Researching in company archives and other primary sources - how to get started?

overscan (PaulMM)

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Scott, Tony and others have spent a lot of time researching unbuilt projects from official archives, whether company archives, patent office, FOIA requests etc.

Perhaps we could discuss the practicalities of doing primary research here.

How do you gain access to company archives?
How does one make an FOIA request, and what do you ask for?
Where are the archives for different companies located?

With forum members located all over the world, potentially we could visit most of the archives in existence.
 
Re: Researching in company archives and other primary sources - how to get start

overscan said:
How do you gain access to company archives?

Depends greatly on the company. In my admittedly limited experience, Boeing is easy, other companies are hard and some are impossible. As to Boeing, there are two full-time archivists, and they are workign full-time on Boeing projects... they cannot do your research for you, so you pretty much *have* to visit. It helps a lot if you are a US citizen.

overscan said:
How does one make an FOIA request, and what do you ask for?


Presumably you don;t know what reports you are looking for, but rather have keywords. Consequently, start with a request for a records search (cut and pasted and modified from a request I just fired off:

Defense Technical Information Center
ATTN: FOIA Officer
8725 John J. Kingman Road
Fort Belvoir, VA 22060

September 5, 2006

I request a computer generated technical report bibliography of reports on the subject/keywords of:
XXXX

This is a request for DTIC records, please don’t forward my request to NTIS. Please include both classified and unclassified records in your search. If any records are classified, please review them for release, or the release of nonsensitive portions.

I am an individual requestor, making this request in support of a XXX research project. I also agree to pay up to $25 for reasonable fees associated with this request.

Thank you for your help.

Sincerely,

Who The Hell ever.

overscan said:
Where are the archives for different companies located?

Off the top of my head, Boeing is in Bellevue, WA; Convair/GD in San Diego; Bell in Nigara Falls, NY; Rockwell/North American is being transitioned to the Boeing facility; Douglas in Huntington Beach, CA. Lockheed... never have found any sort of decent publicly accessible archives for them. NOrthrop and Grummans archives have been at least closed down, at worst destroyed. United Tech's archive in San Jose, CA, never actually existed (I worked there).

overscan said:
With forum members located all over the world, potentially we could visit most of the archives in existence.

No. Many won't let you in the door.
 
Re: Researching in company archives and other primary sources - how to get start

On the subject of FOIA requests, I'd like to add that filing a FOIA request is not always a "fire and forget" (i.e., you send a request letter, and lean back to wait for the results) process. I have had (and currently again have) cases with HQ USAF's FOIA office at the Pentagon, which have "stalled" because of USAF-internal bureaucracy f*ck-ups :mad:. So far, one or more complaints always got the cases going again, but if I had done nothing I don't know if any results had come forward.

Also, FOIA is usually a slow process. Although the regulations state a maximum reply time of 20 working days, with extensions permissible only under certain circumstances, these circumstances are effectively always in place at some FOIA offices :(. So if you want info quick and now, FOIA is not the way to go.

One the positive side, for non-commercial requests you get 2 hours of search time, the entire review, and up to 100 pages of copies for free. I.e., if you know exactly what you want (-> no long search) and it is not too much material, you can dig out real "treasures" absolutely for free :)! And just in case this is not known to everyone: FOIA requests can be filed be everyone - you don't have to be a US citizen.
 
Re: Researching in company archives and other primary sources - how to get start

I guess the obvious question becomes: how does one decide on what to search for?

Perhaps Andreas or Scott might give an example of a search they did and what kind of information it turned up?
 
Re: Researching in company archives and other primary sources - how to get start

overscan said:
I guess the obvious question becomes: how does one decide on what to search for?
Whatever you are interested in ;D!

For FOIA, one of the crucial things to find out beforehand is where the documents or information you want is located. E.g., if you are looking for files on an old USAF missile program, you should find out which AF command handled the program at that time, and place your request with that command's current successor.

This is often not possible, so more generic sources must be sought. DTIC, as posted by Scott, is an excellent starting point for technical reports. An other good generic source is AFHRA (Air Force Historical Research Agency) at Maxwell AFB. At http://www.thememoryhole.org/mil/afhra/, you can download a sort of "Finding Aid" for about 550,000 AFHRA files in the form of 29 ZIP'ed Excel sheets. I combined those sheet into a single XLS file (which weighs in at several hundred megabytes!), which can easily be full-text searched for any keyword I like.

