UK National Archives: Access denied (Guy Walters)

„The next time you settle down in the evening to enjoy the latest work by your favourite historian, treasure it, because it may be their last for a while. This is for the simple reason that historians are effectively being denied access to one of the most essential tools of their trade — the National Archives.

For many, this non-ministerial government department may just be an ugly slab of 1970s concrete that sits on the Thames in Kew, but it is actually nothing less than the nation’s memory — for it is here that millions of documents produced by the British state during the past thousand years are held. From the Domesday Book to the measliest memorandum sent by the lowliest civil servant in the most wretched ministry, nearly everything could be looked at by anybody, so long as they could prove their name and address.

But now, thanks to absurd new access restrictions, it has become all but impossible for historians to carry out any decent amount of research there. These restrictions do not just hamper professional historians and PhD students, but also anybody using the archive to look up, say, what great-great-uncle Eric got up to on the Western Front, or even the documents associated with his divorce.

The current restrictions are oppressive. Kew is only open for four hours and 50 minutes per day, four days per week. On these days, visitors are only permitted to access nine documents, and they are only allowed to visit once a week. A small number of two-day appointments are available, during which visitors may access 20 to 40 documents from the same record series. Access to computers, microfilms, research advice and copying are no longer provided.

In addition, it appears that booking a slot to visit the archives is about as haphazard and difficult as booking Oasis tickets back in the 1990s. I have been told of many instances in which slots are taken within one second of the booking page being opened, which is no doubt a product of a reported tenfold oversubscription.

This means there is a de facto lottery in place to access the National Archives, and even if you are lucky, you are only permitted to consult a handful of documents.“

Israelisches Staatsarchiv vermisst tausende Dokumente

„Im israelischen Staatsarchiv werden rund 10.000 Schriftstücke vermisst. Wie die Zeitung „Haaretz“ unter Berufung auf das Journalismus- und Medienportal „The Seventh Eye“ berichtet, gehören dazu Dokumentationen zur Ermordung von Ministerpräsident Jitzchak Rabin, zum Verfahren gegen Naziverbrecher Adolf Eichmann und zum Jom-Kippur-Krieg. Das Staatsarchiv selbst äußerte sich laut der Zeitung bislang nicht. Bereits vor zwei Jahren hatte die Zeitung über das Verschwinden von 40 Dokumenten zur mutmaßlichen Entführung von Kindern jemenitischer Einwanderer berichtet. Mitarbeiter des Staatsarchivs hätten berichtet, menschliche Fehler oder Mängel in den Arbeitsabläufen seien keine Seltenheit.“

The National Archives of the United Kingdom is Making Digital Records Available Online Free of Charge for as Long as Kew is Closed to Visitors #closedbutopen


UNESCO on Documentary Heritage and Corona

„On behalf of UNESCO’s Documentary Heritage Unit, Secretariat of the MoW Programme, we are pleased to inform you that, in light of COVID-19 and UNESCO’s response to it, we have been at work clarifying the conceptual and practical links between documentary heritage and pandemics. As such, we have now published a statement, co-signed by UNESCO and some of its key internal and external partners. You can access this here:

As part of a webpage created for this purpose, we are also including some useful resources for documentary heritage professionals, in a larger effort to mobilize the documentary heritage community amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Feel free to circulate these, along with the statement above, as widely as possible, in addition to providing your own resources that could be useful for this purpose:

USA: The National Archives is letting millions of documents, including many related to immigrants’ rights, be destroyed or deleted

„In 2017, a normally routine document released by the archives, a records retention schedule, revealed that archivists had agreed that officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement could delete or destroy documents detailing the sexual abuse and death of undocumented immigrants. Tens of thousands of people posted critical comments, and dozens of senators and representatives objected. The National Archives made some changes to the plan, but last month it announced that ICE could go ahead and start destroying records from Mr. Trump’s first year, including detainees’ complaints about civil rights violations and shoddy medical care.“

