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Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Review into Access of UK National Archives

This is one for any international readers...or, more, specifically, UK readers. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced that a review will be conducted into the United Kingdom National Archives. The review will consider the appropriateness of the time when records become available (this is 30 years after 'an event', which is the same here in Australia) and whether this period should be decreased. More can be found at the National Archives news page here.

Archival research is sometimes overlooked in scholarship, but it's clear that there is a wealth of information in these vaults (I personally imagine them to look something like the Hall of Prophecies from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, although with books in place of orbs). I've been spending a lot of time on archival websites lately - the National Archives of Australia has a fantastic feature called RecordSearch that allows you to find archival documents and narrow down your search. The UK National Archives also has an excellent website - I started off planning to research Crown copyright in the UK and ended up reading perhaps a bit more than I should have about records concerning Jack the Ripper. Not for the faint-hearted researcher. Archival research is therefore a bit like spending a few hours of Wikipedia: you end up far, far away from where you started.

Benedict Atkinson's new book The True History of Copyright (review coming!) contains a lot of archival research and my own work will include this type of research. It's interesting that even though we have truly entered the age of 'digital copyright' there is still so much that we can learn from materials about history and policy from 100 years ago. Accessing and considering these types of materials can broaden both discussions about issues and the commons as well: yet another way for dwarves to stand on the shoulders of giants!

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