We have received the following from FFHA ...

This is an urgent notice. 

The “County Archives Research Network” (CARN) access card scheme, which allows access to 68 local archives at the moment, is under threat and scheduled to close on 30th November this year.

Time is short, as the deadline for signing up to a new proposed scheme is 31st May 2018, otherwise the existing cards will effectively expire at the end of November.

The current CARN card scheme has been operated and subsidised by the Archives and Records Association for many years but now has a number of problems and requires updating.  These include data protection weaknesses, inability to provide electronic management information of usage, and security: e.g. a lack of user photo to permit proper identification of cardholders when they visit an archive.

A new self-funding scheme – called the Archives Card - which will incorporate user identification and “smart” technology has been developed and backed by around 40 local authorities.  But unless more (at least 20) local authorities sign up to the scheme before 31st May 2018 it will not be financially viable and will not happen.  It is then likely that each authority will end up introducing its own local scheme with no shared access arrangement.  Some authorities may choose to keep recognising the old CARN cards, but they will not be able to verify cardholders after 30th November and that will be their own autonomous decision.

Family historians often have ancestors spread over a range of locations and find the existing multi-access usage arrangement useful.  While nobody is likely to visit all 68 locations, many of us carry out research at three or four local archives and value being able to use a single card to do this, rather than needing to carry passports, driving licences and utility bills on each research trip.
Having a single scheme which allows access to a multitude of local archive sites benefits us all.
The cost of the proposed new scheme is not huge – we understand that sign-up costs are about £630 per partner organisation and an ongoing annual service charge of about £430 will apply to each partner organisation.  The ARA have put the new scheme out to competitive tender and secured significant sponsorship, which has enabled them to offer the best-value option.
Please encourage your society members and friends to lobby your local archives and councillors to encourage them to sign up to the new scheme, if they have not yet done so.

If any archive you know wants to get on board with the new Archives Card, they should contact John Chambers at the Archives and Records Association before 31 May, via: ara@archives.org.uk