Monday, July 26, 2010

Right-O! (National Archives of Scotland, July 20)

The National Archives of Scotland are quite impressive, comprised of 3 buildings, 140 staff (both archivists and civil servants), and 8 websites. They were more than ready when we arrived, escorting us to a fully-prepared room that had seats for all of us, a powerpoint presentation ready to start, and some tables set out with items from their special collections for us to view. The program (or programme, to use the UK spelling), was that we would all see the powerpoint presentation and then split into two groups. The first group would recieve a tour of the building, the second would get to look through the old documents (with the provided white gloves, of course); then the two groups would switch. When both groups had their turn, it would be late enough (around 4:30 was I think the estimated time) for the private researchers to have packed up and headed home, so then we could be escorted through the research room and see how it worked before we finished up and went on our way. I do love it when people are organized!
The National Archives of Scotland has two main goals: to preserve, protect and promote the nation's records; and to provide the best inclusive & accessible archive that educates, informs & engages the people of Scotland & the world. They have 70 kilometers of shelving's worth of records, which spans from the 12th century to the 21st. They have access to wills from 1500-1901, but have to often remind personal history researchers that not everyone during that time period had wills, just the people who had things to leave behind to someone. They maintain not only their own website, but also that of the National Register of Archives for Scotland, the Scottish Archive Network, a site offering online tuition in deciphering historic Scottish Handwriting, the national repository known as, The Scottish Register of Tartans (not only are there Tartans for the Scottish families, but there are also Tartans for distinct causes, such as Historical Scotland and a memorial Tartan for Lady Di),, and one of the largest online sources of genealogical information, ScotlandsPeople. It is also affiliated with the ARCHON directory of record repositories, and the Archives Hub. As if that wereen't enough to keep anyone busy, they also take care of in-house researchers and have multitudes of paper materials. When it was my group's turn to inspect the selections by our guide, we weren't disappointed. Some moved around to see as much as possible, but I must admit I was too engrossed in an original paper from 1802 documenting the year's imports and exports to and from Spain and America to wander too much, although I did have fun flipping through an upper class family's handwritten cookbook from the 18th century. How often do you get to hold and look through documents older than your native country?
Image from the Wikipedia page for the National Archives of Scotland

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