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Religious Archives Group

Staff at London Metropolitan Archives are always encouraged to contribute to the archive profession by taking up roles in various organisations such as the Archives and Records Association, Business Archives Council and Archives for London. Jeff Gerhardt has been the Senior Archivist at LMA for both Church of England and Non-Conformists churches in the London region for a number of years. He joined the Religious Archives Group (RAG) Committee in 2011 and became its Chair in 2015. Here he takes a closer look at how RAG supports religious archives.

Background

RAG was formed in 1989 as a voluntary organisation for both users and practitioners interested in the preservation and use of religious archives across the UK. It supports both faith communities and a wide range of custodians of archives, whether they are religious or secular organisations. In 2013, RAG became recognised as a charity and is an affiliate of the Archives and Records Association’s Specialist Repositories Group (SRG).

In 2010, and in partnership with the ARA and The National Archives, RAG conducted the first ever survey of religious archives across the country. A survey report was released the same year detailing the results of the survey and recommendations for practical next steps for areas of need. Taking on the recommendations of the report, a religious archives support plan was created which the committee continues to use to help direct its work. Part of the outcome was the appointment of a Senior Adviser: Religious Archives at The National Archives (TNA) from 2012-2015 to help carry out aspects of the plan. Although the role has changed, staff at TNA continue to work with RAG as part of its support to the archives sector.

Recently, the committee has been successful in obtaining endorsements for the importance of religious archives from most leading religious figures in the country. Support has been obtained from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi, the Head of the Muslim Council in Britain and many other religious leaders. RAG is looking to celebrate this this achievement with an event later in 2018.

Activities

RAG’s flagship event is the annual conference, usually held in the spring of each year. The conferences are based around themes such as access to religious archives, personal papers, digitisation and last year’s event - women in religious archives. Over the years, conferences have been held at a variety of locations around the country including the British Library, London; John Rylands Library, Manchester; Pusey House, Oxford; and Canterbury Cathedral.

This year’s conference, which took place on 10 May at King’s College London, marked the 100-year anniversary of the end of the First World War with talks on military chaplains.

RAG conducts local training sessions aimed at custodians of archives that have no formal archival training or are small services looking for advice. We also offer support to organisations holding their own archives, for example, working in an advisory capacity with the very successful East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre Archive project. Online guidance is provided on the Religious Archives Group website, particularly for those holding personal papers or small organisations caring for archives for the first time.

Committee members also engage with the wider archive sector, for example contributing to TNA’s consultation, 'Archives for the 21st Century' and attending recent workshops on collections at risk.

Membership

Membership is entirely free and interested parties only need to add themselves to the e-mail list at religious-archives-group@jiscmail.ac.uk . On the list, members can discuss archival topics, seek advice on religious archives, find out about upcoming events and find job advertisements in the sector.

For more information about the Religious Archives Group, please visit their website.

Published:
16 May 2018
Last Modified:
21 May 2018

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