Monday, 23 July 2007

National Archives of Scotland

Today, we visited the National Archives of Scotland. There was major reconstruction work going on at the General Register House so this picture is from their website.

The National Archives owns three buildings: the General Register House, the West Register House and the Thomas Thomson House. The General Register House was opened in the late 1780s and was built specifically to house the records of Scotland. In 1970, West Register House was acquired for more storage space. By the 1980s, still more space was needed and the Thomas Thomson House was built. It opened in 1995 for record storage and is almost full today.
The National Archives is open to the public and, because it is funded by the government, does not charge to use the records. The Archives houses records from the 12th century up to the present. The materials vary widely from vellum documents to digital copies and everything in-between. It houses state and parliamentary papers, valuation rolls, church records, wills, private records, taxation records, family and estate records, and much more.

The archivist who talked to us gave us a number of helpful websites about the archives and the services it provides: the NAS site, the SAFS site, the SCAN site, Scottish Wills site, and a self-help guide to reading documents.

The Archives is working on a number of digitization projects in order to preserve the heavily used delicate records they own. For example, they are digitizing Church of Scotland records which are very useful for family history researchers. They currently are working on the Registers Archive Conversion Project which is digitizing land registers, another heavily used collection. Another project they are working on it the Image Library Project in conjunction with the National Library of Scotland.

The final part of the lecture was showing us actual documents. One letter was from Mary, Queen of Scots, to her mother. Another was a church record scroll which contained the first written record they (the Archive, at least) have from 1494. Someone was being paid with "aqua vitae" or water of life which is what we know of as whiskey. It was also interesting to see a poem about the British Railway system which went through the alphabet. Some of the lines are still true today!

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