Perhaps Andreas or Scott might give an example of a search they did and what kind of information it turned up?

I doubt that my requests are really "typical" ;D!

Anyway, as you know I'm primarily interested in nomenclature related things. One of my first requests (in 2001) was for the USAF records covering the allocation of the F-20A designator to the Northrop "Tigershark". The request went to AFMC at Wright-Patterson AFB, because I knew that allocation of aircraft designators was handled at that time by an office named AFMC/CASC (this information came from the official DOD regulation about the aircraft designation system, which I had already found online). Although it turned out that my understanding of the designation allocation process was then significantly incomplete and partially wrong ;), AFMC fortunately was (at that time!) indeed the correct place to ask for the records. The results were exactly what I wanted - the official rationale why the Tigershark became the F-20, any why F-19 was skipped :).

I made many similar requests to fill the "gaps" in the various designation series. Somtimes the initial return included just enough information to file a follow-on request for more specific files. E.g., when I requested the allocation records for the slot #68 in the M-for-Missile series, only a single form came back, saying only "ZAIM-68A, Kirtland, BIG Q". This in turn led to a follow-up request to Kirtland AFB for records on the "BIG Q" project, which resulted in a short, but extremely useful status report on the BIG Q missile from 1965.

Of course, I also had a fair share of FOIA requests, which were dead ends, returning either nothing at all or only insignificant information. What can be really frustrating, though, is when you locate a file about a 1950s(!) cancelled(!!) missile program, only to hear that it is still classified, and that the FOIA officer is unable to find anyone who is authorized to do a declassification review, because the file is so old :mad:!
 
I can only tell something about the situation here in Germany.

1. EADS Archive Ottobrunn near Munich – After the uprising wish to extend our knowledge regarding VTOL designs all over the world Mike Hirschberg and I tried to get access to the administration of all the Bölkow and MBB proposals. German bureaucrats are impressed by ‘authorities’, so it was good for our attempt to have an aviation author (Mike) by my side. As well, Mike Hirschberg was in contact with a former Tornado engineer and the manager of the archive. As our visit was approaching another archivist compiled interesting V/STOL material – it was allowed to make Xerox copies and use our own scanner. On the other hand we had no permission for independent research between the rows of high bookshelfs. We made the same experience as Andreas Parsch (with the 1950s missiles) - many of the 1960s VTOL technology is still classified – because there is nobody to check such material periodically if it’s still necessary to be sworn to secrecy L. And now the bad news. Shortly after our visit the archivist told us about the new rules there: The management believes that private research put the EADS to expense. We never got a second chance. Requests from outside will no longer be answered by the company. Outwardly the archive doesn’t exist :mad:! Our one and only hope is that the archivist Mr Mühlbauer (Hallo Wolfgang, liest Du das hier?) continues his excellent articles in the German “Flugzeug Classic” magazine month by month, which are founded on the material of this EADS archive.
2. Deutsches Museum Munich/Archive – Very difficult to get access. We had no chance (the contemporary/recent director tightened up the rules).
3. EADS Dresden/Elbe Flugzeugwerft – After contacting the two archivists (by letter) I visited the archive for half of a day. I was amazed how much material survived after the end of an independent aircraft production in the GDR in 1961. But you need much time to find what you are looking for. It’s well arranged, but I had not enough time. So I only get a general overview. In 2002 there was a lack of a photocopier L, so I left the archive without copies of the three-view drawings of never published jet trainer designs. I hope to find a second chance looking for these trainers and also civil VTOL designs (yes, there are indications for such considerations!)
4. EADS Bremen – Mike’s and my most successful operation. First we wrote to the company library and we were successfully. The archive is far outside of the works premises. The librarian (who is responsible for the archive too) took us to the building. He was in the same room all over the time (he was busy to sort files from another archive), so we had free access to all files. Two days were not enough to check all the interesting things, but our scanner and photocopier (no company-own equipment was there) had a hard job without a break ;). Thanks a lot to EADS in Bremen.
5. Historisches Unternehmensarchiv Dornier in Immenstaad (on Lake Constance) – Again first contact by letter and phone (with reference to our website and the seriousness of our research). Material was sorted before we (this time jemiba was on our side to help) arrived the archive – no possibility to see the contents of the wall-to-wall shelvings with our own eyes. A photocopier existed, but we had to use our own scanner again. At the end the archivist told us, that a part of the archive is stored in Oberpfaffenhofen - maybe our next target? Remarkably, that many of the designs, we’ve sent to the archive a few weeks ago to illustrate our questions, were not known to the archivist! It’s all a matter of give and take ;) .

