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The New Kew Using our exclusive step-by-step guide Penny Law shows you how to use the newly redesigned reading rooms and facilities at The National Archives

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ver the past few months the public areas at Kew have been extensively remodelled. Whether you are a regular or a first timer to The National Archives, this guide will tell you what to expect. At its heart lies the Open Reading Room on the First Floor, which allows readers to use digitised resources as well as those still available on microfilm without the need for a reader’s ticket. It is here that you can talk to experts about your research or browse the indexes. If you need to look at original documents, such as ships’ logs and most war diaries, you will need to obtain a Reader’s Ticket and go into the Document Reading Room. Meanwhile maps and many pre-18th century records can be consulted in the Map and Large Document Reading Room on the Second Floor.

2. Improved signposting of the reading rooms and facilities make it easier for readers to find their way round. 12

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1. Your first port of call on entering The National Archives is the welcome desk. The staff here will give you a basic introduction to the Archives, although they no longer issue Reader’s Tickets, which is done upstairs in the Open Reading Room.

3. You only need a Reader’s Ticket to read original documents. Getting a ticket is very straightforward, although you need to remember to bring two pieces of identification, one proving your identity, such as a bank card, and another proving your current address, like a recent utility bill. Tickets are valid for three years.

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4. The National Archives has well over a hundred leaflets and research guides available in the reading rooms (and online) offering advice on the most common research topics.

5. At the end of Open Reading Room an extensive library, with thousands of books on British history and other subjects, can be consulted by readers.

6. Throughout the reading rooms are many computer terminals which allow you to order documents, and search the online catalogue and digitised resources from The National Archives and elsewhere.

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7. A number of indexes to many series of records are available on cards. However, they are slowly disappearing as entries from them are being added to the online catalogue.

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8. This chart will show you where microfilms are located.

9. The National Archives holds many of the most popular record classes on microfilm. Once you know the reference number of the particular roll you need to look at, you simply take one of the blue “marker� boxes provided and put it in the place of the microfilm box you are taking out to use. When you are done with the microfilm you simply swap them back again.

11. There are always friendly, knowledgeable staff available to help readers with research queries or problems with the records.

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10. Also available in the Open Reading Room is a set of class lists containing descriptions of the records at The National Archives. These volumes can be a useful supplement to the online catalogue.

12. The Open Reading Room has many printed reference books and guides to help researchers.

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13. You can consult original documents in the Document Reading Room. They are placed in lockers or pigeon holes from where readers can collect them and take them to their allocated seat. Documents normally take up to half an hour to be delivered.

14. There is now seating for nearly 700 people in the various reading rooms. There is also a new, separate area in which people who are working on projects together are allowed to look at and discuss documents. 17. A welcome development is a separate coffee bar near the entrance to the building serving hot and cold drinks and snacks, as well as a restaurant serving more substantial dishes. The whole area has been openedup and re-decorated making it the perfect place to relax at the end of a busy day trawling through the records in the Archives.

Visiting The National Archives The National Archives offers a unique record of the past. Its holdings cover the British Isles, the territories that formed the British Empire and the countries of the Commonwealth. Material varies from the Domesday Book to the most recent government papers. There are many records for family historians, including 19th and 20th century census returns, pre1920 Army and Navy service records, and material relating to emigration and immigration. 15. On the second floor we have an extensive map collection dating back to medieval times and varying from sets of Ordnance Survey maps to plans of royal palaces. 16. There is a large locker room on the ground floor where you can securely leave coats and any personal belongings. No bags are allowed to be taken into the Document Reading Room apart from clear plastic ones which are provided in the locker room.

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Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU; telephone; 020 8876 3444; website www.nationalarchives.gov.uk. Opening hours Monday, Friday, Saturday 9am–5pm; Wednesday 10am–5pm; Tuesday, Thursday 9am–7pm. Closed Sundays, Bank Holidays and 5–8 December 2008. Reader’s Tickets You need a Reader’s Ticket to look at original documents in the Document Reading Room or Map and Large Document Reading Room. You do not need a Reader’s Ticket to use the Open Reading Room or the restaurant, cyber café, shop and museum. You should bring proof of identity and address with you in case you decide you need a ticket. It is possible to pre-register for a ticket at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/registration. You can use portable computers and digital cameras but not pens, coloured pencils or scanners, in the reading rooms.

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