The Devon Record Office has a basic need to provide information about its holdings and activities to its different kinds of user, from those with a casual interest in the past through to the dedicated researcher. The availability of this information is crucial in assisting existing users, attracting new users and promoting a more general awareness of our role among non-users.
Aims and Objectives
The main aims and objectives of our outreach activities are
The Record Office has always produced a range of publications and publicity material. It has also undertaken talks, exhibitions and allied outreach activities, such as work with schools and colleges, on a regular basis. The problem has been that the increasing pressure of other, more immediate, demands has relegated this work to the status of a ‘spare-time’ activity, with the inevitable result that outreach projects have been attended to in a piecemeal fashion, with little or no overriding strategy or recognisable ‘house-style’. We have therefore identified a number of key priorities in order to enable us to develop an achievable and sustainable outreach programme.
The Devon Record Office will provide a comprehensive and sustainable outreach programme centred on a number of key priorities.
These represent the most visible manifestation of any outreach programme. We will aim to maintain a programme targeting production of certain kinds of publication to defined user groups (e.g. students, family historians, first time users), as well as promoting certain categories of under-utilised records. We will liaise closely with users and consider the objectives and requirements of specific groups of potential users. While the Record Office’s current publications output can be drawn on to provide the basis of future productions, it would be beneficial, from a design standpoint, to develop a new ‘DRO look’, incorporating the Record Office and Lifelong Learning logos, the Devon County Council coat of arms, colour coding, etc.
The main categories of publication will be:
(Note: these are invaluable in cutting down on repetition of basic information if given out in response to personal or written enquiries. They should be tailored to the holdings of each office, but could include information relevant to both.)
(Note: the scope for these is wide. In time, they could be generated from electronic catalogues on demand.)
Devon Record Office Website
Potential growth of the Internet as an information gathering tool means that our website will be the first port of call for many interested researchers. Information will be shared between our publications and our website, with additional images and links in the latter, which will play a full role in the National Grid for Learning.
Talks, Exhibitions and Promotional Work
Historically, the Devon Record Office has been, of necessity, almost exclusively reactive in its approach to these activities. The substitution of a proactive strategy will enable us to target specific areas of activity, in order to make the best use of our resources. It is inevitable that our approach will always be reactive to a degree, for requests for talks, exhibitions, etc are received on a regular basis, often for a particular date or event, offering little flexibility. Nevertheless, flexibility can be introduced in what is offered in response to such requests, ranging from the contribution of material or advice to a full-scale exhibition, for example. A proactive strategy can be used to target particular audiences, e.g. a family history fair, or establish regular media spots, archive road-shows, evening classes, etc. Archive material can also be integrated into a variety of local, or national, events, e.g. the Millennium, National Year of Reading, Devon Heritage Week. Partnership and collaboration across the Lifelong Learning spectrum offer fruitful possibilities in this area. There are numerous opportunities to exploit the current fascination with ‘heritage’, and the possibilities for income generation must not be ignored.
Service Point Network
The Record Office Service Point network across the county can be placed firmly in the context of outreach work, and as such has an important role to play in future developments. It offers access to records and specialist advice in selected venues outside the Record Office, often in partnership with local history centres, and provides numerous opportunities for collaboration and promotion at a local level. Accordingly, we will look at ways of extending the scheme to other areas, subject to the availability of resources.