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Dorset Joint Archives Service Consultancy Brief

The pan-Dorset Joint Archives Service is seeking a consultant to carry out a review of the service’s functions, activities and its audience engagement. The work undertaken will help to inform future service planning and delivery. The aspiration is to help define and shape a fit-for-purpose 21st century archive service. 


The Joint Archives Service (JAS), based at the Dorset History Centre (DHC) in Dorchester is funded by Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council and Dorset Council. The JAS provides access: 

  • on-site – to original sources at DHC
  • off-site – via community outreach and public engagement
  • online – through a range of platforms 

The current service arrangements were agreed in the Joint Archives Agreement (1997), which was novated at the point of Local Government Reorganisation on 1 April 2019. Following recent discussions between senior officers and portfolio holders from both councils and whilst endorsing the principle and benefits of a joint service, it was agreed that an analysis of the service’s current activities and the ways in which it manages collections and engages with audiences should be undertaken. This work will help to inform planning for future service delivery and will help to support the transformational aspirations of both funding councils.

The JAS is accredited by The National Archives and is a Place of Deposit for Public Records. It holds the corporate records for its funding councils and their predecessors. 

The JAS serves two distinct areas; one mainly rural administered by Dorset Council, the other the large conurbation of BCP. It is important that the JAS serves audiences in both areas equally. How the service can address the challenges of geography within the constraints of a single-site location and fixed budgets lie at the heart of this question. 

After 29 years, DHC’s repositories are approaching capacity and the analysis provided by this work will also help to frame the future provision of storage for archives by the service. 

Scope and objectives 

Areas for consideration and analysis by the consultant will include: 


Are there opportunities for the JAS to generate more income? If so, what would these be what barriers may exist towards achieving them? For example, could a service offer be packaged that would be attractive to individuals (social funded or self-funders) that presents the service offer in a way that supports loneliness or tackling mental health problems. 

Collections development and management 

Are the JAS’s acquisition and collections development policies aligned with national best practice and what should be the balance between levels of service and affordability? 

Audience development 

Does the service maximise its ability to reach and engage new audiences? Could DHC improve its links with other heritage and tourism attractions within the county? 

How best to balance reach of the service through place-based services and digital technologies? 

Are there ways that the JAS could better exploit digital technology to provide access to collections and to communicate information about the service (This could include the digitisation of archives.)? What should the balance be between physical and digital access and the concept of ‘curated content’? 

Public engagement via outreach and learning 

How can the JAS reach and serve its diverse audiences across the two council areas and what priorities should there be regarding how this is done? 

Alternative delivery/governance model 

Is there a better way of commissioning and delivering the service through an alternative delivery model? What are other councils doing? 

The consultant will:

  • review previous analysis on the JAS and undertake gap analysis to clarify what actions are required in order to fulfil the brief

  • acquaint themselves with the service, its staff, functions and collections and review previous analysis of the JAS as per the additional information listed at the bottom of the page

  • meet with representatives of BCP Council and Dorset Council to understand their perspectives on the service and what outcomes they are seeking from the JAS

  • engage with key external stakeholders to better understand their views and needs

  • produce costed recommendations and a suggested timeframe for potential change with a view to any investment required, any increase in cost to deliver the service annually and potential additional income generated. This should include reference to statutory functions and those deemed ‘value added’

Approach and reporting 

In addition to desk-based research and telephone contact, the consultant will ensure that they spend adequate time in Dorset with the relevant parties and will report regularly upon the progress of their work.  

The consultant will submit a written report (1 x hard copy plus digital).

The oversight body for this work is the Joint Archives Advisory Board. The consultant will, in addition to their written report be expected to present their findings to a meeting of this body so that elected members and officers can better understand the report’s findings and recommendations. 

The key officer contact for this work will be: Sam Johnston, Service Manager for Archives (contact information below).

Timeframe (provisional) 

  • March 2020: appointment of consultant 

  • March/April: consultant starts work

  • May: consultant completes research 

  • June: report issued 

  • June/July: JAAB meets 

  • July 2020: end of commission and start of implementation plan 


The fee for this work will be within the range £10,000-20,000 (to include expenses and VAT). This will be paid in two equal parts, at the commencement and completion respectively of the commission. 

Expressions of interest 

Consultants are requested to submit an expression of interest for this commission stating: 

  • their fee for the job with a breakdown of costs

  • their experience in the field of archives/cultural heritage 

  • a timetable 

  • their approach to the commission 

Submissions will be analysed and scored on the basis of quality (80%) and cost (20%). 

Shortlisted candidates may be required to take part in a telephone/Skype interview.

Deadlines for submissions is midnight on Sunday 1 March. These should be emailed to


For further information about the JAS and this brief, please contact Sam Johnston via email at or telephone on 01305 228929.

Additional information

Available to the appointed consultant via Sam Johnston:

  • Reports to the Joint Archives Advisory Board (1997-2019)
  • JAS Service Plan, 2019
  • Sekkers Report, 2008
  • Audit Report (South West Audit Partnership), 2015
  • Activity Plan and project documentation relating to capital project bid to NLHF, 2017
  • Archives Accreditation data, 2017
  • Audience development report by Christina Dixon Associates, 2017
  • Digital content report, Audience Agency, 2017

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