Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Worrying metric trends in British archives

By Benedict Crumplethorne.

I note with concern certain comments by Dr. David Thomas, now Director of Government and Technology Group at the National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office) as published on TNA web site:

Dr. David Thomas

When I joined the PRO in the 1970s, we proudly measured the volume of material we acquired in feet and inches. In those days, we held 80 miles of records which grew at about a mile a year. We (reluctantly) moved to the use of metres and kilometres a decade ago

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How sad the repository of the Domesday Book, Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights should have opted for metric especially as the great majority of the records preserved in TNA are in Imperial. It seems that TNA has fallen victim to EU culture cleansing.

We wonder whether the policy of converting from English units to metric was approved by the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee and whether a consultation exercise took place. Had either course of action been taken it is to be hoped the case for metric could have been modified to dual usage or English units only. After all, given so many of the 100 miles of archives at TNA contain English units, it is to be expected both staff and users will continue to need to understand English units for interpretation reasons.

A practical consideration is that we may shortly be withdrawing from the EU and in consequence will have to de-metricate.

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