Finding new ways to connect: Jeff James of the National Archives on reaching out to students

The chief executive and keeper of the National Archives looks back at his ten-year stint, which is drawing to a close
Source: The National Archives

By CSW staff

28 Dec 2023


Tell us three words that sum up your 2023...  

International, reflective, and innovative. 

...And why you chose those words   

International: This year, we launched our international strategy, Archives for Everywhere, and I concluded my term as president of the Forum of National Archivists. Building on our work over the last decade, this year we have supported the UK government’s cultural and diplomatic efforts; worked in partnership with a wide range of institutions worldwide on collections-based, digital and research projects; and partnered with others as proud members of international bodies who champion the preservation of physical and digital documentary heritage around the globe.  

Reflective: 2023 is my last full calendar year at The National Archives, as my term will conclude by next summer. Having had the privilege of being chief executive and keeper since 2014, the organisation I will leave is very different from the one I joined. 

In the last decade, we have started publishing court and tribunal judgments via our innovative Find Case Law service, and we have launched a partnership with the Parliamentary Archives to offer these materials a new home. Together, these projects have greatly expanded the scope of The National Archives’ work. We have undertaken major works at our HQ in Kew, allowing more people to experience our world class collection. We have helped to provide legal certainty by ensuring that our service kept up with legislative changes as the UK left the EU and during the COVID-19 pandemic. And we have helped to support transparency, working with other government departments to ensure that their records are transferred to us and released when they are 20 years old rather than 30. 

Innovative: In 2023, we continued to innovate our public engagement offering. Our new Clore Learning Centre opened, greatly increasing our capacity to connect with students, both onsite and online. The new broadcast studio gives us the ability to reach schools nationwide, and our first live event, Archives Live: Windrush 75, hosted by Baroness Benjamin, was watched live by around 15,000 students in June. 

What are your organisational and personal priorities for 2024?   

In 2023, we launched Archives for Everyone 2023-27, our organisation’s long-term strategic plan. Within this, priorities for the next four years focus on three key areas: building the value of our collection, creating value through connection and sustaining value through custodianship. For me personally, my priority in 2024 will be supporting the organisation through the transition to a new chief executive and keeper, while ensuring the organisation is optimally positioned to deliver on the bold ambitions set out in Archives for Everyone.   

What’s your favourite festive treat, and what makes you say: ‘Bah, humbug’?              

Treat: Christmas dinner. Bah humbug: Christmas pudding (urgh). 

This is part of CSW's annual perm secs roundup. Read all the entries to the 2023 roundup here

Read the most recent articles written by CSW staff - Tell us about HR in your organisation

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