Tuesday, July 29, 2008

National Archives of Scotland

The mission of the National Archives of Scotland is to "select, preserve, and make available the national archives of Scotland in whatever medium, to the highest standards; to promote the growth and maintenance of proper archive provision throughout the country; and to lead the development of archival practice in Scotland." It is housed in three buildings in Edinburgh, employs a staff of 160 people, and maintains five web sites. There are 70 kilometers of records dating from the 12th century including state and parliamentary papers, church records, registers of deeds, wills and testaments, maps and plans, photographs, sasines (dealing with property ownership) and records of business and industry. Although the National Archives has a very extensive collection, it is a living collection; archivists must decide what current records to acquire and what to get rid of. They preserve everhting to archival standards, promote public access, and provide advice to individuals or businesses that want to maintain their records themselves.
Visiting the web sites give you a taste of the kinds of services the National Archives offers, and the kind of research that people do at the archives. The site www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk, for example, is the one-stop-shop for research on family history. Many of the documents related to family history -- wills, census records, birth records, etc. -- have been digitized, which means that researchers and geneologists have ready access to documents, while the archive can better preserve the orignial documents. In fact, the National Archives are getting ready to unveil a remodeled public area specifically designed as a kind of in-person equivilent to www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk.
Another function of the National Archive that I thought was really great is their work to support Scottish history curriculum in schools. Through www.scottisharchivesforschools.org, the archive provides resources and workshops for teachers and students. Along the same education vein, the National Archives also conducts courses in learning to read Scottish handwriting. You can also visit www.scottishhandwriting.com and use their tutorials and examples.
The National Archives has undertaken some major digitization projects; their next one involves digitization of the Sasine records, "legal documents that record the transfer of ownership (usually a sale or an inheritance) of a piece of land or of a building." These records are currently accessed on a regular basis and the digitization project will allow these searches to be done online, creating greater flexibility for users and the archive.
We were priveleged once again to get to look at some interesting items from the National Archives. One of my favorites (which will be no surprise to anyone who knows me and my obsession with Food Network) was a 16th century recipe book. We also got to take a shot at reading some of the old records such as an account from Kirk's court, a kind of church/morality court.

No comments: