National Archives Document Ordering Limits AKA: fuckwittery abounds!

I just got the following email from the National Archives at Kew:

From Monday 31 March 2020, readers will be able to order a maximum of 12 documents for the same day, plus up to 12 documents ordered in advance (a maximum of 24 documents per reader per day). There will be five document ordering slots available each day and you can order as many of your 12 same-day documents as you require in any of the slots.

This means that if you have prepared your references you will be able to order 12 documents at the same time. Documents will be delivered at set times each day. You will not need to finish your advance orders before ordering documents for the same day.

They give a link to more details here:

You F'king what? Just 24 documents a day? I have a two hour drive to get down to Kew. So I order a large amount, quickly photograph them all, in rapid succession. Then I can can read them at my leisure. This means I can get through a lot of documents. Especially if the page count is low. Kew's catalogue gives you no idea of what you're getting in regards to page count or contents of the documents. So if you put in for your three documents, and they all turn out to be three pages long, you're screwed until the next batch shows up. Now I have to wait for the next ordering slot?
Equally some of my colleagues give me documents they're interested in to obtain. Does that count agaisnt my total? Sure seems to.

Yay, lets make life harder for historians to access our history! What a cracking idea!
 
Ssshhhhh.......

information is to be hoarded jealously. You can’t let any Tom, Dick or David have access to real history! The proles might learn real stuff for gods sake!
 

Chef

LE
'If it ain't broke; change it.' has been the watchword of admin types since the first Linear A forms were drying in the Minoan sun.

At least you have a little time to get as much photographed in advance. If it were down to me I'd have had it announced in the public notices of the Scunthorpe Gazette in the last week of February.

But then I worked for both the council and Ministry of egg and fish, plus I was a storeman. :cool:
 
'If it ain't broke; change it.' has been the watchword of admin types since the first Linear A forms were drying in the Minoan sun.

At least you have a little time to get as much photographed in advance. If it were down to me I'd have had it announced in the public notices of the Scunthorpe Gazette in the last week of February.

But then I worked for both the council and Ministry of egg and fish, plus I was a storeman. :cool:

Oh I suspect I know what's behind this stupidity. Economy and streamlining. Means they can use a staff member or two less. Before hand you'd place an order, it'd get sent off and then about 40 mins your docs would be shipped up to the room. Now I suspect they've got a more efficient set up for the pickers down in the stacks.

Most of the staff are brilliant Lakshmi (spelling?) over at the repographics desk is brilliant.

However, there is no excuse for the stupidity of 12 doc limit. That is just inexcusable. I suspect the reason why is the type of people. Speaking to archivists at other collections, what I do is not that common. they're used to people who will show up, read two documents for the entire day, then never be seen again. Then there's the lunatics like me who have to submit spreadsheets with lists of which boxes we want.
 

theoriginalphantom

MIA
Book Reviewer
thats better, persec please! This is history, you know that stuff that needs to be protected.

I thought history was to be rewritten to meet modern sensibilities.
 
Who know what sort of ghastly colonial misdemeanours could turn up in those records and cause offence to people who have never read them?
 

Chef

LE
Oh I suspect I know what's behind this stupidity. Economy and streamlining.

You'd like to think so but many of the changes I saw in both local and ministry offices were anything but.

The restriction on docs is probably due to someone guesstimating how many docs one person might want. In much the same way that the amount of money one could take out of the UK for holidays was restricted to £50 based on some minister's guess.
 
I just got the following email from the National Archives at Kew:



They give a link to more details here:

You F'king what? Just 24 documents a day? I have a two hour drive to get down to Kew. So I order a large amount, quickly photograph them all, in rapid succession. Then I can can read them at my leisure. This means I can get through a lot of documents. Especially if the page count is low. Kew's catalogue gives you no idea of what you're getting in regards to page count or contents of the documents. So if you put in for your three documents, and they all turn out to be three pages long, you're screwed until the next batch shows up. Now I have to wait for the next ordering slot?
Equally some of my colleagues give me documents they're interested in to obtain. Does that count agaisnt my total? Sure seems to.

Yay, lets make life harder for historians to access our history! What a cracking idea!
First world problems eh?
 
You'd like to think so but many of the changes I saw in both local and ministry offices were anything but.

The restriction on docs is probably due to someone guesstimating how many docs one person might want. In much the same way that the amount of money one could take out of the UK for holidays was restricted to £50 based on some minister's guess.

