The evolution of the Archive over the last 40 years, presented each successive
director with different - sometimes quite unexpected - challenges. Their
success in meeting those challenges has played a major part in shaping the
Archive celebrated today.
The first director, Allen Potter, arrived prepared to tackle the
challenge of setting up a new computerised archive capable of storing large
quantities of data only to find that his major challenge (and that of his
successor, Ken MacDonald) was actually finding any data to put into an archive.
When the third (and to date the longest-serving) director, Ivor Crewe, joined
the Archive, he thought that acquiring major datasets and handling the
ambitious plan of recording and categorising every single question asked in
every single survey were challenge enough. But, as he recollected later, he
found himself "taken completely by surprise by the miniscule number of actual
users of the Data Archive" and very quickly reprioritised his agenda to focus
on boosting user numbers.
Under Howard Newby, the Archive rapidly expanded in size as a result of a number
of new projects, so much so that the Archive building had to be modified to fit
in more staff. New projects and growth were also a feature of the Archive under
Catherine Hakim and Denise Lievesley. Having come to the Archive from outside
of the world of academia, both also brought new perspectives and worked hard to
build stronger ties to external stakeholders, especially data-producing
The importance of external stakeholders still remains today but - as the
community the Archive serves has become more diverse - one of the many
challenges facing the Archive's current director, Kevin Schürer, is to ensure
that the network of activities in which the Archive is involved connect to
provide the desired synergies. The accelerating pace of change in internet
technology presents yet another challenge as Schürer explains: "The Archive
must be proactive rather than reactive - anticipating and preparing for new
technology before it becomes established so that we are ready to roll out the
solutions as soon as they are needed".
Indeed, expecting the unexpected was what most attracted Schürer to the Archive.
"It is a wonderful time to be director because the Archive is facing a period of
great change and I have the opportunity to influence that change", he says.