphlets.

Research guides and other resources which have been developed by staff and others are available on the Ceredigion Archives website in the Research Resources section

Public access computers are available to use with access to internet, family history websites (including subscriptions to Ancestry and FindMyPast) and recent Microsoft Office package.

Microfilm and microfiche readers are available to view sources available on film or fiche.

Wi-fi is available in the searchroom for the use of personal laptops and other devices.

4.4 Archive staff

The search room is supervised at all times by knowledgeable and experienced staff who are always ready to help and advise researchers.

Researchers who visit in person take priority over any other work tasks.

Staff are available to guide researchers to relevant collections, guide and support and assist them in their research as necessary, instruct them on how the collections are arranged and listed, and explain how to use searchroom equipment.

4.5 Handling of documents

Researchers must adhere to guidance on handling documents (scroll down for the relevant extract) which is available prior to visit online and is displayed in the searchroom.

Staff are available at all times to advise on correct document handling and offer the use of weights and book supports.

In some cases, only a surrogate copy of a document is available. Catalogues and finding aids specify if this is the case.

4.6 Copying documents

Copies of documents can be provided by photocopying, scanning or photography.

Copying (except photography) can only be completed by a member of staff. When supplying copies Ceredigion Archives take into consideration the following factors:

• Copyright and other intellectual property rights
• Conditions stipulated be the donor or depositor
• Data Protection and personal information contained within the document
• Nature and condition of the document

A charge is made for copying and a copyright declaration copyright declaration form must be completed by the researcher before copies can be issued.

When a document is too large and/or fragile to be photocopied or scanned, it may be photographed, either by staff (there is a charge for this service) or by the researcher.

We encourage the use of cameras in the search room. There is no charge but the same copying restrictions and conditions apply to photography as to any other form of copying.

4.7 Restrictions on access

Certain document types have access restrictions. Restriction notes are displayed on the online catalogues. These restriction notes specify the reason for restriction and the date until which the document or collection is restricted.

Restricted access to documents is applied in cases where

• the document is too fragile to view and further use would cause damage
• the document or collection is subject to legislative restrictions i.e. contains personal or sensitive information
• the depositor or creating body has specified or agreed a closure period

Access to documents restricted under the Data Protection Act may be granted, subject to strict conditions, to bona fide academic researchers at the discretion of the County Archivist. The researcher must fill in the Application for Access to Restricted Material; if permission is granted, s/he must sign and abide by the Reader's Undertaking.

4.8 Accessibility

Ceredigion County Council is committed to celebrating diversity and promoting equality to improve the quality of life for everyone living, working and visiting Ceredigion.

To ensure onsite access is available to researchers with physical disabilities, the following facilities are in place:

• Parking on site for blue badge holders
• Exterior ramps and ground level entry to building
• Interior lift to all public areas
• We encourage and support assisted visits.
• PCs and Microfilms can be adjusted
• Magnifying glasses are available

Ceredigion Archives as a public service adheres to the Equality Act (2010)

5. Remote Access

In addition to on-site access Ceredigion Archives Service also provides access to catalogues and material online in a variety of ways.

5.1 Website

In order to develop and increase remote access to collections held by Ceredigion Archives, a custom built service website was designed and launched in 2005. It was improved and relaunched in 2009.

Information about the service is kept current and made available on the website.

Ceredigion Archives aims to update the website pages as necessary adding new content and catalogues as they becomes available.

The website enables remote researchers to:

• View and search online catalogues
• View a regularly-updated list of recent accessions
• View digital images of collections where available
• View research guides and other useful resources (e.g. Helpful Welsh Words, table of changing street names in Aberystwyth)
• Search the database of early vehicle registrations
• Submit an online enquiry (see Remote Enquiries below)
• Read about the work of Ceredigion Archives
• Follow links to Ceredigion Archives' blogs and other social networking sites

5.2 Remote enquiries

Ceredigion Archives offers advice and assistance to researchers who cannot visit the office in person. Enquiries can be made to Ceredigion Archives by email or online form, social media, telephone or post. Advice and a single short research enquiry is offered free of charge. Additional research can be carried out for £20 per hour.

Ceredigion Archives responds to enquiries in line with the Ceredigion Council Customer Charter.

Ceredigion Archives will:

• Acknowledge an email or online enquiry as soon as possible.
• Answer a telephone call as soon as possible and make sure your enquiry or request is directed to the right person first time.
• Respond as soon as possible with an answer.

5.3 Social media

Social Media tools provide the service with an alternative way of communicating with existing and potential stakeholders. Ceredigion Archives uses the following social media channels with the intention of reaching a wider audience and promotion of the service:

Facebook Service Page is an alternative web presence for quick access to opening hours and location details. Used to share blog posts, volunteering opportunities and news stories. Also used to follow other institutions and engage with local history groups.
• Twitter (@Ceredigionarch) used, like Facebook, to share blog posts and news stories, as well as for instant reactions to documents and images encountered in day-to-day work of the service. Also used to follow other individuals and institutions.
• Blog (in Welsh and English): Used to promote the service and collections by means of longer, illustrated articles on a variety of subjects. Guest bloggers are sometimes invited to contribute posts. Researchers can follow the blog and receive an automated email when a new blog post is published.
Reporting the Great War blog: A weekly snapshot of news reaching Cardiganshire from the WW1 battlefields 100 years ago, and of the local experience of the war, derived from newspaper articles and other items in Ceredigion Archives' collections.
Llantood Letters: A showcase for a remarkable series of letters from the Napoleonic era.

Ceredigion Archives aims to update the social media pages as and when needed and publish news stories and other content as often as required.

5.4 Outreach and events

Ceredigion Archives aims to promote the use of the service by:

• Promoting and enabling the use of archives
• Informing people of the importance of documented heritage
• Telling our stakeholders about our collections and services
• Participating in national initiatives such as the Explore Your Archive Campaign
• Engaging with the public through exhibitions, public lectures, and other events
• Meeting the expectations of our users
• Using the archive service to support Ceredigion Council's priorities

Further information on outreach activities and events can be found on our website and social networking sites.

6. Feedback

Compliments, comments and complaints are recorded and responded to according to Ceredigion County Council’s complaints procedure.

A search-room comments book is available for researchers to record their thoughts on their visit.

External assessment of the service is undertaken annually through the ARA Visitor Survey alternating with the Distance Research Survey.

7. Review of Policy

This policy will be reviewed at least every five years. The policy was written in October 2017 and will be reviewed in October 2022 or sooner if circumstances dictate.

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