Thursday, June 3, 2010

Changes in the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh

The National Archives of Scotland have just announced changes to their service.

Like the rest of the public sector, they are expecting budget reductions from 2011. They currently have 3 search rooms: a legal search room and a historical search room (the one where you can almost feel the history seeping into the air), both at General Register House, and one at the other end of George St at West Register House.  From early next year they're intending to centralise access to historical documents in a single search room at General Register House, because most legal searches will be carried out through the Registers Direct service operated by Registers of Scotland, and they'll cater for the remaining legal searches in General Register House. 

They've also announced improvements to the online catalogue to show which records need to be ordered in advance - hooray !  One of the most frustrating aspects of the catalogue I find is that it does not say where records are held. On countless occasions I've arrived, tried to order records, only to find they need to be ordered in advance. Since I can never spare the time for 2 consecutive days in Edinburgh (let alone the expense of an extra return journey), that will be a big advantage.
However, it would be a much bigger improvement if we can order records held elsewhere online, because at the moment, the only way I've found to do this is to send them an email - and they state that you need to give 48 hours notice. In practice, it's sometimes quicker, and sometimes not, especially if they have queries or there is restricted access to the records.

They also say they will make greater use of digitisation to allow access to records at West Register House and in Thomas Thomson House.

Researchers at West Register House can use a digital camera (no flash, tripods or moving images allowed) to photograph the records at the reading desk, or at a dedicated camera stand equipped with lights, as long as there are no restrictions on copying the records. This is a trial, but they're hoping that this will be a capability in the new consolidated search room.

They want to hear your views, and in particular, which records should be stored close to the proposed new single search room at General Register House ?
Which records should they digitise next? 

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