Thursday, 3 June 2010

NAS to close research access to West Register House in 2011

The National Archives of Scotland is planning a series of dramatic changes as a result of the squeeze it will be experiencing in public funding over the next few years. Amongst the changes, West Register House will no longer be used as one of the NAS search rooms - all searches will be moved to General Register House - and the online catalogue will be enhanced to show which records need to be ordered in advance - particularly useful as a great deal of material at WRH will soon have to be ordered in advance.

From George MacKenzie, Keeper of the Records of Scotland, comes the following press release:

Public Services in the National Archives of Scotland (NAS)

Why Are We Planning Changes?

The next few years will be challenging for NAS. Like the rest of the public sector, we expect budget reductions from next year. At the same time, we need to deal with the new generation of electronic records and serve increasing numbers of online customers. We have to rebalance the organisation to meet the new challenges. We also have to keep down our costs, which are mainly for staff .

Doing Research Onsite

We have 3 search rooms today: one at West Register House (WRH), plus the Historical and Legal search rooms at General Register House (GRH). From early next year we plan to centralise access to historical documents in a single search room at GRH. We also expect that within the next year or so most legal searches will be carried out through the Registers Direct service operated by Registers of Scotland. Once that happens we will integrate legal searches with historical access.

Having one location for onsite searches will make security/reception/search room supervision easier. Our policy on access to records will not change and preservation of records remains a key concern. WRH will still be used for storage. Working with our conservation experts, we will move some records to make sure the most popular are nearest to where they can be seen. We will also enhance our online catalogue to show which records need to be ordered in advance. We will make greater use of digitisation to allow access to records at WRH and in Thomas Thomson House. The next few months will be about planning what is to happen from 2011 onwards.

Getting Copies of Records

We are trying out self-service photography of records at WRH. As long as there are no restrictions on copying the record, you can use your digital camera (no flash, tripods or moving images allowed) to photograph the records at your reading desk, or at the dedicated camera stand equipped with lights. Early results are positive and we hope to make this a permanent facility in the new consolidated search room.

Tell Us What You Think

I welcome views from readers past, present or future. In particular, which records should be stored close to the proposed new single search room at GRH? Which records should we digitise next? Write to me at: National Archives of Scotland, 2 Princes St., Edinburgh EH1 3YY, or email to

George P Mackenzie
Keeper of the Records of Scotland

I can understand that we are in straitened times, but will be sad to see WRH close to researchers, as I've always found it a much more relaxed place to work.

(With thanks to Ken Nisbet. Further comment is also available at the Borders FHS blog at

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