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Thread: New pilot project at the National Archives

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    Default New pilot project at the National Archives

    Hello forumfriends,

    There is pilotproject at TNA introducing the possibility to download microfilms as pdf:s.

    Site info:
    "Digital Microfilm is a new way to deliver records online. The National Archives has a large collection of microfilmed records, and we hope that making these available online will increase their accessibility. This will ultimately allow the microfilm readers used at The National Archives, Kew to be retired.
    ........
    These documents are free of charge to download. "

    For more info see: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/digital-microfilm.asp

    Sofar this pilot project only includes some records from Army and Navy. Does anyone know if and when RAF-records will be included? It would be fantastic if the squadron ORB:s was introduced at an early stage.

    Regards
    Peter Hasselgren

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    Hi Peter,
    This is excellent news. I sincerely hope that they do make the Airforce ORB's etc available to download, would make investigation from here in New Zealand much easier and much more accessible. Thanks for bringing this to the forums attention.

    Regards,
    Rob Jerram.

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    Hi,
    If you read down in the first peice of text on the introduction page, there is a peice on asking for comments on the trial of this project. Click on "comments" and you will be taken to a form that can be sent online. One of the questions is what other additional records would you like to see available, if enough people state WW2 RAF Squadron ORB's, they migt take notice.

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    Please be aware that there is more to this than released in the TNA website. There is strong resistance to the changes coming at Kew from a group of readers and researchers who have examined the ‘proposals’ and in many cases have been alarmed by their findings.

    In the case of these microfilms being converted to downloadable PDFs, I have no problem with the scheme as described, but await information concerning the long term implications. For example, the digitisation process is occurring at the same time as a funding crisis. The lack of funds has so far lead to important staff cuts and parking charges, plus an unacknowledged change of priorities to genealogy research. All original documents that have so far been digitised are downloadable at a charge of £3.50 per piece online, and many of these documents are two or three pages (one of which is nothing but the National Archives logo, not part the original file). See the WO Escapers/Evaders files for samples. The files can be viewed free of charge from the on-site terminals at Kew, all others pay. So I am pleased that the TNA website states plainly that the files are free to download, but please note that this statement is in context with the ‘trials’. It would be most impressive, but out of character, if the microfilms were treated as a special case when the same PDF download service was chargeable elsewhere.

    The management team in place at Kew have a difficult task ahead and many of their proposed changes are unpopular. Perhaps the strength of resistance they have met is responsible for the extra-careful wording chosen in some of their public statements. Whatever the reason, I do not accept the statements about free downloads at face value, and once charges are established, the price is likely to be ‘whatever the traffic will bear’.

    Sorry to put a damper on things, but I have met the people who are driving the changes and have debated their costings. If anyone is going to contact TNA to tell them this is a good idea, PLEASE qualify your support by saying that FREE DOWNLOADS are the good idea, not merely access.

    Bruce
    http://www.filephotoservice.co.uk/
    RESEARCH AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES & OTHER UK INSTITUTIONS

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    Hi all,

    I tried to post there my opinion and to my surprise I got a reply - but not so positive:

    3. What additional records would you like to see available?
    AIR for the RAF, mostly the squadrons, wings and station ORBs:

    Dear Customer,

    Thank you for your email.

    We regularly consult our users about what they would like to see online or if we could improve in areas, through user surveys and monitoring feedback. Your comments have therefore been noted to this effect.

    I can confirm that there are no plans to digitise these records at this time. However we are always looking to digitise new collections of records and it could be possible that RAF records will be looked at in the future.

    ...

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    Quote Originally Posted by CZ_RAF View Post
    Hi all,

    I tried to post there my opinion and to my surprise I got a reply - but not so positive:

    3. What additional records would you like to see available?
    AIR for the RAF, mostly the squadrons, wings and station ORBs:

    Dear Customer,

    Thank you for your email.

    We regularly consult our users about what they would like to see online or if we could improve in areas, through user surveys and monitoring feedback. Your comments have therefore been noted to this effect.

    I can confirm that there are no plans to digitise these records at this time. However we are always looking to digitise new collections of records and it could be possible that RAF records will be looked at in the future.

    ...

    Pavel
    Hi,

    I guess we have to wait and hope these records will be digitised in a not to distant future. I asked last year about the possibility to get ORB:s on DocumentsOnline but got about the same answer.

    Bruce
    I also believe "free of charge" is only intended for the trials period but I am willing to pay for the service because I have limited possibilities to visit Kew myself. I also believe this kind of "self-service" is good way to use the possibilities with computers and internet. The problem is of course that instead of giving the staff at Kew better possibilites to help researchers with more complicated questions it is used as an excuse to cut the staff.