In the result we missed many (and of course we found a lot of unknown) designs. Scott says many won't let you in the door. Yes, that’s right, but never give up! It helps (sometimes) if you are an author (with authority) or you are able to prove the seriousness of your research work. Skybolt gave a good example for the success of his efforts today in the SIAI-Marchetti SM_122 & SM_132 section.

So I’ve never lost the hope to see a picture of the very first Tu-95 prototype (‘95/I’) one day ;) (Flateric, is there a kind of National Archive in Samara, where all OKBs had to send copies of their ‘brain childs’? I’ve heard about such an institution in talks with K Udalov resp. Y Gordon.)
 
I'm afraid, the story of aviation archives, or better of archives holding aviation related material is a very sad one.From 1984 to 1988 I was working for Standard Eleketrik Lorenz, then part of ITT, a once proud name in the german history of electronics and avionics. Yes, there was an archive, lead by a nice and friendly chap, close to his retirement, who knew relatively well, where to find certain things. When I once was talking to him, mentioning my interest in aviation, he reacted very pleased and showed me several documents about german WW II radars, airborne and ground
installations. For example, I remember one document showing a radarinstallation for a Ju 88, I hadn't seen before and never after this. But asking, if I could borrow some documents for a while, or at least copy them, reminded him, that there were very strict rules for using this archive, we probably already had ignored completely and, of course there wasn't a copier there ... Perhaps one year later, in one of the usual "change-your-room" session, not only offices, but the archive, too, was moved. I saw several large boxes, which may have contained documents from the archive, but not enough for all the bookshelves there, so probably quite a large amount of them was already "recycled". And the rest probably was brought to a room, which was useless for all other purposes and forgotten there. And there wasn't an archivist any more, of course ! Important things were stored online in a network, that would seem very crude today, storage capacity still was expensive and who, the hell, needed such things ? To pay someone, just to answer questions from freaks out there ?
A new, lean and efficient company cannot make money with archives ! Spending money for storing informations about cancelled or failed projects ? Ok, maybe it would be good for blackmailing someone, but such things aren't stored in a more or less public archive. As long, as there isn't a clever guy, who discovers, that such documents can be kind of a gold mine, if they are sold to interested enthusiasts, it will be just a way for companies, to decrease costs by getting rid of this old stuff. And if one day there really is that guy, I'm afraid we can't afford it !

So, our hope lies completely on old fashioned companies and institutions ! ;)
 
Bomiwriter:

I understand SAC tossed out multiple thousands of either files and or photography! Lockheed/Martin in Denver where really wild research in the 1950s-1960s occurred will not cooperate. I actually understand that many Corporations simply refuse to store, file, hire an archivist, or deal with the public. Also, many are still sitting what files were saved and not destroyed because they refuse again, to spend time, funds, etc, to perform the Gov't regulations detailing declassification of same files. Another point is this; since project files are generated within their firm, they also simply "landfill" them, or perhaps burn or shred the files-again bypassing the declassification process, and not spending monies that could go into the pockets of the Execs!

The declassification process is also (insider at Nat'l Archives told me the following), a wild process. I was actually informed that certain boxes of files are chosen to be declassified. I tried to have classified Dyna Soar material (yes, Virginia some stuff is still stamped with that magenta colored "Secret" stamp), and it seems to be a pick and choose a box affair. I was blown away upon hearing that one. In 2005-2006 Pentagon simply refused to declassify DS Project stuff even though pointing out it was now 50 plus years old. There you be folks. The powers can always claim that thoroughly worn out term "National Security," as though DS files would cause the downfall of Imperialism or something. That's it and have a good day.
Bomiwriter
 
Re: Researching in company archives and other primary sources - how to get start

Orionblamblam said:
Douglas in Huntington Beach, CA.

I *think* Douglas archive is actually located in Cyprus, CA. I don't recall the woman's name who runs it.

aero-engineer
 
Re: Researching in company archives and other primary sources - how to get start

How about the National Archives? What is the procedure to research aviation materials there. I heard that you have to get a companies permission to copy files obtaining to companies still in business. For example, I want to research Glenn L Martin projects but I have to get Lockheed Martin's permission. I live right down the street from the National Archives and always wanted to go explore. I would appreciate any tips.
 
