Head of an archives service

 15 May 2012

Joanna Terry has strategic management of the Joint Archive Service for Staffordshire County Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Joanna Terry started with a Saturday job at Wolverhampton Central library. Image by Staffordshire Archives and Heritage.
Joanna Terry started with a Saturday job at Wolverhampton Central library. Image by Staffordshire Archives and Heritage.

The Service is jointly funded by both local authorities and have several sites including:

  • Staffordshire County Record Office
  • Lichfield Diocesan Record Office
  • Stoke on Trent City Archives
  • William Salt Library
  • County Museum (based at Shugborough).

“I report to a Joint Committee (of County and City Councillors) and the William Salt Trustees (a charitable body which governs the William Salt Library).

"My management team looks after different areas of the Service. They in turn manage our team of professionals and paraprofessionals.

Starting out in archives

“Most of my career is a case of being in the right place at the right time. It started with my Saturday job at Wolverhampton Central library. When I graduated, there was a vacancy for an archive assistant post in the Archives and Local Studies service which I was successful in gaining.

“I decided to make a career of it which meant postgraduate study. I opted for distance learning while I was working. It was good to be getting the experience I needed while I studied. But it took four years – and it was hard! My colleagues were supportive, though, and my employer gave me time off to study.

“When I qualified, I took on a one-year grant-funded project still with Wolverhampton Archives & Local Studies, cataloguing family history collections and developing content for a website.

“Then I spent a few years as an archivist at Worcestershire Records Office, responsible for customer service and outreach work. After that, I took on a new role at Worcestershire as electronic records manager.

"I worked on a programme for implementing policies for managing electronic records and developing a publication scheme for Freedom of Information. During that time, I learnt a lot about data protection and freedom of information.

Working in county archives

“I moved back into mainstream archives as Assistant County Archivist with Staffordshire. After seven years I was promoted to Head of Archives. Following a reorganisation, I am now Head of Archives and Heritage.

“It was good to be getting the experience I needed while I studied. But it took four years – and it was hard!"

“My job involves planning and budgeting. I write a three-year forward plan and annual plans. I directly manage some budgets and have oversight of others.

"I spend a lot of time report writing. I have to report to the committee three or four times a year. My next task is the annual reports for each of our sites.

“My office is based at the Record Office in Stafford. I get out to the other sites, mainly by attending their team meetings. I am part of the Saturday rota in the public reading room. I like that part of the job – I wouldn’t want to lose that.

“Whenever we are offered a deposit collection of archive material, I am often involved in the negotiations. This might be with the executors if it’s a bequest or more likely the current owners.

I also have to contact the owners if we are seeking permission to reproduce material – for a book and, sometimes, for TV. We have to decide what to charge for reproduction rights and ensure the owners are happy for material to be used in this way."

Getting involved in events and exhibits

“The Staffordshire Hoard is held and managed by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery – the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found. A partnership has been set up to promote this very significant find to a wider audience, including overseas.

Staffordshire’s County Museum Service is part of this partnership and therefore some of my time is devoted to this exciting area of work. The Hoard was recently exhibited in the US.

"Our job is to convey the story to people - and help them discover the stories for themselves.”

“The County’s role is through the Mercian Trail Partnership which is seeking grant funding to set up a series of permanent and temporary displays and an outreach programme at various sites across Staffordshire, Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent to help tell the story of the Hoard and the Anglo-Saxon history of the region.

“Each year, we take the Archive Service to an isolated rural community. This year, based in a village church, we rare planning papermaking activities for children and adults, village history projects in schools, family history surgeries, a mobile museum exhibition and an exhibition highlighting documents relating to the village.

“I like to help with this. It involves a lot of staff time and effort – whilst we still run our Service at all our main sites. Throughout my career, I have acquired and used these skills. It’s good to keep myself in touch – and it’s good to get away from all the report-writing!

"For me the excitement of archives is that they are not dry, dusty documents. It’s the story they tell. Our job is to convey the story to people – and help them discover the stories for themselves.”


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