Thursday, 5 August 2010

National Archives of Scotland 20 July 2010

Following our tour of the first Carnegie library in the morning, we all traipsed back to Edinburgh for an afternoon visit to the National Archives of Scotland. We were shown to a meeting room within the National Archives where we received an excellent presentation by Margaret McBride, the Education Officer for the Archives.

The National Archives of Scotland is a government agency charged to preserve and protect the records of the nation. The Archives is comprised of two divisions; Record Services which encompasses government records, court and legal documents and collection development and Corporate Services Division which covers accommodation services, Finance and Administration, Information and Communication technologies, Conservation services and Reader services. There are about 140 full time employees. The National Archives collection includes over 70 kilometers of records from the 12th to the 21st centuries, state and parliamentary records until 1707 and then from 1999 forward, the Register of Deeds and Sasines from the 16th century, church records, wills and testaments from 1601-1901, tax records, valuation rolls, family and estate papers, court and legal documents, business records, railway records, nationalized industrial records, maps and plans, private records and photographs. Additionally, the Archives houses many items for which it is responsible, but which they do not own.

Originally housed in the General Register House (ca 1774) the National Archives currently takes up three separate building sites in Edinburgh. The dome and first floor are dedicated to family history research (services and information are also available on-line). West Register House is about a 15 minute walk from the main archives and was renovated in the 1960's. Thomas Thomas House is the most recent of the three buildings and was completed in 1995.

Most of the items in the archives are searchable through the OPAC. The first big digitization project the Archives undertook was in cooperation with the University of Utah and made available digital access to the Wills and Testaments dated 1500-1901. Additionally, digitized records for the Church of Scotland and kirk court sessions are available as are the valuations scrolls and Register of Sasines. A catalog of the National Archives holdings is available as an OPAC, a catalog of those items housed (but not owned) in the National Archives is also available. Several helpful links to the Scottish Archives Network, genealogical research, paleographgy, commercial images sites, the tartan registry and university archives were provided as part of our presentation. Following our presentation, we were allowed some time to view some of the holdings in the archives including both original and digital copies of Wills, kirk records, town plans and a delightful cook book. We were then taken on a tour of the facility which included touring the reading rooms, stacks and even the underground areas. Dara posited that while the building was purpose built, it could be possible that the Archives is still able to house all its records due, in part, to the fact that a great deal of the parliamentary records for Scotland would be housed in England as that is where parliamentary action took place between 1707 and 1999.

This visit was our last as a group before departing on our mini-break. I hope everyone has a safe and fulfilling journey and I cannot wait to catch up with people upon our return to London. I hope that Dara and I do well on our travels and that I don't get us killed driving on the wrong side of the road.

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