Is there a democratic deficit in archives?

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Date / time: 24 January - 25 January, All day

Northumbria University

Is there a democratic deficit in archives?

Is there a democratic deficit in archives?

24th – 25th January 2017

Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

At Northumbria’s Threats to Openness in the Digital World conference in 2015 Professor Arthur Lucas raised the question Is there a democracy deficit in the way records are managed and selected for archives?   In the UK, there is public oversight of the process for releasing official records via the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Council and the Information Commissioner, but there is no statutory oversight of the creation, selection or disposition of records. The recommendation in the recent FOI Act review that the Information Commissioner’s prosecution powers be strengthened to make it easier for the IC “to prosecute offences relating to destroying information that has been requested under the Act, and to increase the penalty for this offence”, implies that public bodies will need to publish destruction schedules that are supervised as in Scotland under amendments to the Public Records Act (Scotland). Does this mean there is an accountability gap in archives? How should the profession respond to these fundamental criticisms?

This follow-on 1.5 day conference will explore the issue and seek to learn from a variety of experiences and perspectives. The keynote speaker will be the new Information Commissioner, Ms Elizabeth Denham. Aimed at members of civil society and information sharing groups concerned with democratic access to the use of information, academics, archivists, records managers and users, it will provide a unique opportunity for delegates to listen to and actively engage in a discussion with leading UK and international figures at the most senior levels of government, academia and the profession. Sessions will focus on what future users want, government reviews and inquiries, the importance of recordkeeping in Africa in fighting corruption and developing the continent, and how tragedies have taught us new lessons about managing records both currently and in the long term.

Other speakers include Greg Falconer, Deputy Director, Digital Records and Information Management at the Cabinet Office; Bruno Longmore, Head of Government Records at the National Records Scotland; Sarah Tyacke, a member of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, Julia Jones who is Head of Information Management for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and Dr Nick Barrett, Associate Director Collections and Engagement at Senate House Library; and Dr Sinéad Ring, Co-Director of the Kent Centre for Law, Gender and Sexuality. Cost: £75, including refreshments and evening reception. For more information and to book a place please see

Sponsored by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, there are some free places available for charities.

The conference blog is and Twitter handle is @archivalgap


  • Ms Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner
  • Prof David Nicholas, Director, Ciber Research Ltd
  • Alison Diamond, Archivist, Duke of Argyll, Inverary Castle Assoc.
  • Prof William Merrin, Media & Communication, University of Swansea
  • Greg Falconer, Deputy Director, Digital Records and Information Management, Cabinet Office, The Government’s response to Sir Alex Allan’s Review of Government Digital Records
  • Julia Jones, Head of Information Management, Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
  • Bruno Longmore, Head of Government Records, National Records Scotland
  • Dr Alastair Tough, Senior Lecturer, University of Glasgow
  • Simon Gill, Project Director, Overseas Development Institute
  • Sarah Tyacke, former Keeper of Records, Public Record Office and member of the Hillsborough Independent Panel
  • Dr Nick Barrett, Associate Director Collections and Engagement, Senate House Library
  • Dr Sinéad Ring, Law School, University of Kent, Historical Child Sexual Abuse Inquiries and the Nation’s Duty to Remember: Reflections from Ireland
  • On behalf of the organisers: Profs Michael Moss & Julie Mcleod and Visiting Prof Dr David Thomas, Northumbria University