Hello all,

The purpose of this thread is do discuss any questions about archives and how to get into contact with them, look through them, and anything of the sort.

I have long wished to look in archives, however, I am inexperienced with this, and I am certain there are people on this forum who are in a similar situation to me. I hope that this thread will be a place where those with experience can help out those who lack it.

Regards,

Wyvern
 
Hello,

Could you mention at least one specific thing you're looking for?
 
Mostly on just where to start.

Basically, you have something in you mind, but don't know where to begin. Where do you start? Do you start with requirements, weapons, service history, etc.? How may different archives allow you to view their documents?

Finally, how may different archives differ on policy regarding the publishing of the information found in their documents?

There are but a few questions which have been burning in my mind.
 
For starters, you'll probably find that a lot of the responses from those with direct experiences will at some point include some variation on "But of course, that was before the Commie Cough, so who knows what new restrictions are in place now..."
 
Mostly on just where to start.

Basically, you have something in you mind, but don't know where to begin. Where do you start? Do you start with requirements, weapons, service history, etc.? How may different archives allow you to view their documents?

Finally, how may different archives differ on policy regarding the publishing of the information found in their documents?

There are but a few questions which have been burning in my mind.
That's a 'how long is a piece of string?' question. The archives will all have different policies so there is no simple answer other than contact them and ask. In the archive where I volunteer we have flexible policies and will advise based on the questions were are asked.
 
A lot depends on what you want to research. So disclosing that would be helpful.

As a generic topic I will use the example of the UK.

The National Archives at Kew holds the records of Government. This typically will contain records relating to formulating requirements, testing, issuing contracts and procurement, as well as in-service stuff for actually built designs. You may find copies of brochures submitted to requirements. Not every record is retained, but there is often something remaining.

Next there are company archives. Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems both have extensive archives at multiple sites for example. Some legacy company archives may have been destroyed or partly held in private hands, so the quantity of information retained by BAE Systems depends on the specific legacy company. BAE Heritage Warton seems to have a good collection of English Electric stuff. BAE Heritage Farnborough has quite extensive holdings, though these companies need to be careful in handling formerly secret materials that have not been officially declassified in order to keep their customers happy.

Museums often hold a lot of interesting material often related to companies that were located near to them. Brooklands Museum has an pretty extensive archive of Hawker and Vickers Supermarine material. The Jet Age Museum has a lot of Gloster stuff. The FAST museum at Farnborough has RAE (Royal Aircraft Establishment) reports and an array of other material related to flight testing. The RAF Museum (Cosford and Hendon) has a extensive collection that include many wind tunnel and desk models as well as photos, brochures etc. Some are on display but most are held at an Indiana Jones style warehouse at Stafford. You can get access to photograph them. There's also the National Aerospace Library in Farnborough which has a photos and brochures.

In terms of how to get started, in my case an established author gave me some hints as to where to start looking.
 
Without a specific question or application, this is hard to answer. I do have some thoughts.

If you are just starting out in doing research, don't start at an archive. They are staffed with people who are by and large, charged with protecting the archival material from the public. Your job is to become a serious researcher to gain credibility and help with access. Do your homework FIRST.

-----------------------
Some thoughts on how to approach the task.

One way would be to start at a library and consult with a research librarian. One way to get university access is to take an extension/adult education/whatever class which will allow library access privileges. The research librarian is there to help you. In particular, you can learn how to use WorldCat and other online research resources to find collections and documents. Those resources will generally point you in the right directions. Unis and colleges have access to tools and resources that are not accessable to the public. Look for "finding guides" online. These are GOLD. Do your homework.

Look up some of those archives (or some that Paul mentioned above) and see what their rules are. Do your homework.

Prepare. Narrow your scope. Read up us much as possible on your research topic before you start the in-depth research. Going in to an archive with a general question (how does a turbofan work?) wastes everybody's time. The more specifics that you can provide an archivist, the better they can help you. Develop an "elevator pitch" to briefly describe your research effort. "I'm doing research to support a monograph for publication on the development and introduction into RN service of the Farley Fruitbat. Specific areas of research are: ... ". Do your ... well, you get the idea?

Several years ago, I had a course of research done at the US Smithsonian NASM. For travel cost reasons, I hired a local researcher who had used the facility and knew the in and outs. With the help of the online finding guide for that collection, I was able to pre-assemble a "pick-list" for him - locating documents down to the box number and particular folder. His productivity was very high.

