Monday 19 April 2021

UK research centres re-open as Covid restrictions begin to ease

The lifting of Lockdown restrictions in the Republic of Ireland is going to be a slow process, and there's no word yet of when libraries and archives will be unlocking the gates to the pent-up demand of genealogy and history researchers. Current discussion seems focussed on possibly allowing outdoor activities in May.

Meanwhile, most of the neighbours have already announced or taken their first steps towards a limited return to normal. For repositories, it's a bit of a mixed bag, but any reopenings are certain to be subject to appointment-only visitor bookings. Here's a summary of what you can expect if you are desperate to get back into the research visit groove:

Northern Ireland

While hairdressers and beauty salons (priorities, priorities) will be the first to reopen for business later this week, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) will remain closed to the public. There is no date yet for when their well-coiffed and manicured customers can return, but it is not expected to be much before the end of May, at best. Access will then be on an appointment-only basis for the indefinite future. It might be worth getting ready to pounce on the booking system by preparing for your visit here. The Linen Hall Library, the Derry Archive and Museum, and the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland will probably match the PRONI date. LibrariesNI branches have been open for some weeks for IT and printing services only, but will reopen, with restrictions on numbers, on 27 April, and there is no word yet on when the North of Ireland Family History Society (NIFHS will reopen its Research Centre in Newtownabbey.


Some Scottish branch libraries are already open for computer and internet access. The Mitchell Library in Glasgow, along with the National Library's George IV Bridge and Causewayside sites in Edinburgh and Kelvin Hall in Glasgow, will open on Tuesday 27 April. Details. The Historical Search Room of the National Records Service will reopen on limited basis on Tuesday 27 April, initially only to academics (details), and the ScotlandsPeople Centre plans to reopen a week later, on Tuesday 4 May, on an appointment-only basis (more information). In addition, the Scottish Genealogy Society Library will reopen on Monday 26 April with reduced visitor numbers; all visits must be booked and will be time-limited (details).


The National Archives, Kew will reopen on Tuesday 27 April. The Reading Room bookings system (details) went live at Noon today, offering four weeks' availability on a rolling basis, with new dates added daily. The National Library in Euston will reopen its Reading Rooms, Reader Registration, public desks and Members’ Room from Tuesday 20 April for booked visits (tickets are now being released, see Plan Your Visit) and its Galleries after 17 May (details). Near the Barbican, the Society of Genealogists will open on Tuesdays, 11am-4pm from Tuesday 18 May, and one Saturday per month, 11am-4pm (first dates 22 May and 19 June), on an appointment basis only; the booking system will open on Monday 3 May (details).


In Wales the National Library of Wales reopened its Reading Room last week for two daily sessions – 10am-Noon and 1:30pm-4pm – on an appointments-only basis. Details.