The National Archives


The National Archives

The National Archives (TNA) is a British Governmental organisation created in April 2003 to maintain a national archive for "England, Wales and the United Kingdom". [The National Archives. “ [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/whowhathow.htm Who we are, what we do and how we operate] ”. Accessed 23 April 2007.] There is a separate National Archives of Scotland (formerly the Scottish Record Office), which holds government and private documents relating to Scotland and a similar institution in Northern Ireland is the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).

TNA was formerly four separate organisations: the Public Record Office, the Historical Manuscripts Commission (formerly the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts), the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) and Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO).

It is institutional policy to include the definite article, with an initial capital letter, in its name (hence "The" National Archives", sometimes abbreviated as TNA) but this practice is rarely followed in the media.

Location

The National Archives are based in Kew in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in South West London. The building was opened as 1977 as an additional home for the public records, which were held in a building on Chancery Lane. The site was originally a World War One hospital, which was later used by several government departments. [cite web
title = Your Archives article The Opening of the Public Record Office in Kew in 1977
publisher = The National Archives
url = http://yourarchives.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php?title=The_Opening_of_the_Public_Record_Office_in_Kew_in_1977
accessdate = 2007-07-05
] It is near to Kew Gardens Underground Station.

Formerly The National Archives ran the Family Records Centre in Islington on a joint basis with the General Register Office, this site closed in March 2008. There are also offices in central London (currently Admiralty Arch) and Norwich, both of which are primarily for former OPSI staff. There is also an additional record storage facility ( [http://www.deepstore.co.uk DeepStore] ) in a former salt mine in Cheshire.

History

"For earlier history see the article on the Public Record Office"

The National Archives was created in 2003 by combining the Public Record Office and the Historical Manuscripts Commission and is both a Non-Ministerial Government Department in its own right and an Executive Agency reporting to the Secretary of State for Justice. The current Chief Executive (formally Keeper of the Public Records and Historical Manuscripts Commissioner) is Natalie Ceeney, formerly Director of Operations and Services at the British Library. She has replaced Sarah Tyacke (also previously of the British Library), who retired in October 2005.

On 31 October 2006, The National Archives merged with the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI), which itself also contained Her Majesty's Stationary Office (HMSO) which was previously a part of the Cabinet Office. The name stayed The National Archives. The merger's aim was to create a stronger National Archives which can lead Information Management, ensuring that government information is managed effectively - both to support today's government effectiveness and to guarantee the long term role of the archive.

Key Roles

TNA claims it is "at the heart of information policy - setting standards and supporting innovation in information and records management across the UK, and providing a practical framework of best practice for opening up and encouraging the re-use of public sector information. [cite web
title = About Us, About us
publisher = The National Archives
url = http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/default.htm?source=ddmenu_about0
accessdate = 2007-07-05
] This work helps inform today's decisions and ensure that they become tomorrow's permanent record."It has a number of key roles in information policy:
* Policy — advising government on information practice and policy, on issues from record creation through to its reuse
* Selection — selecting which documents to store
* Preservation — ensuring the documents remain in as good a condition as possible
* Access — providing the public with the opportunity to view the documents
* Advice — advising the public and other archives and archivists around the world on how to care for documents
* Intellectual property management — TNA (via OPSI and HMSO) manages crown copyright for the UK
* Regulation — ensuring that other public sector organisations adhere to both the public records act and the PSI reuse regulations.

Collections

Types of Records

The National Archives is the UK government´s official archive, 'containing 900 years of history from Domesday Book to the present', with records from parchment and paper scrolls through to digital files and archived websites. [cite web
title = Who we are, what we do and how we operate
publisher = The National Archives
url = http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/whowhathow.htm
accessdate = 2008-07-05
] The material held at Kew includes the following:

*Documents from the central courts of law from the twelfth century onwards, including the Court of King's Bench, the Court of Common Pleas, the Court of Chancery, the Court of Exchequer, the Supreme Court of Judicature, the Central Criminal Court, Assizes, and many other courts.
*Medieval, early modern and modern records of central government.
*A large and disparate collection of maps, plans and architectural drawings.
*Records for family historians including wills, naturalisation certificates and criminal records.
*Service and operational records of the armed forces War Office, Admiralty etc.
*Foreign Office and Colonial Office correspondence and files.
*Cabinet papers and Home Office records.
*Statistics of the Board of Trade.
* The surviving records of (mainly) the English railway companies, transferred from the British Railways Record Office.

