Sunday, 3 November 2013

Bexley Archive closure Part 2

It is now possible to locate information about the financial saving to be achieved by a proposal to close Bexley Archive which is situated at present in Bexleyheath. I can readily reach Bromley Archive by public transport but it is a challenge for me to reach Bexleyheath and involves several changes which reduces time for research. In short I don't use the Bexley Archive as it is impractical.
So for all researchers in Archives the transfer from Bexleyheath to Bromley will make it equally impractical for all but those residents in the Sidcup area who can catch a bus from Sidcup to Orpington;change and an onward bus to Bromley.
Bexley aim to save £41,000 in 2014/2015 by closing the Archive. This is one option of many others affecting a wide range of provision in that Borough.
I have for two years used Bromley Archive to transcribe material for 6 parishes in Bromley and will spend the next 14 months working to achieve a complete transcript of Bromley's Ancient Parish. Last week the first transcripts for Bromley appeared online and Kent Online Parish Clerks also offers Bromley Archive all completed transcript material. For the first time Bromley will have deposited transcripts for the rare 1801 Census and Birth,Marriage and Burials registers to 1918 for Bromley Common Holy Trinity as well as some volumes of burial registers.
For the professional genealogist or researcher in the Bromley Archive,family historian or volunteer transcriber,local resident,solicitor or anyone wishing to consult planning applications,Council minutes local maps or specialist collections (including H.G.Wells,Enid Blyton,Richmal Crompton and much more) what facilities now exist?
Bromley has no dedicated parking but has expensive parking for Archive Users. The nearest blue badge (maximum 3 hours) bays cater for just 4 vehicles and are provided for both The Library and Churchill Theatre and of course High Street shops and for 3 days a week the markets.General car parking at The Glades for the Archive user is expensive and other car parking is further afield. Many people resident in Bexley have difficult public transport links and therefore lack of parking seriously disadvantages researchers in archives. On a local note the Glades shopping Centre has developed a split personality as the company now owning it refer to it as Intu Bromley but Transport for London designate it the Glades!(Intu is a national brand for the owners who own several shopping centres)
Bromley Archive has no dedicated area for archival research. Researchers are seated on a gallery with high noise levels and only one table for archive use which lacks power points for laptops. General sessional computer use is alongside researcher use. Bromley lacks a quiet area for the handling of documents or an area exclusively for research in its own existing archives so how is it intended to meet these needs and cope with material from Bexley?
The existing equipment used for family history or general computer sessional use in this area has had a troubled year with equipment failures and most recently only one printer for both staff and users which is functioning.
I am grateful for the addition of a digital scanner which can provide on a daily Photographic fee of just over £10 sterling digital images from microfilm or for newspaper researchers a printout of an item in a newspaper. Bromley has a good collection of local newspapers both free and purchased for many titles. I did wonder why as I was donating material to the archive which did not previously exist I was paying for the privilege but that's life in the culture of The Library Bromley business unit which retails it's own line in book bags and sells roll of degradable waste bags for residents refuse collections as a source of income!
The genealogical community has not been consulted and have been omitted in the rather obscured Bexley website information about this proposal. The existing staff at Bromley are skilled in relation to that borough; how are they expected to handle Bexley parish and other archival material and queries relating to these?
I have added my voice to the Bexley online consultation.
I hope on return to Bromley in December that some  improvements in conditions for existing Bromley Archive users are planned.