Letter: History in need of modernity

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The Independent Online
Sir: In response to David Starkey's article on moving the Public Record Office to the suburbs ('A home fit to house our nation's history', 28 February), may I make the following points.

Because of the impossibility of extending the Chancery Lane building on its cramped inner-London site, the decision to move part of the office's operations to Kew was taken more than 20 years ago, and since 1977 the Kew building has been the office's headquarters and the repository for the records from the 18th century onwards; already more than two-thirds of our readers consult their original documents at Kew and surveys show that the overwhelming majority of them are happy with the facilities and services we provide here.

Admirable though Pennethorne's building in Chancery Lane is, the science of document storage has progressed over the last 150 years and it is vital that the records of our nation's memory be housed in the most up-to-date conditions possible. The high-quality new building at Kew which is currently under construction will enable medieval and early modern records to benefit from these advances in the way the more modern ones already do.

Leaving a building which has been our home for so long is a matter of great sadness, and we, like Dr Starkey, regard its future as important. No final decision has yet been taken, but we are actively seeking a records-related solution which will ensure an appropriate use for it.

Yours faithfully,


Keeper of Public Records

Public Record Office



1 March