    As always changes causes anxiety at every workplace and even if I was thrilled to read about new possibilities to easier get information from Kew I am unhappy to read about the uncertain situation for the staff.

    Peter Hasselgren

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    Hello Bruce,
    Please could you remind me what the main reasons for these changes are at Kew? Is it to save money? Save space? Increase efficiency? What is it all for? Thank you.
    Norman
    Last edited by namrondooh; 2nd September 2009 at 23:06.

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    Hi Norman: money.

    regards,
    Bruce

    EDIT: ok it was a flippant reply, but the management must save approx. £10 million over the next three years, based on their perception of a likely shortfall because of the credit crunch. All other issues are wrapped up in this one point. The redundancies are taking place sooner rather than later because the costs could not be bourne once the shortfall is experienced. The digitisation process has been officially cleared of all blame, despite the fact that the impending closure on Mondays will release more people for 'cataloging', which is needed for the onloine PDF service. The Family History services are promoted heavily and the changes in the public area all support online research at a time when the microfisch machines are being edged out. The restrained output from the restructured inhouse copy service and the policy to refer 'genuine' inhouse research enquiries to Independent Researchers is being used to demonstrate a lack of demand for such facilities. I am travelling at the moment and will give a more grown-up response when time allows.

    Regards from sourpuss Bruce
    Last edited by bruce dennis; 6th September 2009 at 08:35.
    http://www.filephotoservice.co.uk/
    RESEARCH AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES & OTHER UK INSTITUTIONS

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    I received the same reply as Pavel, they have no plans to digitise any RAF files in the near future.

    Regards

    Daz

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    Hello all, it is now time for an update on the subject of the changes at Kew. A meeting yesterday of the management and the Users Forum ended much of the speculation about proposals when the management produced the first public statements showing the actual changes and a timetable for their introduction. The plans were subsequently added to the TNA website …
    http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/default.htm
    … and click on ‘NEWS’. The statement of changes is in a downloadable (free) PDF in a link on this page …
    http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/changes.htm

    Many of the issues of most immediate interest to users of this forum could not be dealt with at the meeting, such as digitisation of AIR files in particular. However, the statements made clearly addressed some of the more alarming bigger subjects: there will be no reduction in the number or status of Expert Advisors, and the number of Senior Records Experts is in fact being increased. These points alone were responsible for a great deal of the fearful reactions during the leadup to the announcements, and irrespective of the other compromises must be seen as positive.

    The charges for car parking and Monday closures will go ahead, as expected. Some GRO records will go off-site, and it is now official that microfilm and fiche terminals will be removed, beginning in 2010. (The future format of the files currently on microfilm is likely to be a mixture of digitised and hard-copy files and will remain free to access by visitors, but I noted an element of caution in the description of the timetable: I predict periods when files will be unavailable as they make the transition). Also, document ordering hours are to be extended on the days that the reading rooms are open to offset the loss of Mondays.

    The future structure of the copying services was mentioned but not discussed in any detail. There are plans to make the service more easy and simple to use by off-site customers, which is good, but the methods to be employed are not yet publicly available. Inhouse research was also dealt with quickly. A summary is in the PDF.

    There was, not surprisingly, a positive spin put on the announcement yesterday, and also not surprisingly, this didn’t satisfy everybody present. Much criticism was forthcoming from some sections of the assembled Users Forum, some well founded, some not. The plans as put forward, and the timetable announced, however, deal with the speculation in some of the most sensitive areas affecting public access. Now that we have had the first look at the reality of the changes, I fully expect the more discussions and counter-proposals will follow, but personally do not anticipate significant alterations to the scheme.

    The biggest question of all, ‘will access to documents be affected?’, has had a qualified answer of ‘no’. The first qualification is that in some cases formats will change, ie what is on microfilm now will be either digitised or printed, but even this may be amended. Although not settled yet, the second qualification is that the far reaching digitisation process brings with it commercial implications. It is (in my opinion) inevitable that as that process unfolds a number of further changes will be introduced to make the business attractive to the ‘commercial partners’ who have been enlisted by the TNA to run the service. Using outside sources is not entirely a bad thing if ultimately it eases access to the content of the archives, as anyone who can’t visit Kew in person already knows, but until the terms are explained and firm and binding commitments concerning quality and value are forthcoming, it seems an integral part of the system may be subject to market forces: we need only think of Post Office closures.

    I hope no one minds that I waited until yesterday’s announcement before responding to the request from Norman for more information. There had already been enough speculation and now we have seen the action plan. I urge anyone who relies on information from TNA to read the PDF file in the above link, especially the pages dealing with ‘MYTHS AND THE FACTS’.

    Regards, I’m off to have an aspirin sandwich,
    Bruce
    http://www.filephotoservice.co.uk/
    RESEARCH AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES & OTHER UK INSTITUTIONS

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