Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Photography at National Archives of Scotland

I had a busy day in Edinburgh today, starting off with a bit of filming for a forthcoming BBC news item on the 1911 census release for Scotland, and then some research at the National Archives of Scotland for my next book.

Here's the good news - the photography trial that recently happened at West Register House was a success, as previously announced on this blog, and is now a permanent feature at General Register House. I spent a couple of hours today merrily snapping away at precognition papers for several relevant witness statements I had yet to transcribe, and it was a very straightforward and pain free exercise.

I had previously been encouraged by reports from fellow genie Emma Maxwell that she had had a successful venture on Monday to photograph some documents (thanks Emma!), and so took my trusty camera with me today, along with some useful tips and advice. On the back of that, I thought it might be worth explaining the procedure for those interested in doing similar.

First don't just go in and start merrily snapping - you may get some snapping back in your direction, but of a different sort altogether! lol You need to advise the desk in the Historic Search Room about your intent. They will ask which documents you wish to photograph - most will be fine, but some collections are off limits, such as Gifts and Deposits (collections beginning GD in the accession numbers).

If it is OK to do so, you will then be given two copies of a form entitled Self-Service Copying of Records: Terms and Conditions, which outlines details of the NAS procedures for photography and information on copyright (Crown Copyright and otherwise). You sign one and return it, and keep the other for yourself.

The reverse of the form has the do's and don'ts. You must consult the Search Room Officer in advance, then no use of flash and tripods, no photographing from computer screens, no disturbing others in the room, items to be handled with care, and only the use of standard weights and supports as supplied to pin down documents etc.

The Historic Search Room is very dark, with wood pannelled walls etc. My advice is to ask for a seat by a window. If it is still too dark, you can ask for a lamp to be brought over - as I did, very straightforward. When photographing documents with an automatic camera you really want as much light as possible, as the lower the light level, the wider the aperature and longer the shutter speed may be - in other words, if it is gloomy, the shutter will stay open longer, and as you will be hand holding the camera, the more chance there is for the image to be blurred. The room does have a camera stand though, which is not out, but can be asked for if you have a lot to do.

On other item is that you also need to display a small notice which you will be handed with an image of a camera on it, which has a symbol fo a camera on it and a three lines at the bottom with "Document(s) being imaged:" typed - write the accession number for the relevant material on the form and make sure it is prominently displayed on the table so that any other Search Room Officer can see what you are doing at any time.

Happy snapping!

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Scott said...

Thanks for the update Chris, good to know. Seems a bit of a fiddle-faddle compared to the system at the National Archives in Kew where I've been able to snap away without having to fill in any forms, or give notice of my intent etc.

But then again, perhaps it's better to be a bit cautious, I wonder how many people abuse the system down south?

Maxwell Ancestry said...

Glad you had a successful day. Doesn’t the photography make life so much easier!


Chris Paton said...

Absolutely Scott, I was at TNA just two weeks ago, and a big difference - but believe me, this is still major news compared to what was the situation before! lol


Chris Paton said...

Emma - soooo much easier...! lol I photographed today what would have taken me a day or more to transcribe.



Scott said...

Yes, I agree with you there Chris. My time at the NAS in the past has always been limited, and so being able to maximise that time by copying a document photographically for perusal later will be very beneficial.

I remember the Fife Council Archives being very generous in that respect too.