In an effort to reduce running costs by 10% by next year, the National Archives has announced a number of significant changes. From 2010 the plans are to reduce opening times by closing on Mondays, limit access to original documents that are available online and make a number of members of staff redundent (around 35% of specialist archivists are earmaked for redundency).
The measures have sparked some critisim from researchers and historians, with some of them accusing TNA of wanting to ‘dumb down’ the services they provide to such an extent that they will become just a glorified family history centre.
I am not sure this is quite true. Although family history is popular, it is not TNA’s core service and there is a real concern that the reduction in trained archivists could have a detrimental effect on other areas of the TNA. That said, with the popularity of websites such as www.ancestry.co.uk and TNA’s own documents online service there are a lot of people searching for documents remotely via the internet now.
However, one thing I would say is that in my experience the web based search functions are not always accurate. There have been many times where i have not been able to find someone via an online search, but when I have gone through the original documents I have found my person. So, if you are going to push people more and more to online search, please TNA, invest some of the money you will save into the web infrastructure that is going to replace the original documents, or at least keep the original documents open for viewing.
This is just my 2penneth, other people have their views, you can read some of them on the BBC’s WDYTYA? blog