Criticism For London's Maritime Museum

Roundup: Talking About History

Will Bennett, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH(LONDON), 12/20/04

Naval historians fear that valuable records at the National Maritime Museum in London could be thrown away and lost to future researchers during a major reorganisation of its huge collection of documents and artefacts.

The world-famous museum in Greenwich has received more than pounds 1million funding in extra Government to help modernise its archive and in many cases digital records will replace traditional card indexes.

Members of MARHST, an internet forum to which 380 leading maritime historians and researchers from all over the world belong, are worried that some documents could be lost in the drive to computerise records.

Now the museum has decided to hold a seminar in Greenwich on March 23 where members of MARHST and others with an interest in maritime history will be able to discuss the reorganisation and air their concerns.

Roy Clare , director of the museum, said:"We want to provide a very much better archive and retrieval system for our researchers."

The museum says that it is"seeking to disperse or dispose of duplicate items and those of relatively lower historical significance" and is prepared to sell off a small proportion of its two and a half million items .

But Janet Macdonald, an expert on naval diet and author of the book Feeding Nelson's Navy, said:"Who is the judge of what is of relatively lower historical significance.

"Somebody at some stage in the past decided that it was not worth keeping either ships' surgeons' journals or pursers' accounts.

"Now we cannot fully study how sailors suffered from scurvy or the effect of flogging."

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