Well the above link says:
To prepare for these changes, we have looked closely at the average number of documents viewed by each reader per day (currently around eight documents each), and have identified new parameters to ensure that readers who plan their visit can conduct their research efficiently in the reading rooms.

Bare in mind almost every time you're down there you'll see gaggles of what look suspiciously like Chinese tourists in the reading room. These are likely just ordering one or two documents then pissing off. Equally you get the people mentioned above, who are poking historical research with a very long stick and say looking at their own family history, and thus just checking out one or two documents. These are going to upset the average.

First world problems eh?

Well there's a couple of blokes down there whom I suspect are now, or soon will be, unemployed. I would have been if I had gone with the researcher route for a big company a year ago.
 
Today I got to visit the archives at Kew. The Fuckwittery has been amped up to 11!

If you image the sheer dysfunctionality of the German Civil Service under Hitler, with all the back stabbing and cross purposes... Well the current Kew set up clears that by bounds!

First off, lets start off with some good points. They've got a good set up on CV19. Book in advance, allocate seats and lockers, f'kin massive perspex dividers between tables. Everything else has been put beyond use in a manner with clearly shows that its not to be used.

Then there's everything else. I have a sneaking suspicion it came from a powerpoint presentation which included the buzzwords like 'Agile Researching', 'improved interface with historians' and 'flexible staffing'.

Lets start at the beginning. First you have to book, a week in advance. Which admittedly means they get to control numbers etc, so I'm not too annoyed, although why they need to contract an external company to do it I have no idea.

You get to pre-order twelve documents. You can't order any more. As Kew's catalogue fails to mention the size of the document you can drive for over two hours, only to find that you've got 12 documents which each have 4 pages of A4, and you're done within an hour or so. It wasn't quite that bad for me, but after 90 mins I was done.
Their copying service was closed. Which is an income stream for them. It also means that if I want something copied I'm bang out of luck.

But now we start to move past annoying and get to the stupid. There is a 'no bags' rule on the archive, which is fair enough. It means no-one can start pinching documents from the reading room. Before hand you used to stick all your crap in a clear plastic bag, which Kew provided for you. It allowed you to quickly pass through security and was a system that worked well, and has been in place for donkeys years.
Well now ALL bags are Verbotten. Even clear ones. I was walking damn funny as I tried to carry all the stuff I'd thought I'd need. Included the cloth photograph gloves, which kind of ruined the idea behind them, as they were stuffed in a pocket.

Now we come to the pièce de résistance of stupidity, the crowning turd in the water pipe if you will... They've banned paper. That's right, if you have a list of documents you'd like to see, well that's a massive security threat. Your notes? Yeah that too gets blocked (as happened to one poor guy who was there at the same time as me). He wanted to take his notes in and see the help desk about researching some of the parts of it, which he couldn't do as his notes were banned, and the help desk was closed, so he was doubly boned.

We are, however, allowed to take pencils in though. Maybe we should write on their desks?
 

Chef

LE
Today I got to visit the archives at Kew. The Fuckwittery has been amped up to 11!

If you image the sheer dysfunctionality of the German Civil Service under Hitler, with all the back stabbing and cross purposes... Well the current Kew set up clears that by bounds!

First off, lets start off with some good points. They've got a good set up on CV19. Book in advance, allocate seats and lockers, f'kin massive perspex dividers between tables. Everything else has been put beyond use in a manner with clearly shows that its not to be used.

Then there's everything else. I have a sneaking suspicion it came from a powerpoint presentation which included the buzzwords like 'Agile Researching', 'improved interface with historians' and 'flexible staffing'.

Lets start at the beginning. First you have to book, a week in advance. Which admittedly means they get to control numbers etc, so I'm not too annoyed, although why they need to contract an external company to do it I have no idea.

You get to pre-order twelve documents. You can't order any more. As Kew's catalogue fails to mention the size of the document you can drive for over two hours, only to find that you've got 12 documents which each have 4 pages of A4, and you're done within an hour or so. It wasn't quite that bad for me, but after 90 mins I was done.
Their copying service was closed. Which is an income stream for them. It also means that if I want something copied I'm bang out of luck.

