Report back: BRA FORUM 26 November 2019

The British Records Association (BRA) convened a forum on 26 November for a group of 20 representatives from national archive and research organisations in the UK, to discuss issues around trust in archives and records. This was an opportunity for the BRA, as an independent organisation, to bring together people with knowledge of, and interest in the way information is acquired, held, accessed and used.

Within the present climate of cynicism and disbelief about information and indeed in institutions, lies a serious danger that records are no longer recognised as a vital part of the process of evidence needed to challenge and understand our society. And in our digital world the record has become even more open to manipulation. As noted by P.Kurilecz (nra-mailbase 8 Dec ‘Importance of preserving the archive’), ‘the record may be discomforting, but it allows for some semblance of truth to be maintained in the face of “alternative facts”’. This all matters because without some faith in ‘evidence-based information’ (which itself is sometimes questionable), we are in danger of losing the baby with the bath water and undermining our democratic processes.

The forum’s discussion was lively and focussed, and resulted in a number of suggested outcomes, some of which the BRA will be taking forward. They include holding additional meetings on specific issues, greater transparency by archival bodies, more diversity among those caring for records and the research community, and most importantly, education in digital literacy. The very fact that the archive and record keeping sector has shown its concern and wishes to try to intervene is important and the forum will be publicised in our journal Archives as well as on our website and elsewhere.