Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The National Archives

This morning we had to ourselves to explore as we pleased and I decided to go out to The National Archives.  It was way out by Kew Gardens and I had to extend my travel card to include zone 3. It was about a 45 minute ride out and 10 minute walk to the National Archive.  They have one of the largest archival collections spaning 1000 years of British history to recently released government papers. After checking my belongings into a locker, I headed upstairs to the Talks room.  There I had a half hour power point presentation on what the proper procedure on using an archive and a brief summary of the holdings of the archive. Most of their holdings are microfilmed/ microfiched.  There are parts of their holdings like the census records are completely online and they have removed the microfiches.  Unless requesting original documents, there is no need for a reader's ticket. However there is very strict security for the reading rooms. Not only was your belongings locked up, the stuff you needed for research was placed into a see thru plastic bag and upon entering and exiting was searched. This includes computers, to make sure nothing is smuggled out.  There is security at every check point and if you are not meant to go somewhere or just want a peek, they stop you.  their library holds approximately 65,000 books, pamphlets, periodicals, etc. and are completely open access. Everything there is cataloged in the Dewey system. Their website is extremely useful and user friendly. There are links to search other archives in the UK and you can search them. Downstairs on the main floor was a small display museum. They have the code books used in the War, illuminated books and the Domesday books. I attempted to ask more questions about their digitization projects, setup, collections, reference, etc. but hit a stone wall as the person that led the introduction knew nothing on these matters. I couldn't find someone who did. Disappointed.

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