The Association for Manuscripts and Archives in Research Collections

Lambeth Palace Library MS 1, f.56v
• AMARC promotes the study, accessibility and preservation of manuscripts and archives in libraries and research collections in Britain, Ireland and further afield. As the successor to the SCONUL (Society of College, National and University Libraries) Manuscripts Group, AMARC continues its activities, in collaboration with curators, archivists and researchers.
• AMARC is informative and scholarly. It is also enjoyable, innovative and inexpensive.
• AMARC brings together all those who share interests in manuscripts, documents and records as well as book illumination and early libraries.
• AMARC includes manuscript specialists from institutions great and small, and actively encourages research students, enthusiasts and beginners, representing the interests of manuscript workers on both sides of the issue desk.
• AMARC welcomes new members, scholars, students, scribes, collectors and all those who have ever experienced the thrill of holding a manuscript in their hands.

News has reached us all over the past few months of financial difficulties, restructures and redundancies in some institutions holding manuscripts and archives. Clearly this is a very difficult and anxious time for many of our members given the current situation and its likely impact into the future. While furlough schemes have given support to institutions and staff, they have also introduced new challenges. There are many long-term issues arising from the impact of the pandemic that the AMARC Committee, the manuscripts and archives sector and funding bodies will need to consider. Other representative organisations have issued statements calling on governing bodies to appreciate the need for adequate cohorts of staff to manage historic collections to agreed standards. RLUK (Research Libraries UK) has appealed to the Welsh Government to remember that ‘without their staff libraries are nothing but dark warehouses’, while the Historic Libraries Forum has expressed alarm at ‘the growing number of reports about large, often publicly funded, cultural and heritage institutions with libraries holding nationally or internationally important unique and distinctive collections proposing to make library and archives staff redundant’.

Such cuts to staff and funding are particularly to be regretted at a time when public interest in manuscript and archive holdings has never been greater, driven as it has been by high standards of curatorial care and expertise, combined with research investment. Many in the sector have adapted rapidly to the new environment, with popular and successful digital initiatives.

The membership of AMARC has always been international, spanning both the staff and users of research collections. The long-term impacts of this global pandemic on the staffing and resourcing of our sector around the world is of great concern to us all, and an issue which the Committee will consider both at its next meeting and into the future.

Bernard Meehan (AMARC Chair)

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