There is also a museum, which displays key documents such as the Domesday Book and has exhibitions on various topics using material from the collections. [cite web
title = Visit us, Museum
publisher = The National Archives
url = http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/events/museum.htm
accessdate = 2008-07-10
]

Access to documents

The collections held by the National Archives can be search using their [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/search.asp on-line catalogue]

Entrance to The National Archives is free. [cite web
title = Visit us, Why visit us?
publisher = The National Archives
url = http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/visit/default.htm?source=visit
accessdate = 2008-07-10
] Anybody aged 14 or over can access the original documents at the Kew site, after producing two acceptable proofs of identity and being issued a free Reader's Ticket. [cite web
title = Visit us, Registering for a readers ticket
publisher = The National Archives
url =http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/registration/
accessdate = 2008-07-10
]

The reading room has terminals from which documents can be ordered up from secure storage areas by their reference number. The reference number is composed of three sections: the department code of up to four letters, such as WO for the War Office; a series or class number, for the "subcategory" or collection that the document comes from; and an individual document number. Documents can also be ordered in advance. [cite web
title = Visit us, Ordering documents in advance
publisher = The National Archives
url =http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/registration/
accessdate = 2008-07-10
]

Once a document has been ordered, The National Archives aims to get it to the reader within 35 minutes (assuming it is kept at Kew rather than at their second repository, "Deep Store" – a former salt mine in Cheshire).

You do not need a reader's ticket if you are accessing records on microform. Frequently accessed documents such as the Abdication Papers have been put on microfilm, as have records for two million First World War soldiers. The originals of the latter were stored in a warehouse in London along with four million others, but incendiary bombs dropped on the warehouse in the Second World War started a fire in which most were destroyed. The surviving third were largely water or fire-damaged and thus acquired the colloquial name of the "Burnt Documents." Because they were mostly too fragile for public access, they were put on microfilm with the aid of the Heritage Lottery Fund. They are currently being digitised, and should be ready to be accessed online by the end of 2008. A limited number of documents are available on microfiche.

Some of the most popular documents have now been digitised and are available to download, via the [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/ DocumentsOnline] delivery system, for a small fee. [cite web
title = The National Archives, Documentsonline
publisher = The National Archives
url = http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/
accessdate = 2008-07-10
] All of the open census records have been digitised, and there are also significant other sources online (such as wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1383-1858). Researchers are encouraged to check the online services first, to see if they can get what they want online. If a document is available online, The National Archives' policy is to encourage people to use the digital copy and not the original, even if they come to Kew, in order to protect the original from damage.

The National Archives has also now set up a 'digitisation on demand' service (called 'Digital Express') where for a small fee a document can be scanned and sent to the researcher electronically (up to 10 pages for a fixed fee) to enable people to access the documents wherever they are, (excluding particularly large or fragile records). [cite web
title = The National Archives, Digital Express
publisher =
url = http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/digitalexpress/default.aspx?DOCREF=CO%20386/170&Itemref=&ItemScope=
accessdate = 2008-07-10
]

torage

The documents are stored on compactus - double-sided shelves, which are pushed together so that there's no aisle between them. A large handle on the end of each shelf allows them to be moved along tracks in the floor to create an aisle when needed.

They are generally stored in acid-free folders or boxes.

In the event of a fire The National Archives would be clearly unable to use sprinklers for fear of ruining its holdings, and so when the building is evacuated, argon gas is released into the air-tight repositories.

