Fifteen years ago the Planned Environment Therapy Trust took the major decision to establish an archive and study centre for the field of therapeutic community and planned environment therapy, and the related area in education: To provide specialist facilities for storing and looking after original records of all kinds as well as books and periodicals; and, of course, a suitable place where students and researchers could consult them. This was a permanent commitment, and to guarantee insofar as possible that there would always be sufficient income to house and maintain the growing collections securely and to the highest possible archival standards, a substantial segment of the Trust’s General Fund was designated as an Archive Reserve. The Archive Reserve is a ring-fenced level of the Trust’s investments below which, within the context of the Trust’s other commitments, and the assets required to meet them, Trustees will not permit general investments to fall.
Having established this financial foundation, the Trust was able to undertake an extremely ambitious programme of development and support, spending well over half a million pounds of its own money on Archive-specific projects which have included construction of new archive storage and work rooms, full-time as well as part-time staffing, and extensive programme development. Consequently, there are well over 5,000 books and periodicals in the Research Library, many hundreds of recordings in the oral history collections, about two hundred archive collections, an active web-site including archive, oral history, and original publications, an active information service, and a history of grants to academics and researchers.
Because an archive is largely non-income producing, the Trust had the further vision to invest significant assets in the creation of an accommodation and conference centre, the income from which would ultimately be intended to help finance the work of the Archive and Study Centre, including the funding of the full-time archivist/Director.
Unfortunately, the construction of the accommodation and conference centre suffered from substantial start-up and building delays, leading to significantly raised construction costs, to an equally significant delay in the opening of the centre for business, and in the centre’s ability to begin generating, rather than consuming, income. And just as the conference and accommodation centre was finally preparing to open, 9/11 changed the financial picture dramatically: conference centre booking was affected, of course; but more disastrously, and in common with charities throughout Britain, a third was wiped from the value of the Trust’s investments, decimating income.
Since then the general economy has slowly recovered, but the depth to which they fell means that the Trust’s investments and income have still not recovered to the level necessary to meet basic outgoings. Indeed, spending from reserves, it became clear some time ago that without a combination of stringent economies and new income the level of the Archive Reserve would quickly be reached. Costs have been cut – the full-time assistant archivist’s position was not re-filled when it became vacant, the part-time archive assistant post was cut, and the Archive and Study Centre budget has been cut first by a third, and then by another quarter; and to help raise new funds a secondhand bookstall has been opened, administration of the Association of Therapeutic Communities has been undertaken, and an Appeal has been launched.
Unfortunately, as the main source of potential new money the Appeal has not been successful enough quickly enough to head off some very difficult decisions, even with the cuts that have been made; and to re-achieve a balance of income over expenditure before the Archive Reserve is reached, the Trustees have had no option but to give notice that unless there is a substantial change in the financial situation by March 31st 2005, the full-time position of Director/Archivist will come to an end. In that event the archives and research library will be looked after by a part-time archivist with the help of volunteers, and as far as possible normal access for students and researchers will be maintained. Outreach, information provision, and the ability to take in new collections, however, will be limited.
The Trustees have reached the decision to close the position of Director with difficulty, but in line with the long-standing policy of protecting the permanent commitment of the Archive and Study Centre through the integrity of the Archive Reserve.
The Trustees will reverse this decision if the financial situation warrants it; if, for example, £25,000 in new money above expenditure comes into the Archive and Study Centre by March 31st 2005.
To ensure that such a situation will never occur again, the Trust has created, alongside the Archive Reserve, an Archive and Study Centre Endowment Fund. This is a legally permanent Endowment, the assets of which can not be spent, and the income from which can only be used to support the work of the Archive and Study Centre. An initial target of £500,000 has been set, which, if reached by March 31st 2005, would again enable Trustees to reverse the decision to wind up the Director’s position. Whenever it is reached, however, in concert with the Archive Reserve it will provide an unprecedented level of security and stability for the staff, and for the work and growth of the Archive and Study Centre.
The Endowment Fund is not to be confused with the Appeal, which is for the purpose of raising money to extend and improve the residential accommodation available, for project staffing, and for various items of software and equipment.