I have been looking at the recent news out of the National Archives in the UK, and it has made quite sobering reading. This is not the news that they have discovered another copy of the Declaration of Independence in their collections (I know what it’s like, things get buried and forgotten about, however my stuff is not worth $8.14 million), but the news about proposed changes to public services at Kew.
Unfortunately I will not be able to hear about these changes first hand at one of public meetings, but there is a report from Else Churchill of the Society of Genealogists on their website.
I have mixed feelings about these proposed changes, like the majority of users most of my interaction with the National Archives is via their website (it is probably about a year since I actually visited in person) and it is good to see the proposed changes are taking this change in priority into account.
Any loss of access to records would be regrettable, but I think we sometimes forget that the money to run this type of facility has to come from somewhere, and many would argue that there are better things to spend the money on than what is for most of us a hobby.
Any changes that involve a loss of employees are not to be taken lightly, especially when that loss possibly includes the loss of knowledge and expertise, and it is good to see that consultation and careful thought are going into this process.
I understand the need for these changes, and would rather see these changes implemented now, rather than run the risk of harsher cutbacks further down the road, or losing such a valuable resource altogether in the future.
It does raise worrying questions regarding the funding and viability of smaller archives throughout the country. If the National Archives is facing financial cutbacks then how long will it be before we start seeing similar or more drastic cutbacks at some of the smaller archives?