2005 discovery of forgeries

In June 2005 journalist Ben Fenton of The Daily Telegraph received an email from a colleague asking him to investigate documents held at TNA which alleged that a British intelligence agent had, on the orders of Winston Churchill, murdered Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Nazi SS, in 1945. cite news
last = Fenton
first = Ben
title = Lies And Secrets
publisher = Financial Times
date = 3 May 2008
url = http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f3a43fbc-18ab-11dd-8c92-0000779fd2ac.html
]

The three documents had come to prominence after being revealed by author Martin Allen in his book "Himmler's Secret War".

Viewing photographs of the documents his suspicians were immediately aroused by the fact that such a controversial policy was casually committed to paper, even to the extent of naming the assassin, and by the use of, by 1940s standards, colourful, un-civil service like language used by senior Foreign Office officials John Wheeler-Bennett and Robert Bruce-Lockhart.

Viewing the original documents the next day, Fenton spotted what looked like pencil marks beneath the signature on one of them. This confirmed his suspicians and, along with his experience of analysing historic documents, it enabled him to persuade The Daily Telegraph to pay for forensic analysis.

TNA staff took four files, along with authenticated copies of the authors handwriting, to Dr Audrey Giles, a former head of Scotland Yard's Questioned Documents Unit where she confirmed that the documents were certainly forgeries. One letter head had been printed on a laser printer, the earliest example of which was produced in 1977 and all had tear marks where they had been threaded on to the security tags. Further investigations by TNA staff revealed that the counterfeit documents contained errors, breaches of protocol and etiquette which their supposed authors would not have committed, prompting one expert to state that the inconsistencies in the papers "would lead any serious historian to question their veracity".

Upon publishing an account of the deception in the newspaper, Fenton was contacted by a German academic, Ernst Haiger, who informed him of his own suspicions over other TNA documents cited in an earlier Allen book. Examination by TNA experts led to more than a dozen documents being identified as suspicious and submitted to Home Office specialists for examination. When they too were declared forgeries, the TNA called the police in.

In the addendum to the later American edition of the book (which acknowledged the fact that the papers were forged), Allen theorised that at some time after he saw the documents, they had been removed and replaced with exact replicas, clumsily forged to cast doubt upon his discoveries.

In all, 29 forged documents were discovered, each typed on one of only four typewriters. They were placed in 12 separate files, and cited at least once in one or more of Allen's three books. According to the experts at TNA, documents now shown to be forgeries supported controversial arguments central to each of Allen's books : in "Hidden Agenda", five documents now known to be forged helped justify his claim that the Duke of Windsor betrayed military secrets to Hitler; in "The Hitler/Hess Deception", 13 forged papers supported Allen's contention that, in 1941, British intelligence used members of the Royal Family to fool the Nazis into thinking Britain was on the verge of a pro-German putsch; in "Himmler's Secret War", 22 counterfeit papers also underpinned the book's core claims that British intelligence played mindgames with Himmler to encourage him to betray Hitler from 1943 onwards, and that ultimately they murdered the SS chief.

In 2007 the Crown Prosecution Service announced that it was "not in the public interest" to prosecute the only suspect questioned by police. Allen's health problems had prevented the police questioning him for nine months, after which he told them he was wholly innocent. In a December 2007 response to questions from Norman Baker MP, the Solicitor-General said that the police investigation, guided by the opinion of a senior barrister, had produced "sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction" on charges of forgery, using a forged document and criminal damage but it had been decided that it was not in the public interest to proceed. In reaching that decision, "matters relating to Mr Allen's health and the surrounding circumstances were significant in deciding that a prosecution was not in the public interest".

Other Services

The National Archives also provides services to help users in their research and also find collections beyond those they hold.

Learning Curve

[http://www.learningcurve.gov.uk Learning Curve] is free online resource for teaching and learning history, aimed at teachers and students.

