Historians furious as Kew archives are 'dumbed down'





As the home of unique documents ranging from the Titanic passenger list to top-secret cabinet papers, the National Archives is Britain's single most valuable source of primary materials for social historians. But concern is growing that public access is under threat after an announcement that it is to reduce opening hours, limit access to original documents and lay off a number of specialist archivists.

Leading historians, including Antony Beevor and Saul David, have this weekend expressed anger and dismay at the proposed cuts. Professor David told The Independent on Sunday: "The future history of our country is at stake."

Housed in a vast complex in Kew, south-west London, the National Archives (TNA) is the repository for the country's main public records, including birth, marriage and death lists, national censuses, wills and military records. In recent years, with interest in genealogy growing, the archive has seen a surge in demand for access from members of the public. It is also a vital resource for professional historians, biographers and writers.

The changes come as part of an ongoing drive to digitalise records so that they can be accessed directly online, thereby reducing visitor numbers to Kew. Once records are scanned, the original document is put into deep storage away from Kew. But historians argue there is a case for the originals to remain accessible. "The possibility of seeing the originals should always be available," said Antony Beevor, author of D-Day: The Battle for Normandy, which was researched, in part, at the National Archives.

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John D. Beatty - 7/15/2009

You want unlimited access anytime YOU want it? Come up with the resources. Tell the government which other funding they should reduce to make YOU happy. That simple.

Otherwise....

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