Saturday, 28 May 2011

Mystery researcher: Essex Record Office

It's some years since I last went to the Essex Record Office. Since then they have moved to a purpose built archive, just south of the city centre. It is well signposted and appears on many local maps. The searchroom is light and airy (and a delight to work in) with a separate map and large document consultation area as well as a surprisingly busy microfilm and library area. Admission is through a CARN card. As mine had expired I had to renew it which was easily done. Before you go into the reading room you have to both sign in and be logged-in to the system. This was not made clear so I managed to circumvent the system to the annoyance of the staff. Everything is done through the SEAX catalogue and you have to log in to order material. SEAX is an excellent system and is easy to use. I had used it at home so knew what I wanted to look at, but had forgotten to note down the reference. A rather officious staff member tried to show me how to use the system, ignoring my feeble protests that I knew what I was doing. We found what I was looking for, but had I been a complete beginner I would have been none the wiser about how to use the catalogue. The document was produced in about fifteen minutes. There were a couple of items I wanted to photograph but was told it cost £10 a day. I could see no sign with this information, so it came as a shock. As it was a quiet day, the buzz in the reading room mainly came from a woman and her daughter looking through a parish register.
Room: 8; Staff: 5; Ease 6; Catalogue: 8

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