Jeff James of the National Archives on the importance of digital transformation – and real Christmas trees

The keeper of the UK’s national archive unlocks its secrets

Credit: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire

The annual perm secs round-up published by PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World sees Whitehall’s senior leaders open up on their biggest challenges and opportunities – as well as their plans for Christmas. Here Jeff James, chief executive and keeper of The National Archives, shares his thoughts.

What are you most proud of achieving in 2017?
In March we launched Archives Unlocked, the government’s ambitious, co-created strategic vision for our rich and diverse sector of 2,500 local authority, business, academic, arts and community archives. This was the culmination of months of consultation and discussion across the sector, including with users, funders and partners. Archives Unlocked has digital transformation at its heart and sets out how The National Archives will work with the sector to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities we all face. As sector leader we want to see all archives contributing fully to the wellbeing of the nation: culturally, economically and intellectually.

What was your most difficult decision in 2017?
In common with many other government departments, The National Archives needs to ensure we can deliver our services effectively and efficiently, and find new ways to meet changing public demand. As part of this work, The National Archives has undergone a period of internal review and reorganisation. Inevitably there were tough decisions to be made about where we need to reshape teams and ways of working. However the changes we have made stand us in good stead to meet changing public demand and give us the flexibility to adapt where necessary going forward.

What are your organisation’s top priorities in the year ahead?
Working with government departments to help them tackle the challenges of digital preservation is always a top priority for us. We will continue to work closely with the Cabinet Office and GDS to implement the government’s refreshed strategy for managing digital information and for ensuring it is preserved for future generations. 
On a related note, The National Archives is the official publisher of all UK legislation. The vast majority of all legislation is up to date and freely available online for all to view (  We have a huge job to do in the coming year to prepare for publishing all the retained EU legislation that will apply once the UK leaves the EU, but work is already underway.

For you, no Christmas holiday is complete without… 
A real tree!  


Sam Trendall

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