Access to Archives

[http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/ Access to Archives] (also known as A2A) is a database containing details of archival collections held in many different archive repositories in England and Wales. [cite web
title = The National Archives – Access to Archives
url = http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/about.aspx
accessdate =2008-07-04
] As of March 2008, there are no more plans to add additional collections to A2A due to lack of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the changing financial priorities of the TNA, though there is still facilities to update existing entries. [cite web
title = Archives Hub Steering Committee meeting, 1 November 2007, University of Manchester
publisher = Archives Hub
date = 2007-11-01
url = http://www.archiveshub.ac.uk/scmins21.shtml
accessdate = 2008-07-05
] The A2A database was transferred to the TNA's with a new platform with a simpler interface to ensure its availability. [cite web| title = A2A – Access to Archives home
url = http://www.a2a.org.uk/
accessdate = 2008-07-05
]

National Register of Archives

[http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/nra/default.asp The National Register of Archives] (NRA) is the central point for the collection and circulation of information about the content and nature of archival manuscripts relating to British history.cite web
last = The National Archives
title = National Register of Archives
publisher = The National Archives
url = http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/nra/default.asp
accessdate = 2007-07-05
] It contains unpublished lists and catalogues that describe archival collections in the UK and overseas. The register can be consulted in the National Archives reading room and the index is searchable as on-line database on the National Archives web site.

The information is collected in a variety of ways. TNA is sent hard-copy catalogues from archival repositories who hold records relating to British history. These are kept in the reading room at the National Archives and indexed on the on-line database. TNA conducts an annual survey of archival repositories on the NRA and records all new accessions, and the [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/accessions/| accession lists] are also available on the TNA's web site. Also information is taken from surveys and guides to archival collections as well as other publications.

The NRA index can be searched by the following categories: Corporate name - records relating to businesses and organisations; personal name - records relating to individuals; family name - records relating to particular families and estates; and place names in the UK and overseas.

There is also an National Register of Archives for Scotland which is based in the National Archives of Scotland

ARCHON directory

[http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archon/ ARCHON Directory] is a database of contact details for archive repositories in the UK and institutions elsewhere in the world which have substantial collections of manuscripts relating to British history. [cite web
title = The National Archives - The ARCHON Directory
publisher = The National Archives
url = http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archon/
accessdate = 2007-07-05
]

'Your Archives'

[http://yourarchives.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php?title=Home_page Your Archives] is a wiki for the National Archives on-line community which was launched in May 2007. [cite web
last = The National Archives
title = Your Archives' now open for contributions
publisher = The National Archives
date = 2007-14-05
url = http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/news/stories/159.htm?homepage=news
accessdate = 2007-07-05
] The contributions are made by users to give additional information to that which is available on the other services provided by the National Archive, including the catalogue, research guides, documentonline and National Register of Archive. [cite web
title = Your Archives
publisher = The National Archives
url = http://yourarchives.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php?title=Home_page
accessdate = 2007-07-05
] Your Archives encourages users to create articles not only about historical records held by the National Archives, but those held in other archive repositories. [cite web
title = Your Archives: What can I contribute?
publisher = The National Archives
url = http://yourarchives.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php?title=Help:What_can_I_contribute%3F
accessdate = 2007-07-05
]

Databases

They also host several databases on types of records including [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/searchthearchives/hospitalrecords.htm hospital records] ; [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/searchthearchives/migration.htm migration records] ; and [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/mdr/ manorial records] [cite web
title = The National Archives – Search the archives
url = http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/searchthearchives/default.htm?source=ddmenu_search9
accessdate =2008-07-04
]

References

ee also

*PRONOM technical registry

External links

* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ The National Archives]
* [http://www.nas.gov.uk/ National Archives of Scotland] — a separate organisation
* [http://www.proni.gov.uk/index.htm Public Record Office of Northern Ireland] - the official repository for Northern Ireland
*cite news
last = Fenton
first = Ben
title = Files on Himmler 'murder' exposed as fake
publisher = The Daily Telegraph
date = 2 July 2005
url = http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1493192/Files-on-Himmler-%27murder%27-exposed-as-fake.html

*cite press release
publisher = The National Archives
title = Forged documents - investigation findings released
url = http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/news/stories/195.htm?homepage=news
date = 3 May 2008


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