NAS VISIT REFLECTION REPORT
DATE : 7Oct 2011 (Friday)  TIME: 10.00-12.15pm
Homepage: http://www.nhb.gov.sg/nas/

 

I visited the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) on the 7th Oct (Fri) to meet up with the Registrar of Archives Services, Ms Noor Fadilah Yusof  and the Archives Librarian, Mdm Zainah.

Learning points
        I learnt much through my dialogue with the above two personnel as well as from the visit to conservation and preservation laboratories in the NAS (See photos attached in Appendix A). The NAS is an interesting and unique information agency which is very different from other libraries.  Its uniqueness is in the following areas:

1.The collection
Instead of traditional print, non-print and online resources provided by most libraries, the NAS provides members of the public  6 types of information records namely:

  1.  government files,
  2. private memoirs,
  3.  historical maps,
  4. photographs,
  5. oral history interviews and
  6. audio-visual materials.

NAS’s key responsibilities is in the collection, preservation and management of Singapore’s public and private archival records, some of which date back to the early 19th century.  It aims to connect current and future generations of Singaporeans to understand the nation’s historical and cultural heritage of the country. It is the official custodian of the corporate records of the government as it manages public records. NAS exists to cater to members of the public keen on knowing more about Singapore’s history.  It caters mostly to academia, researchers, students and production houses involved in producing documentaries on the history as well as social cultural aspects of the Singapore community.

The community’s interests and needs influence the collection management as well as determines the library services. Based on past research request, NAS has compiled topical inventory records and indexes that are popular among researchers and students. These thematic/topical resources in hardcopies are neatly filed and made available for quick reference to researchers without them needing to refer to microfilm records. This is a value added service to save time of researchers.

NAS has no official overarching collection development policy as each department handling the 6 resource categories has their own respective collection development policies. For example, government records department has their own collection development policy to aid them in decision making on collection and management matters wrt government records.

The predominant media of information are in the form of print records, images, maps, audio-visual records. Except for AV resources, the rest are mainly stored in microfilm as the media has been proven to be a stable technology and are legally admissible in courts. It also saves storage space and information can be easily digitized. This is an interesting knowledge as I was under the impression that that microfilm technology is passé and would have been replaced by newer forms of storage technology.

I learnt that NAS has a total of 8 databases which captures information in the following areas: 1) Government Records  2) private records/memoirs-donated by private donors 3) image collection-photos, negatives relevant to S’pore history  4) maps  5) oral history  6) audio-visual materials in textual, audio, image and moving images(video formats).

Materials in NAS are selected based on the collection policy of each main archival resource namely government records, private memoirs, images/photos, maps, AV, oral history interviews. Appraisal teams for different resources such government records, private donations and  purchased of ‘declassified records’ have their own respective appraisal criteria to select materials. Material that does not meet a repository’s collecting guidelines may be weeded out.

2. Network & IT Infrastructure
         NAS has an in-house designed information portal known as Access Archives Online (A2O) which provides brief information as well as low resolution thumbnail images and print records. (http://www.a2o.com.sg/a2o/public/html/). Members of the public can access A2O from home to find out some preliminary information available in the Archives before visiting the Archives. A2O is an online finding aid by NAS to provide easy access to the Archives rich databases 24/7. Currently, NAS is in the midst of revamping their database by adhering to the General International Standard Archives Description or ISAD(G). The conformation to international standard will enable NAS to share information with other archives around the world. Although A2O has been able to serve the needs of the community since 2004, the NAS recognizes the importance to adopt ISAD(G) which is a standard approved by International Council of Archives to capture elements of archival documents produced by corporations, persons and families ( Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISAD(G)) Besides ISAD(G), I learnt that there are other standards as well. In the United States, proper names may be checked against the Library of Congress Name Authority Files and subject headings are drawn from the LCSH.

3. Reference Service
The NAS provides personal face to face reference services to members of the public free of charge. A researcher will be required to fill a research registration form and approach an assistant researcher who will guide the user to the appropriate finding aid. The user will do their personal search and once items have been identified, the archives assistant will assists in retrieving the specified documents. This is unlike an ordinary library where users are expected to source their own resources and will have the opportunity to loan or refer to the actual copy of resource. Because archival resources are usually housed in some form of climate control environment usually not accessible to the public, the users will not be able to have access or loan the archival materials outside of the Archives premises.

    4.  Staffing
          In archival work, there are a series of processes set in place ranging from conservation and preservation of records which entails professional task of repairing, treating and preservation work to protect materials to prevent deterioration. The Archives have a team of professional archivist, conservation and preservation experts tasked with the delicate job of ensuring the proper care of archival documents (see in Appendix A) Professional archivists receives their training from overseas while the laboratory conservation and preservation work are carried out by technicians who received in-house training. The information professionals in the Archives require a different skills sets compared to library staff.

Conclusion
         From the visit, I am able to see the major differences in archival collection management processes compared to that of a traditional library. Because of the nature of the information resource, accessibility, circulation, reference services are also very different. Needless, to say the expertise needed to manage archival resources are also very different.

 

 

 

APPENDIX A

Photos of the Visit to National Archives of Singapore

Outside the National Archives Singapore

Centre: Mdm Zainah (NAS Librarian)
Right: Noor Fadilah Yusof (Registrar Archives Services)

Microfilm reading and computer printing facilities

Archives Counter serving a member of the public

Archives Reading Room


Archives Research Assistant browsing Indexes

 Conservation is the professional discipline of repair or stabilization of materials through chemical or physical treatment to ensure that documents survive in their original form for as long as possible.

Preservation is the process of protecting materials from deteorioration or loss in order to keep them for future use.

Process starts with damaged or old records being put through anoxic treatment, followed by surface treatment of documents, repair of documents, deacidification, leafcasting, followed by tissue mounting and sizing, process of encapsulation/protection, binding and finally hot-stamping for the ultimate conservation of records.

STEP 1-Damaged or old records

STEP 2: Anoxic treatment

STEP 3: Repair work

STEP 4: Repair and preparation for deacidification

STEP 5:Deacidification preparation

STEP 6: Before leafcasting

STEP 7: Tissue mounting & Sizing
STEP 8: process of encapsulation
STEP 9: Binding and finally hot-stamping bound
records
 

Reference

ISAD(G). (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved Aug 10, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISAD(G)

 

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