Finally, how may different archives differ on policy regarding the publishing of the information found in their documents?

Specific policy usually listed on the Museum and/or Archive website. Caution - publishing information is one thing. Licensing and publishing photos and/or drawings is another and can range from expensive to prohibitive.

HTH!
 
Your question is laudable but implausibly vague.

Can you at least give a country ?
Wakanda. I keep trying to gain access to their archives to find out how to create a vibranium-based inifinite improbability drive, but the post office keeps telling me "no such address." Clearly it's a conspiracy.
 
I am very grateful for the amount of responses I got, and do thank you for helping me out. I do apoligise for my vague questions; as I said, I just don't know where to start. Your replies have already helped quite a bit. I thank you all.

Your question is laudable but implausibly vague.
I do apologise for that.
Can you at least give a country ?
UK, US and Italy, as those are the countries which mostly concern my areas research.
A lot depends on what you want to research. So disclosing that would be helpful.
Mostly regarding aircraft, helicopters and their weapon systems, though AFVs, ships and hovercraft are also on my list. Thanks for the information you provided regarding archives in the UK, it's extremely helpful.
If you are just starting out in doing research, don't start at an archive. They are staffed with people who are by and large, charged with protecting the archival material from the public. Your job is to become a serious researcher to gain credibility and help with access. Do your homework FIRST.
It's definitely an interesting point, which never crossed my mind before. Your thoughts are something I will definitely take into consideration.

I once again thank you all for your kind and insightful responses, I cannot express my gratitude for all your help.
 
Your question is laudable but implausibly vague.

Can you at least give a country ?
Wakanda. I keep trying to gain access to their archives to find out how to create a vibranium-based inifinite improbability drive, but the post office keeps telling me "no such address." Clearly it's a conspiracy.

I'm currently looking into Ubombistan but they (the archives) keep hanging up on me.
 
If you are just starting out in doing research, don't start at an archive. They are staffed with people who are by and large, charged with protecting the archival material from the public. Your job is to become a serious researcher to gain credibility and help with access.
Regrettably there is some truth in that comment, I could make a list of individuals/organisations that are unhelpful or even obstructive...and that includes some famous names. But that is not the norm, the majority are very helpful, often far more so than you would expect, so don't be deterred from trying. Also don't forget that material can turn up in the most unexpected places, so asking questions on this forum, either through threads such as this or PMs, can help point you in the most likely directions. There are many members here who have undertaken research and many who have published, so do not be afraid to ask. Just be very clear as to what it is you are seeking and what you aim to do with the information and material. Vague requests will result in vague answers.
 
I mainly do research at NARA II in College Park, MD (pre-COVID) but I have also used many other archives. To take the most advantage of NARA II, you have to visit. They do have some stuff digitized on their website, but the military/aviation coverage is meager and spotty. Most material has not been digitized and is not available on the web. NARA II has research staff that will help you try to find the proper Records Groups, but eventually, you will have to become familiar with how government records are stored, and where you might find what you are looking for. It takes a lot of time and patience to use archives.
 
In the UK, (in normal times) the following may help

Kew:
-Outstandingly good online search engine, only trouble is slightly vague filenames which
can lead to extremely expensive errors if you have files copied for you. However, they`re
"mostly" reasonable.
- Do NOT UNDER ANY circumstances use their one site file duplication facility to have stuff copied
without visiting, the cost is criminally insane and quality dubious.
- You can visit and photograph nearly anything with your own camera
- There are some cost effective private researchers who will copy files for you
- Staff can give vague help to point you in the rough direction but they do not have
any on site experts who can tell you more than a quick google can.
- From the perspective of how rapidly you can get files, even on site
on the day, it is easily the best archive in the world that I have ever used (
and I`ve visited archives on 3 continents)
Current status = open but severe limits on file requests (because virus ?!?!?!)


IWM:
- Absymal search engine
- Appauling setup (e.g. no microfilm reader where the reels are stored !)
- Unforgivably unhelpful corporate staff (actual curators are excellent)
- Extreme hostility to authors (copyright)
- Contains huge volumes of amazing material
- Can take months of emails to various curators to find material
- Some ability to take photos with your own camera
- IWM has at some stage become an attempt to make a buisiness, and
a museum 2nd. So there is a major disconnect in attitude between
buisiness side and the (still helpful) historical side of the staff.
Current status = sort of open on a very very vague and difficult to ascertain basis

Farnborough Air Sciences Trust:
- Tiny setup run by dedicated and wonderful volunteers
- A good set of archive stuff mostly on microfilm etc
- Will copy files for you for a very modest fee
Current status = unknown

-The Royal Society
Dont bother

-The Science Museum

They have a lot of interesting documents, but how anyone does gets to them
or does anything with them is beyond me!
 
