Importance of archives to Yorkshire’s identity

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From: Martin Taylor, Chairman, Archives & Records Association (UK & Ireland), Prioryfield House, Canon Street, Taunton, Somerset.

SARAH Freeman is to be congratulated for her feature (Yorkshire Post, January 6) about the “hidden gems” held by the archives of Yorkshire’s universities.

While perhaps her inclusion of sculpture at the University of Hull and the glass wedding dress at Sheffield stretches the definition of archives to an extent, users and custodians are delighted to see those parts of the county’s documentary history held by its higher education institutions so well highlighted.

University archives however are only one part of Yorkshire’s archival holdings. More extensive are the holdings of local government archives. Record offices hold the memories of the county and its people for over a thousand years.

Such iconic Yorkshire documents as Anne Lister’s diary, the account of Richard III in York, the papers of Andrew Marvell and the huge archive of the county’s coal industry are kept and made available in local authority archives, alongside hundreds of thousands of documents recording details of millions of people and how they lived their lives.

At a time when public sector archives, especially, are facing unprecedented challenges, it is important to remember how important archives are. They are our collective memory. One cannot put a value on one’s own memories.

How much more should we value the memories of millions of Yorkshire people over a millennium?

Yorkshire’s archives are gems as Sarah Freeman says, but they need not be hidden. They are accessible. And in these difficult times it is important that they are all highlighted.