18 June 2012

The Good, the Bad and the Unfit for Production

Image appeared with original article

Great article which talks about the challenges of preservation and why at the National Archives (UK) some items are deemed “unfit for production.”

On your visit to The National Archives [UK], you get your reader’s ticket to order up the documents you are interested in seeing but, after entering the document references into Discovery, a document comes up as ‘unfit for production’. So, you wonder, what does that mean?

Items designated ‘unfit for production’ are in such vulnerable physical condition that producing them would present a risk to the document – unfit documents could be extremely fragile, they could be blocked (all the pages stuck together in a volume or a roll), or perhaps they could be damaged by mould. These are the documents that, when you open the box, you immediately jump to put the top back on and quickly hide it at the bottom of the pile, hoping that it will miraculously disappear!

Editor’s Note: Though the language is different, most researchers have run across this at some point in their research.  For example, to preserve original land grant records in NC, they are now only available to researchers on microfilm and for marriage bonds you are requested to put in for a copy of that document and if you must look at it, you will only be handed the one you request and not be allowed to “trawl” through the folder or box from which it came.

Have you run across documents either “unfit” for production or which have been removed from circulation in an effort to preserve them for future generations?  Please share!

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