Archival Research in China

I wrapped up my fieldwork with three takeaways. First, archival research in China is not as bad as it is often depicted by outsiders. To be sure, historians who want to describe Cold War-era events in excruciating details relying on massive archival documentation are gearing up for a tough fight that is nearly impossible to win. Political scientists who do structured, focused comparisons of case studies might have better chances of success. Second, Chinese archives are strict but fair: The same rules apply to Chinese citizens as to foreigners. Third, Chinese archivists are generally helpful if you play within the rules. If you have bad luck and they do not let you see the documents you want, do not throw a tantrum. Move on to the next one, that might work out. Finally, something I found odd was that not all of these institutions are used to hosting researchers for an extended period of time. At one municipal archive, staff wondered what was taking me so long — I had been there for two hours. In the beginning of the third week of my research at another archive, the personnel greeted me with the question: “Aren’t you done yet?”

Was in den hochsensiblen Akten russischer Archive schlummern kann

Laut Wladimir Putin will Russland seine Archive der breiten Öffentlichkeit zugänglich machen – in einem „offenen Zentrum“ und via Internet. Doch schon die Begründung, die Russlands Präsident dafür gibt, macht höchst skeptisch: „Wir werden jenen das Maul stopfen, die versuchen, die Geschichte umzuschreiben.“ […]

In Deutschland unterliegen Archivalien den hierzulande besonders strikten (und oft wortgenau eingehaltenen) Regeln des Datenschutzes. Zwar sind ausnahmslos alle vorhandenen politischen und militärischen Sachakten für die Forschung frei zugänglich, vor allem im Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv in Freiburg. Das gilt aber nicht für personenbezogene Unterlagen. Deshalb ist weiterhin der Zugang zu den Personalakten der Wehrmacht stark eingeschränkt, und nahezu unzugänglich sind die im früheren Krankenbuchlager aufbewahrten Unterlagen aus den Jahren 1943 bis 1945 mit ca. 25 Millionen einzelnen Einträgen und acht Millionen einzelnen Dokumenten. […]

Selbst der Vatikan wird sein legendenumwobenes Geheimarchiv im Verlauf des Jahres 2020 komplett für die Zeit bis 1945 offenlegen. Seit 2006 sind alle Unterlagen aus dem Pontifikat Pius XI. für qualifizierte Wissenschaftler zugänglich, was eine Flut an Studien hervorgebracht hat, aber keine Sensationen. Mit Ähnlichem ist auch für die jetzt bevorstehende Archivöffnung zu rechnen, denn die wichtigsten Dokumente des Vatikan zum Zweiten Weltkrieg liegen ohnehin schon in der 1965 bis 1981 veröffentlichten elfbändigen Reihe „Actes et documents du Saint-Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre mondiale“ vor, die frei im Internet verfügbar ist.

National Archives exhibit blurs images critical of President Trump

Weitgehend vergeblich bemühen sich israelische und palästinensische Forscher um Zugang zu palästinensischem Archivgut in israelischem Besitz

Die FAZ weist hin auf einen Aufsatz über die Beschlagnahme sämtlicher Archivbestände in der Zentrale der Palästinensischen Befreiungsorganisation (PLO) in Beirut 1982 („The Genealogy of Colonial Plunder and Erasure – Israel’s Control over Palestinian Archives“ in: Social Semiotics, Bd. 28, Heft 2, 2018 / Taylor & Francis – PAYWALL).

LOOTED & HIDDEN – Palestinian Archives in Israel from Rona Sela on Vimeo.

West-Brabant-Archiv bietet keinen Chat mehr an

„Leider bietet das West-Brabant Archiv keinen Chat mehr an. Am besten senden Sie Ihre Frage per E-Mail ( Sie können unter anderem mit dem Provinzarchiv in ’s-Hertogenbosch ( oder dem Regionalarchiv Tilburg ( chatten“, schrieb mir West-Brabants Archief auf Facebook.

Dokumentation zur 50. Jahrestagung der Honorablen Societät der Bodenseearchivarinnen und Bodenseearchivare am 25. September 2019

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