Tuesday 26 October 2010

CAIS student visits

Twice a year CAIS organises visits to archives and repositories for its students, usually in autumn and spring. Last week was the autumn visit and 16 of us, including archivists, records managers and family historians, were lucky enough to visit two very interesting archives in Edinburgh.

In the morning we were shown around Thomas Thomson House in Sighthill, Edinburgh. TTH is the main storage building for the National Archives of Scotland and also houses some of the key NAS services. We were greeted by Rob Mildren who gave us an overview of the NAS and in particular the balance between onsite and online user services. One of the highlights of the visit was a tour of the conservation studio where we were able to experience at first hand the range of conservation activities that we taking place. We were also given an overview of the NAS's digitisation programme and met some of the FamilySearch staff who are undertaking most of the scanning of documents. Finally we viewed some of the BS 5454 compliant stores which made some of the archivists rather jealous.

The afternoon visit was to the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh. Both the University Archivist and Deputy Archivist, Arnott Wilson and Grant Buttars, were kind enough to show us around. The visit was extremely interesting as the Centre is housed on two newly rebuilt floors in the Library building. There are a number of public areas, with enviable views over Edinburgh, where people can consult material. The conservation studio and digitisation area were very interesting, albeit on a smaller scale than at NAS. Changing best practice in classification and storage was clearly demonstrated in the store rooms with the juxtaposition of old library classified volumes and more recently boxed material. The archive is gradually working towards consistency in housing of all its collections.  One of the highlights of the visit was a chance to see some of the treasures of the Archive ranging from the first matriculation register to a death mask of Goethe.

Overall it was a very worthwhile day and enjoyed by all who attended. Thanks to both of the archives for making this possible. We're now planning the visit next Spring which is likely to be to London.

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