I am not in the habit of writing to newspapers, but I must make an exception to endorse Kim Leslie’s condemnation of and reservations about the county council’s decision to remove the title of archivist and downgrade the role to a team leader.
As an appreciative user of the exemplary and efficient facilities for more than 40 years, I protest most vehemently at the resolution.
It would take a page to subject this crass error of judgement to the forensic examination it deserves, but I will confine myself to three serious consequences.
Firstly, the perpetrators cannot realise the damage it will do to the authority.
They cannot have any conception of the esteem in which the current archivist, Richard Childs, and his staff and the West Sussex Record Office are held within and without their peer group.
If they visited and researched in record offices around the country as I, do they would appreciate its unrivalled reputation.
They would also have appreciated that preservation of an archivist is crucial.
The title exudes an aura and prestige facilitating liaisons on equal terms with other county archivists.
Secondly, team leader is an inferior term applicable to numerous levels from nurseries to sport. It cannot substitute for archivist as it does not communicate the status, specialist expertise and functions delivered by an archivist.
Central to the role is the acquisition and retention of archives canvassed and donated to the record office for safe keeping and access to the public.
I believe the archive of at least one landed county family has already been withdrawn from its care and it is understandable if others follow and acquisitions become more difficult to procure.
I understand Archives is to be subsumed under some umbrella amalgamation centred on leisure which demeans the academic and intellectual leadership it provides.
At a time when heritage, family history and similar activities have top billing, only a decision of gross ineptitude could have axed the archivist and merged the records office with unlikely bedfellows.
It is tantamount to removing the appellation bishop and replacing it with clergy co-ordinator when the job in running a diocese entails far more than dealing with clergy.
It would be considered an insult.
Thirdly, outreach is bound to suffer.
It is insufficiently known or appreciated that the staff of the record office undertake a heavy programme of lectures, visits, exhibitions and publications which enhances the experience and knowledge of innumerable individuals, voluntary organisations and groups throughout the county.
The curtailment of the space in the record office devoted to education is a sad and regrettable reflection of the price councillors put on children, and adults, learning about their local history and environment, and an indictment on those who made the decision to move other county departments into the same building.
Again, they can have no conception of the importance and ethic of having a dedicated building exclusive to the storing, conservation, accession and availability of archival resources. Economies should have been effected elsewhere.
This decision is one of gross incompetence and folly that is detrimental to the county and will haunt the decision-makers for the rest of their elected term, and beyond.
Dr Spencer Thomas,
Barrack Lane, Aldwick,