Tuesday, August 3, 2010

National Archives of Scotland

For our final stop on our whirlwind Scottish libraries tour we went to the National Archives of Scotland. The National Archives is an agency of the Scottish government and has a staff of about 160 people. Its goals are "To preserve, protect, and promote the nation's records" and "To provide the best possible inclusive and accessible archive that educates, informs, and engages the people of Scotland and the world" (information from a presentation to our class). The Archives consists of 2 divisions, Record Services and Corporate Services, housed in 3 buildings. These buildings contain over 70 km of records. Records date from the 12th Century to the 21st Century and consist of such materials as taxation records, church records, maps and plans, government records, wills and testaments, and railway records. The Archives receives from 10,000-12,000 enquiries a year, quite a sizable amount! There is no charge for basic enquiries, but due to the amount of requests, staff are not able to do research for enquirers, only point them in the right direction. Extra services, such as looking at or printing digital records, requires payment. Archives staff also maintain 8 websites. Websites include the Scottish Archive Network, the Scottish Register of Tartans, and the National Register of Archives for Scotland as well as the online catalogue, containing over 3 million records.

The original building housing the Archives, the General Register House, was opened in 1847 and now functions at the ScotlandsPeople Centre, where people can trace their family history. The Archives grew at a rapid pace and required more space. The West Register House opened in 1971 and the Thomas Thomson House opened in 1994. The Archives are also constantly updating their services. The online catalogue is being updated to contain all items, the Church of Scotland records, valuation rolls, and other items are being digitized, and the ScotlandsPeople Centre has been formed. At this point I wished I had some Scottish blood in me so that I could trace my family history (maybe I do and I just do not know it).

We also went on a guided tour of the Archives, where we were saw the fabulous Robert Adams Rotunda in the center of the building (the General Register House) and some interesting mobile shelving. Upon our return to our presentation room, we were able to look at some of the items in the Archives. I looked at a cookery book and a letter that had words going all directions, so as to maximize the use of the paper. A few of us became fascinated (perhaps too fascinated) by an outpatient record book and puzzled over some mysterious ailments contained in its pages. All in all a very interesting visit.

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