Beyond History Blog

Top 7 archive sins

Andrea Bentschneider - 21. April 2017 - Archives, Societies, Museums, General, Tips and Tricks

It is great to have the opportunity to do research in original files. Therefore it is very important to respect some ground rules to preserve them for the future. Experienced genealogists and archive user usually know them by heart. As there are still problems from time to time, we would like to point out some fundamental Things:

  1. Ringing cell phones: When you enter an archive, you should turn of your cell phone, or at least put it into silent mode – please think about the vibration alert as well. You should also turn off the sound of your notebook to avoid disturbing fellow archive users.
  2. Assume that someone else will do your research: Archive employees or fellow researchers can’t do your research for you. They also don’t have the time to help you with translations or questions all day.  If you need or want a little more assistance, it’s best to contact a local genealogical association or professional researchers beforehand. Most archives even provide lists with research contacts.
  3. Writing into original files: Never ever write into original files! Whether you see spelling mistakes or need to make a note – under no circumstances in the original! Please make a copy first.
  4. Taking original files: archive documents and original files are never to leave the archive. They are property of the archive operator (city, country, church…). If you are not allowed to photocopy a document, you have to copy it by hand.
  5. Eating and drinking: Always leave the reading room for eating or drinking. Otherwise you might smudge or damage the records. Aside from the fact that you might disturb other visitors. Usually archives explicitly point out that eating and drinking is prohibited. But even if not: this rule should always apply.
  6. Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in archives. Cigarettes are a huge fire hazard for the papers – not to mention the odor nuisance and the health issues.
  7. Loud conversations: Everybody knows that, if you are not alone, animated conversations and sometimes even disputes are normal. In archives, it is very important to avoid this, if possible, or at least do it quietly. Sometimes there are own rooms for groups or you can leave the reading room. Otherwise you will easily disturb the fellow archive users.
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