Friday, 25 February 2011

The closure of West Register House

As I sit in West Register House today I half expect to see tumbleweed roll along the search room floor. When I was in on Tuesday you could hear, in the background, the sound of staff sealing up boxes, deciding which computers and phones to take and reminding everybody that this is the last week that the West Search Room of the National Archives of Scotland will be open to the public. Today though there is just silence, stillness and a general sadness for what will be lost.

Since the start of the photography trial last spring I’ve spent a lot of time here and it’s been a very pleasant place to work. As this is the less used search room there is a more peaceful atmosphere. Staff are relaxed and on hand to help, the desks are modern and the lamps well placed. There is more space, you generally have about two desks each so plenty of room for books on cushions, laptops and notebooks.

There is also a camera stand available in this search room, which means we have high quality images and I can take them very quickly. We hope the stand will be available from Monday onwards at General Register House, as from that day on we will all be able to take photographs in the Historic Search Room there - which will a momentous day!

The rationale for having just one search room is sensible to a degree, they will save money and we won’t have to go to two venues to see documents. With more and more information on the Virtual Volumes system, the need for as many desks will I suppose have reduced. The Virtual Volumes system is where you can view documents that have been digitally imaged on the computer screen. This makes access easier and reduces the risk of damage to the documents.

I am sad however that this is my last week in the wonderfully tranquil West Register House and would like to thank all the staff that help bring these historical documents to us, whether they are on the front desk, in the search room or behind the scenes, they all do a fantastic job. Without them our Kelso Dispensary project, our prison records project and poor roll projects would not be happening, not to mention the exciting new projects we have planned for later this year. This means that even if you haven’t been here yourself they have helped all of you delve into your family’s past.

Thank you West Register House!

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