Publication Date

February 1, 1996

Editor's Note: The following report is based on a letter from , a program manager at the Public Record Office in Kew, England. The information may be helpful to AHA members who plan to conduct research in the United Kingdom during the coming year.

You may have heard that the Public Record Office is constructing a new building at its site at Kew to house all of the records currently stored at Chancery lane as well as new accessions. At the same time, it is refurbishing its existing building at Kew. The move of records from Chancery Lane started in October 1995 when some Chancery Proceedings were transferred to Kew. The entire move will take nearly a year to complete, with Chancery Lane closing in early December 1996.

It is the intention of the Public Record Office that except for Treasury Board Papers (T 1), Dissolved Companies Files (BT 31), and some little-used maps, no class of records will be unavailable for more than three weeks while it is being checked, moved, and reshelved. In general, the most popular records will remain at Chancery Lane until after the refurbishment of the Kew building is complete, which is scheduled for September 1996. The refurbishment of the Kew building will result in expanded reading and reference rooms, an improved restaurant, and access to the Public Record Office staff library, which is a valuable research collection. The office will have to close for two separate weeks in summer 1996, but will not close for its annual stocktaking in October 1996.

Lists showing the planned move dates of records are available at Kew and Chancery Lane, the Institute of Historical Research, and the Historical Manuscripts Commission. The office will continue to make the population census records; death duty registers before 1858; nonparochial registers of births, deaths, and marriages; and Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills available on microfilm in central London after Chancery Lane closes. Copies of the films of wills are also to be provided at Kew.

The project offers a number of benefits. Preservation of records will be enhanced because they will all be reboxed and stored in a suitably controlled environment. The Public Record Office is also planning to open later on some evenings and on Saturdays. And for the first time since the 19205, all the records normally available to researchers will be located at a single site.

The Public Record Office has put a great deal of effort into planning both the move of records and the refurbishment of the existing building to ensure that its users suffer the minimum inconvenience. Things will inevitably be more difficult in 1996; records will be unavailable for periods, and there will be some noise and disruption in the reading rooms at Kew. You may like to take these potential problems into account when planning your research. The Public Record Office would be grateful if you would draw this information to the attention of your postgraduate students and any overseas colleagues who plan to visit the office in 1996.

For general information about the project, contact , New Public Record Office Programme Manager, Public Record Office, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, United Kingdom, (0181) 876 3444, extension 2286, or Trish Double, communications officer, at extension 2882. For information about the availability of records, please call the hotline at extension 2350, or write to the above address.

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