Statement of Principles

This document outlines key principles for advocacy to support specialist heritage collections, their managers and senior institutional managers when restructuring, reimagining or improving their services and collection care. They are for:

  • Members of the Heritage Collections Advisory Group (HCAG)
  • Staff in specialist institutions or within organisations with a broader remit
  • The wider research community who benefit from access to heritage collections in the UK and internationally

The statement is presented by the Heritage Collections Advisory Group (HCAG) to inform discussions around the future requirements and aspirations of services, while advocating that the expertise of staff and the fabric of the collections is safeguarded during these developments.


We advocate for:

  • The integrity of the specialist collections held by each institution, which collectively form a rich tapestry of knowledge
  • The principle that the whole of this tapestry of knowledge is weakened and threatened by the loss of any one part
  • Conservation and preservation of the unique resources within heritage collections to maintain them for access, use and potentially ground-breaking or life-saving future research
  • Digitisation as a valuable tool to be used in partnership with physical collections to provide further and remote access
  • Active and ongoing digital collections management, to preserve digitised works or to maintain born-digital materials
  • Effective promotion for specialist collections, using digital surrogates as a means to engage with communities

In addition, we advocate for the documentary heritage contained in these collections, which is the cultural memory of communities, the nation and the world. This is supported by UNESCO in its document Safeguarding the Memory of the World

We actively promote the role of documentary heritage in achieving the UN2030 Sustainable Development Goals, as proposed by the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA).

Expertise, People & Innovation

We advocate for:

  • The continued value of the specialist staff who manage and provide access to collections across the sector, recognising the wealth of knowledge that is gained over time from close association with a collection
  • Specialist staff to pass their knowledge to future generations of collection managers and researchers through engagement and development opportunities
  • Collaboration across a distributed network of expertise to inspire creativity and innovation in the research community and to wider public audiences through collections
  • The workforce to address the skills gap between physical and digital collections management, to develop skills and to reach an holistic vision towards a joined-up national approach to heritage collections.


We advocate for:

  • Recognition that the reduction of access to heritage collections undermines the value of the investment made in their acquisition, management, use and care, for example by national funders such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, UKRI or AHRC
  • Recognition that continued access to heritage collections supports research and innovation, creates business opportunities, generates capital in the creative and publishing industries and helps fuel the national economy
  • Understanding that the value of digitisation is constrained by limitations of resource and legislation, scale, and costs of digital preservation and avoiding the obsolescence of digital files.