Friday, 9 April 2010

Rail Industry National Archive

Following hard on the heels of the COPAC News, previous post, came news of another substantial development at Search Engine. 15 years after privatisation got into gear, the rail industry and the museum have made an agreement about what happens to the resulting records. As a privatised industry, the National Archives (formerly PRO) have no interest in new railway records any longer. I will reproduce verbatim the press release that came here on the 6th April. It is quite a coup for the museum and its archivist Tim Procter. One uses the imagination to see how much Search Engine's workload will expand and its team with it. Meantime in the immediate future do not expect me to blog too much about my own engagement. Whilst the new director gets his feet under the table, arrangements are being reviewed and for the foreseeable I do not anticipate making regular visits to Search Engine.

"*/Establishment of a Rail Industry National Archive/*

A national archive is to be established for today’s rail industry following a ground breaking agreement between the Railway Heritage Committee (RHC) and the National Museum of Science & Industry (NMSI), parent body of the National Railway Museum. The new archive will enable public access to the records of train operators and other rail companies as well as their long term care and conservation.

As they are released by rail companies, records designated by the RHC will be transferred to the care of the National Railway Museum. They will be made available for research in /Search Engine/ at the Museum in York and at the Science Museum Libraries and Archives in London and at Wroughton, near Swindon. Material which needs to remain commercially confidential for a period will be preserved in deep storage in the Museum’s new purpose-built archive repository.

The agreement between RHC and NMSI was triggered by concerns that, as companies such as GNER and Railtrack ceased to operate, their surviving records would become fragmented and inaccessible, and the story of a vibrant period of railway history would be lost.

By providing document transfer facilities between /Search Engine /and other NMSI sites, it will also become much easier for people from all over the UK to access these important archives.

Railway Heritage Committee Chairman Peter Ovenstone said:

“Railways were Britain’s gift to the world, and we have world class museums where locomotives and other railway artefacts are preserved. This can now be matched by the comprehensive preservation of and access to the records of today’s rapidly changing railway, thanks to the cooperation and foresight of NMSI.”

National Railway Museum Director, Steve Davies MBE said:

“/Search Engine/, our railway archive based at York, is already a popular and valuable resource for historians and academics into the history of Britain’s railway down to 1997. The Rail Industry National Archive will ensure that the records continue unbroken into the period of privatisation – a unique and continuous record of the changes in business and society that the railway brought to Britain.”

The National Archives at Kew keep records from the British Rail era and before, but this changed on privatisation as their role is to keep public records, not those from today’s private sector.

Records and plans relating to the railway lines, buildings and structures of the current network will continue to be kept at Network Rail’s base in York, where most are still required as working documents".

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