But now we start to move past annoying and get to the stupid. There is a 'no bags' rule on the archive, which is fair enough. It means no-one can start pinching documents from the reading room. Before hand you used to stick all your crap in a clear plastic bag, which Kew provided for you. It allowed you to quickly pass through security and was a system that worked well, and has been in place for donkeys years.
Well now ALL bags are Verbotten. Even clear ones. I was walking damn funny as I tried to carry all the stuff I'd thought I'd need. Included the cloth photograph gloves, which kind of ruined the idea behind them, as they were stuffed in a pocket.

Now we come to the pièce de résistance of stupidity, the crowning turd in the water pipe if you will... They've banned paper. That's right, if you have a list of documents you'd like to see, well that's a massive security threat. Your notes? Yeah that too gets blocked (as happened to one poor guy who was there at the same time as me). He wanted to take his notes in and see the help desk about researching some of the parts of it, which he couldn't do as his notes were banned, and the help desk was closed, so he was doubly boned.

We are, however, allowed to take pencils in though. Maybe we should write on their desks?
Ahh the sweet smell of wild bureaucracy.

No bags? Buy one of those fisherman's waistcoats:

As for the no paper couldn't you write in the margins and tear them off?

Seriously though, I feel your frustration.
 
Today I got to visit the archives at Kew. The Fuckwittery has been amped up to 11!

If you image the sheer dysfunctionality of the German Civil Service under Hitler, with all the back stabbing and cross purposes... Well the current Kew set up clears that by bounds!

First off, lets start off with some good points. They've got a good set up on CV19. Book in advance, allocate seats and lockers, f'kin massive perspex dividers between tables. Everything else has been put beyond use in a manner with clearly shows that its not to be used.

Then there's everything else. I have a sneaking suspicion it came from a powerpoint presentation which included the buzzwords like 'Agile Researching', 'improved interface with historians' and 'flexible staffing'.

Lets start at the beginning. First you have to book, a week in advance. Which admittedly means they get to control numbers etc, so I'm not too annoyed, although why they need to contract an external company to do it I have no idea.

You get to pre-order twelve documents. You can't order any more. As Kew's catalogue fails to mention the size of the document you can drive for over two hours, only to find that you've got 12 documents which each have 4 pages of A4, and you're done within an hour or so. It wasn't quite that bad for me, but after 90 mins I was done.
Their copying service was closed. Which is an income stream for them. It also means that if I want something copied I'm bang out of luck.

But now we start to move past annoying and get to the stupid. There is a 'no bags' rule on the archive, which is fair enough. It means no-one can start pinching documents from the reading room. Before hand you used to stick all your crap in a clear plastic bag, which Kew provided for you. It allowed you to quickly pass through security and was a system that worked well, and has been in place for donkeys years.
Well now ALL bags are Verbotten. Even clear ones. I was walking damn funny as I tried to carry all the stuff I'd thought I'd need. Included the cloth photograph gloves, which kind of ruined the idea behind them, as they were stuffed in a pocket.

Now we come to the pièce de résistance of stupidity, the crowning turd in the water pipe if you will... They've banned paper. That's right, if you have a list of documents you'd like to see, well that's a massive security threat. Your notes? Yeah that too gets blocked (as happened to one poor guy who was there at the same time as me). He wanted to take his notes in and see the help desk about researching some of the parts of it, which he couldn't do as his notes were banned, and the help desk was closed, so he was doubly boned.

We are, however, allowed to take pencils in though. Maybe we should write on their desks?

Ah, but the family historians bring camera phones (or cameras where the shutter makes a noise akin to a V2 exploding in a gasworks), and all the stuff on UFOs is digitised which enables very odd people to read online all those FOI requests they've put in... Why on earth should serious historians be pandered to?

I'm afraid I've now got to the stage where I take a couple of small digital cameras in with me, crash through the documents photographing everything and leaving again. Their excuse will be that nobody should really be taking notes using pencil and paper any more, and that it should all be digital photography. ...
 
I'm afraid I've now got to the stage where I take a couple of small digital cameras in with me, crash through the documents photographing everything and leaving again. Their excuse will be that nobody should really be taking notes using pencil and paper any more, and that it should all be digital photography. ...

TBF that's what I do, then I can make notes at my pleasure and if someone questions me I can show them the source doc. But it is useful to have a piece of paper to make quick notes on. Or more likely to track where I am in my document orders. The number of Camera stand equipped tables however, is rather small compared to the general use tables.
 
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