Sunday, August 14, 2011

The National Archives of Scotland

The National Archives of Scotland are located just over the bridge from the Royal Mile. The organization is in the midst of combining resources and merging with the National Registrar Office for Scotland. So in fact, it is no longer the National Archives but now the National Records of Scotland.

The archive is comprised of six buildings with about 450 employees. In the main building there is a search room called the Adam Dome where the public is welcome to come and browse the catalog for up to two hours. Further research requires a day ticket. The ground floor search rooms are all electronic. There are five different search rooms. The Thomas Thompson House is a large storage facility which devotes an entire floor to a conservation department.

The Brits, especially the Scots, are very interested in tracing their genealogy. It’s a bit of a craze in fact. So it is unsurprising that the majority of the records held in the National Records pertain mostly to family history. The National Records deliver records for the National Archives of Scotland, National Register of Archives of Scotland, Scottish Register of Tartans, Registers for birth, death and marriage, and an organization called the Scottish People Centre which holds information on Scottish culture.

Here is a laundry list of the kinds of documents the organization manages: state papers, deeds, church records, valuation rolls, family and estate papers, old parish records, birth records, death records, marriage records, court and legal records, government papers, business records, railway records, maps and plans.

The organization engages in an interesting cooperative effort with educators and schools across the country using a program called Glow. This program brings the archival materials to students through video conferencing.

Many of the documents are ancient enough that the unique art of paleography is needed to transcribe the documents. Luckily, the organization provides classes for employees and the public to develop this rare skill. The website has links to a website called

The oldest document the organization has is a brief from King David I granting the land for St. Cuthbert’s Church that dates from 1120 AD. The church is still there, by the way.

*The amazing display cap above is by Jessica Hische, an amazing designer I came across in my perpetual search for awesome design and typography. The letter comes from her Daily Drop Cap project.

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