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The tank museum are usually helpful despite everything. Lots of delays though but that's what low staffing levels does for you. I acquired the tank museum book "The tank book" which being from a tank museum is pretty rubbish. It does not say much for those involved.
 
my own experience in the UK was very positive. Most archivists were happy that someone wanted to access the information they were lovingly preserving. Didn't visit IWM though.

I combined this thread with an older one on the topic.
 
I-The Science Museum

They have a lot of interesting documents, but how anyone does gets to them
or does anything with them is beyond me!
I contacted the Science Museum archive at Wroughton a few years ago to ask about how I could get material copied and how much that would cost, adding that photos taken with a mobile phone would be fine. A nice lady replied and offered to do that for me for free. Excellent service.

The RAeS National Aerospace Library in Farnborough is also very helpful. If you can visit they offer an 'all-you-can-photo' flat fee of £5, which is great value for money even if there are only a small number of documents you wish to consult.
 
I am very grateful for the amount of responses I got, and do thank you for helping me out. I do apoligise for my vague questions; as I said, I just don't know where to start. Your replies have already helped quite a bit. I thank you all.

Your question is laudable but implausibly vague.
I do apologise for that.
Can you at least give a country ?
UK, US and Italy, as those are the countries which mostly concern my areas research.
A lot depends on what you want to research. So disclosing that would be helpful.
Mostly regarding aircraft, helicopters and their weapon systems, though AFVs, ships and hovercraft are also on my list. Thanks for the information you provided regarding archives in the UK, it's extremely helpful.
If you are just starting out in doing research, don't start at an archive. They are staffed with people who are by and large, charged with protecting the archival material from the public. Your job is to become a serious researcher to gain credibility and help with access. Do your homework FIRST.
It's definitely an interesting point, which never crossed my mind before. Your thoughts are something I will definitely take into consideration.

I once again thank you all for your kind and insightful responses, I cannot express my gratitude for all your help.

Hi, I did not use (until now) company archives in Italy, but I went to the Army Archive (Archivio dello Stato Maggiore dell'Esercito) and to the Air Force Archive (Archivio dell'Aeronautica) in Rome. There is plenty of stuff here, but most of it has not an online inventory (aaah, the NARA and UK National Archives...). You can find some lists here (sorry, only in italian):

Italian Air Force Archive

Italian Army Archive

They are still positioned inside a military station; you need to phone there to get an appointment, but the number of seats is very low. Covid restrictions have further restricted the number of places available. They give you only a limited number of documents for each day, so, as stated before by aim9xray, do your homework before.
You can use your camera/phone to take pictures; I am not sure about the availability of a copy service when you are there. Quite sure they do not make a research for you. I read in another forum that if you make a very detailed request on a (small) document, they can copy it for you, but I never tried this option.
 
I believe the suggestion is that the biscuits are for the staff, greasing palms and showing thanks respect. NOT for contaminating files with.
 
Oddly enough, an item left in a file was how I got in touch with Hood, one of his yellow slips was left in a file in Kew and it was evident we shared an interest. The serendipity of the archives.

Me? Grease palms? I'm shocked. Shocked!

Chris
 
You'll be telling me you use a pen and not a soft pencil next. Renegade
A true renegade would try and take a pencil sharpener through the guards at Kew...
[not advisable, goons fast rope out of the ceiling and give you withering stares with cockney accents....]

Oddly enough, an item left in a file was how I got in touch with Hood, one of his yellow slips was left in a file in Kew and it was evident we shared an interest. The serendipity of the archives.
Haha, how odd!
Reminds me of that time we were both in the Reading Room at the same time unknown to each other and I got to the file you wanted first.

We're both probably on some TNA hitlist from making them scour the AVIA files every hour for obscure files. I can imagine them muttering "what does this idiot WANT with all these?" as they reload the cubbie hole for the fifth time...

Personal contacts for smaller archives seem to pay off, once they know you are trustworthy it pays off. I would say success is more hit and miss with the smaller sites.
 

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