Clair Waller

Clair Waller

Last updated on 9 June 2021

Beth Astridge (Project Archivist, UKPA) and Clair Waller (Digital Archivist), University of Kent Special Collections and Archives.

This is the first in a series of three blog posts from the University of Kent Special Collections & Archives team. In this series, we will be describing some of our ongoing work to implement robust workflow and processes for the acquisition and management of born digital records, driven by our work to establish the UK Philanthropy Archive at Kent. 

In this blog we introduce the UK Philanthropy Archive collection and our thinking relating to the processes involved with the acquisition and transfer of digital records.  

What is the UK Philanthropy Archive? 

The UK Philanthropy Archive is a growing archive collection within the University of Kent Special Collections & Archives department. The archive was established in 2019 with a vision to develop an eminent research resource reflecting the breadth of UK philanthropy.  

The UK Philanthropy Archive identifies, collects and preserves the archives and papers of UK philanthropists, philanthropic trusts and foundations, philanthropic networks, and other material related to philanthropy, grant making and fundraising. These archives and papers form a research collection that represents the history, experiences and perspectives of philanthropists, trusts and foundations and the impact of grant giving and philanthropy on UK society.  

The material in the UK Philanthropy Archive reflects the standard range of formats found across many modern archive collections – including paper records, photographic and audio-visual material, objects, and digital records. The collections that we are processing are usually hybrid collections containing a mix of paper and born digital records, and sometimes entirely born digital collections. Many of the archives reflect the operational aspects of grant giving organisations or projects – similar to a business archive collection. Some also include additional personal or contextual material relating to the individual founder, philanthropist or group that established the trust/foundation.   

New approaches  

While we have received many archive collections previously from a wide range of donors and depositors, Special Collections & Archives have not regularly received hybrid physical/digital collections in a ‘business archive’ type format. This has led us to consider our approaches to all aspects of collections management in this context – to ensure our current processes and workflows are suitable for the types of collections that we will be receiving, preserving and making accessible.

Acquisition - Appraisal, Transfer, Costs  

At the point of initial contact - depositors to the UK Philanthropy Archive collections require a varied amount of support with both physical and digital collections. This ranges from general advice about what records ought to be included in an ‘archive’ collection, to how much weeding they should do themselves before transferring to us, and how to actually practically achieve the transfer process. 


We discuss how to approach appraisal with depositors, often reviewing any existing lists or documentation about their physical and digital records, and suggesting which material could be of value within a permanent archive of their organisation. Often, over time, there has already been a natural weeding of physical files usually dictated by restrictions on shelf storage space in offices. This means the remaining records are usually those that are seen to be important in some way, although some further appraisal and weeding may be needed. 

For the digital material, this ‘natural weeding’ process has often not taken place in the same way - as space for storing the records has been less on an issue for the depositor. Therefore, there are often a greater quantity of records, with less valuable material mixed in with the more valuable material. We have found that we need to provide some additional support at this stage to advise on how to appraise the digital material in the same way as the physical material, weed the collection, and end up with a set of records that have been identified as belonging in the permanent archive of that organisation.  

Ongoing records management advice  

While some depositors will be making a one-off transfer of material, sometimes our first deposit will hopefully be one of several as we build a relationship that will result in future deposits of material. Therefore, part of our role in building the UK Philanthropy Archive collection is to endeavour to provide advice and guidance to organisations about good records management techniques. This will result in the future appraisal/weeding and transfer process being smoother.  

To assist our depositors - we share existing guidelines that may help them, such as the Records Management in Charities toolkit (2017), and TNA’s Management Framework for the Retention and Transfer of Charity Records and Archives (June 2019). We are also developing specific guidance for philanthropists, trusts and foundations, using a functional analysis to look at the particular types of records created by those organisations with associated retention and management advice.  


When we reach the point of transfer – most organisations suggest sending their records to us using email (for smaller numbers of files), document sharing using a File Transfer Protocol, or sending it to us on CD or a USB drive. All these methods seem easy enough for depositors to carry out themselves without assistance from archive staff.     

However, we are currently developing guidelines as part of our developing workflow processes to consider the best way of receiving digital files for our purposes, in order to successfully carry out security, integrity and other checks in incoming material.  

This is likely to mean producing guidance material for depositors that provides information on how best to prepare their material for deposit and adapting our deposit form to include sections specific for digital materials (such as recording which hardware/software was used when creating material, the formats included, any listing or inventories, etc.). We’ve also recently installed a stand-alone PC with an external write blocker in our offices, so that we can ingest digital material in a way that prevents any changes being made to the files. 

Providing additional guidance at this stage in the process will help us continue to build and develop our relationships with depositors, helping support our future deposit workflow and processes.  

Calculating costs – modelling storage costs for physical and digital collections 

One aspect we need to consider when we are offered a collection is how we will cover the costs of packaging, cataloguing and storing the material. It may be decided that we cover these costs internally, we might seek project funding, or we may request a contribution from the depositor.  

For the last few years, we have used a cost-modelling tool to help us determine what the prospective costs may be for a new collection. However, in the past this has only included costs related to staff resource in terms of cataloguing, processing and digitisation. We would now like to develop a tool that will help us: 

  1. Model the costs for ongoing storage of both physical and digital materials

  2. Model the costs for purchasing packaging materials

We’ve started investigating what might be out there already to help with this, and are beginning to look at existing resources, such as 4C, but have some way to go yet. We’d be really keen to hear from anyone who has produced or trialled any tools like this! 

If you have any comments or feedback on this post, or if you would like to find out more about the UK Philanthropy Archive, please get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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