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Moonraker

Archives charging for access and research

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Moonraker

In Wednesday's Daily Telegraph, there were two letters bemoaning some archives charging for access. (On line, they're hidden behind a paywall.) This follows an earlier letter noting that Northamptonshire Archives is introducing a hourly fee for consulting its records. One letter says that the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum at Woodstock and the Wardrobe in Salisbury "charge what many would consider exorbitant sums for research facilities", the latter "demanding a fee of £30 per hour for viewing documents ... or £35 an hour for online enquiries"

 

I know that charges such as these have been discussed here on the GWF, though I admit to having only glanced at the posts. I was surprised that some archives were now charging for access - I can understand them doing so if they do some research for you. I do appreciate that buildings have to be maintained, insured and staffed, but it must be quite frustrating to pay for access or research, only to find that not much information is available after all!

 

As it happens, in recent years I've only felt the need to consult a couple of such archives and in both cases was happy to make a Gift Aid donation in excess of any expected fee.

 

Moonraker

Edited by Moonraker

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johnboy

will these chrages deter people from donating free of charge, items and documents to these archives?

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Moonraker

That was a point touched on by implication in both the recent letters. The writer of one had made his information readily available, the other had donated family records and memorabilia.

 

Moonraker

Edited by Moonraker

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voltaire60

 A search of Tinternet suggests that the Northants matter has been reversed out:  This from the organiser of a petition against the proposed charges:

 

Northamptonshire County Council drop charging plans!

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Mary Ann Lund
Market Harborough, United Kingdom

5 AUG 2017 — Good news! Northants CC have announced that they are dropping their plans to charge on Tuesday to Thursday afternoons and Saturdays (see their statement below). This welcome news shows that our petition and feedback have been heard. It's a pity that the council didn't consult archive users before making such plans in the first place. We will hold them to their promise of a full and careful consultation next year. We will continue to remind them that they need to invest in archives (and archivists) properly, for now and for the future; and that access should be free for all.

 

       As to the matter of charges, the acid test seems to be whether the archive/collection used is funded from public monies. With all due respect, then most regimental museums and associations are not- and I see no reason why one should expect something to be provided for nowt - As Milton Friedmann famously pointed out, there is no such thing as a free lunch.  The choice is between paying a charge or going without completely.

     I think you are right in that it affects whether materials are donated/lent to an archive- that has usually to be factored in when considering what charges to make. Of course, we have had discussions on GWF about IWM in particular- where it's board and senior staff appear to live high on the hog but still plead economy when it comes to the begging bowl being put out.

    Where I think some archives are vulnerable is that  often in the past, one of 2 things has happened:

1)  Materials are placed on indefinite deposit-often one assumes it is actually owned by an archive/institution when it is not. And when the going gets tough, then  the occasional aggrieved depositor has been known to pull stuff back. (I am thinking in particular here to the huge amounts of stuff that are "Crown Copyright" at IWM- just how do IWM claim a copyright on the stuff-let alone make an exorbitant charge for it? 

2)  Many deposits are made on the clear understanding about access to the material- not just restrictions but also making it publicly available.

    I,for one, wonder how much was deposited with IWM in particular on the basis that it would be free to use and available-especially in it's early years. The support of bloated plutocratic apparatchiks was not, I think, what many donors had in mind when IWM came round with the begging bowl.

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chaz

I recently (pre last festive season), contacted Audrey Portman in South Africa regarding searching a soldiers records. She has done 6 or more for me in the past.

Audrey contacted me after to say things were on hold due to moving records building. then replied this week

Just a note to let you know that the SADF archives have now re-opened but unfortunately we are no longer allowed access to the WW2 records.

There are negotiations taking place regarding this but for the moment, that is the situation.
Sorry I can’t help you further.
Regards
Audrey
I replied that possibly trying to get funding to pay for the building and move. also would there be same issues with WW1 records?
the reply was
No problem with the WW1 docs.
Their reasoning regarding the WW2 records is that there can be some medical entries on the documents. They feel that there may be family members still alive who would not necessarily want to know about some of the medical problems that these men suffered from.
Even if we can prove the man has died, they are still more concerned about the family.
The fact that we have been accessing these records for 20 years makes the whole thing a bit ridiculous.
A member of the family can request a Record of Service document which includes information from his file.This is just a type written Word file.
This can be requested through me with a suitable letter from his next nearest kin and a copy of an ID book or passport.

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Toby Brayley

Having worked in Military Museums that charge for access/research for 14 years now I can sympathize with the charges to a certain extent. 

 

I am speaking of my time in the small underfunded and under staffed Regimental and Corps Museums rather than the large, well funded institutions.

 

We have only two members of staff (my previous Museum just 1 full time member, constantly inundated) stretched to breaking point across a whole array of tasks on a daily basis.  For a quick two line answer to a letter or email requesting research of a relative there will be no charge. If we can provide a large amount of information, photographs etc etc there is a charge or we ask for a donation. This really covers the time spent on the request rather than a charge to access it. People requesting the information are welcome to come and access our archives for free, provided we have enough information and notice. 

 

We use the fees as a much need income source. Military Museums are drastically underfunded so any source of income is gratefully received and put to good use. Maintaining the ever increasing archive is  EXTREMELY costly in terms of the material need to conserve and maintain a large historic collection.  A full time position could easily be filled in the Archive and answering the large volume of research requests alone!  

 

Just keep in mind that storing these archives, looking after them and cataloging them are not free, they are an amazing resource, incredibly expensive to upkeep ! As I am sure you understand.

Edited by Toby Brayley

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