Remote Storage and Access

Chris Paton in his latest Scottish GENES Newsletter recounts a research trip to the National Records of Scotland’s Historical Search Room. He found a document he wanted to consult was held offsite, that not mentioned in the catalogue.

It’s something many of us have encountered, not just at the NRS. Catalogues are never perfect and offsite storage is common. It costs to store archival materials, and costs more in a prime central location. Simple economics demands storing materials that are rarely consulted where real estate is less expensive.

Over ten years ago I was part of a group consulted on the site for the new City of Ottawa archives. We agreed to the present location at 100 Tallwood, Nepean, recognizing it would be  less convenient to downtown, but meant all the materials could be in one place. The site has room to add additional storage onsite, is adjacent to planned rapid transit, decent bus service now, and free parking. Similar considerations must have been behind the choice of location for the Archives of Ontario at York University, with the exception of free parking!

Never assume the document you want will be readily available. Even if it is onsite it could take a while to retrieve. It may also be temporarily withdrawn. Order in advance where possible; don’t rely on the catalogue.

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2 Replies to “Remote Storage and Access”

  1. Working from remote locations our research visits to archives are often short (one or two days at an archive). If possible a researcher should plan to visit for a week or visit with a plan to return in a couple of days to catch those withdrawn items. On my recent trip to Public Research Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast the staff was very accommodating. In one case the document had been signed out by staff (who were on vacation) and it took a few days to retrieve the item for me to view. In another case the item was removed for conservation. PRONI staff arranged for the conservationist to bring the document to the viewing room for me to photograph as the conservationist gingerly held the document open enough to to view the contents. Thanks PRONI staff.

  2. I try to order in advance whenever possible, and tell the archives what I am researching. I arrive to find the documents I request in advance, and often other materials the staff think might be helpful. Great time saver! But sometimes reading a document will produce clues that lead you down new paths and ordering on-site is inevitable. Sadly, it is also inevitable that I find a reference to a new document 15 minutes before closing time on the last day I am researching…

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