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Public Record Office - temporary change to service delivery

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Customers of the Public Record Office NI (PRONI) are advised of a temporary change to service delivery between September 2010 and May 2011.

The construction of the new PRONI headquarters at Titanic Quarter is progressing well, with the building scheduled to open to the public in May/June 2011. To ensure that services in the new building will be operational and that records will be available and will be preserved during this move, the Public Record Office will have to change how it carries out its business next year. The Public Record Office is providing 12 months' notice of changes to ensure that overseas visitors in particular have good time to make alternative plans.

Keeper of the Records, Minister Nelson McCausland said: “Records stored within PRONI are priceless, some of which contain vital historical information which, if lost or damaged, would be a massive blow to the general public, both in Northern Ireland and also worldwide.

“Staff at PRONI are currently working hard to produce appropriate and secure storage containers which will enable records to be moved to the new building safely and securely. A complete stock-take of all the records will then be carried out before they are securely packed, bar-coded and transported to the new building. This mammoth task does not end there, as staff then have to carry out a further stock-take to ensure that all records arrived safely."

The Minister continued: “Access to public records is a core function of the Department and to minimise disruption to customers, PRONI is increasing the amount and range of material which will be available online. In the coming weeks I will be marking the launch of the 1819 to 1900 street directories going on-line, which will make the contents of 27 street directories for Belfast and provincial towns available to a worldwide audience.

"Discussions are also taking place with partner organisations to make arrangements to allow customers to have alternative sources to draw upon during this time.

"Whilst the public will not be able to physically access the Balmoral Avenue site during the move, PRONI will continue to provide a limited correspondence and telephone enquiry service and will address FOI and urgent legal enquiries.”

The Minister concluded by saying that interest in personal and local history is on the increase and the new state of the art offices will encourage wider community involvement in accessing the unique assets that it holds.

Notes to Editors:

1. The site of the new Public Record Office is in a prominent position close to the Odyssey Arena and adjacent to the Gateway building at the entrance to the Titanic Quarter. It is scheduled to open to the public in May/June 2011.

2. PRONI was established under the Public Records Act (NI) 1923 for the reception and preservation of public records. The 1923 Act also made provision for the deposit of private records in PRONI.

3. To help alleviate the inconvenience to customers during a period of on-site closure the amount and range of material available on-line will be extended. This will include the Belfast Street Directories (pre 1901) going on-line in September 2009 and additional databases scheduled for completion in 2009/10 financial year including 1766 Religious Census Returns, 1775 Dissenters Petitions and the pre-1910 Coroners’ Inquests.

3. Discussions are taking place with partner bodies about the possibility of providing an off-site self-service facility for limited microfilmed records.

4. PRONI’s records cover every aspect of life from the Minutes of Cabinet Meetings to records of a local corner shop – from the thoughts and actions of the ‘great and the good’ to the reminiscences of the working man. The oldest document is a 13th Century Papal Bull.

5. Media enquiries to Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure Press Office, tel: 028 90 515045 or email: