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The National Archives

Bessant Drive

Kew

TW9 4DU

United Kingdom

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OPEN HOUSE

Discover what goes on inside The National Archives, South West London’s hidden Brutalist masterpiece.

To mark 40 years on our site at Kew, The National Archives invites you on a journey behind-the-scenes at the world’s largest archive. In 1977, the then Public Record Office undertook one of the biggest ever relocations of its kind by moving from its late Victorian Chancery Lane building (known as ‘The Strongbox of the Empire’) to an innovative Brutalist building, sited improbably amongst Kew’s Victorian terraces. Its controversial design has not always found favour but its many distinctive archival features have stood the test of time with the building still used for its original purpose.

Special tours will explain how we use the space to preserve and conserve the nation’s historical documents for future generations and give insight into the thinking behind the original design. In addition to site tours there will be specialist talks, treasure trails, displays and screenings, charting the history of the former Public Record Office (now The National Archives) and some of the highlights of our vast collection.

Book now to guarantee your place. Some tickets will be available on the day on a first-come, first-served basis.


Tours

Repository tours

We are opening the doors of The National Archives' repositories to offer you the chance to go behind the scenes. Discover how we keep and maintain the record for future generations and explore some of the hidden gems in our collections.

Please book in advance for these tours:

10:00-11:00, 11:00-12:00, 12:00-13:00, 13:00-14:00, 14:00-15:00, 15:00-16:00

There is no need to book for these tours, spaces will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis on the day:

10:30-11:30, 11:30-12:30, 12:30-13:30, 13:30-14:30, 14:30-15:30

All tours will meet near the welcome desk. Please arrive 15 minutes early for your tour.


From roof top to sub-basement tours

These tours will visit the roof walkway on the top of the building and the lower basement plant room underneath.

Both areas are above and below levels served by lifts and to reach the roof involves climbing two flights of stairs, while descending to the lower basement involves one flight of steps. These steps, together with the walking involved, may impede anyone with mobility challenges.

Please book in advance for these tours:

10:00-11:00, 11:00-12:00, 12:00-13:00, 13:00-14:00, 14:00-15:00, 15:00-16:00

There is no need to book for these tours, spaces will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis on the day:

10:30-11:30, 11:30-12:30, 12:30-13:30, 13:30-14:30, 14:30-15:30

All tours will meet near the welcome desk. Please arrive 15 minutes early for your tour.


Workshop

Collection Care studio

The Collection Care department will demonstrate how they use science and art to care for paper, parchment, photographs and wax seals.

Please book in advance for these workshops:

10:30-11:15, 13:00-13:45, 15:30-16:15

There is no need to book for these workshops, spaces will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis on the day:

11:45-12:30, 14:15-15:00

Workshops will meet near the welcome desk. Please arrive 15 minutes early.


Talks

The Public Record Office, Kew: Its place in British Architecture of the 1970s

10:00-10:40 and 14:00-14:40

In his illustrated talk, local architect and architectural historian Paul Velluet will explore the design of the Public Record Office building at Kew – the original part of the present National Archives complex – and its relationship with other major, public-sector projects being designed and built in the United Kingdom in the late sixties and seventies. His talk will also look at the design of the building in relation to the work of the former Property Services Agency being undertaken at this period and at the varying attitudes to context which that work reflects.

Some tickets will be available on the day and some are available in advance. Please pre-book to reserve a space.

1977: Chaos, confrontation and celebration

10:00-10:40 and 13:00-13:40

1977 was a year of intense activity in the UK: a media frenzy surrounded the Sex Pistols and the punk rock explosion, there were political clashes over the Lib-Lab pack, protests and civil disturbances on the streets butt at the same time, the Silver Jubilee, marking the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession, was celebrated throughout the UK and Commonwealth realms. Drawing on TNA’s rich archives, Principal Contemporary Specialist Mark Dunton reviews a tumultuous year.

Some tickets will be available on the day and some are available in advance. Please pre-book to reserve a space.

Fort Ruskin, flares and fetes: Richmond and Kew in the 1970s

11:00-11:40 and 15:00-15:40

Simon Fowler discusses how Richmond and Kew changed during the 1970s. Local people liked to think that the town stood apart from the traumatic events that convulsed the rest of the country. But was this the case?

1977: Hope, hijacking and hysteria

11:00-11:40 and 13:00-13:40

Looking at Foreign and Commonwealth Office annual reviews, James Cronan takes us through 1977 as seen through the eyes of British diplomats across the world. Find out what the British Ambassador really thought of Jimmy Carter, newly elected as President of the United States, witness the ground breaking meeting in Jerusalem between Presidents Sadat of Egypt and Begin of Israel, discover how Britain was viewed by our partners in the EEC and learn about the hijacking of Lufthansa flight 181 from Mallorca and the race riots in Bermuda. Was hope borne out, or have things gone full circle?

Some tickets will be available on the day and some are available in advance. Please pre-book to reserve a space.

The changing face of Kew

12:00-12:40 and 15:00-15:40

Paul Davies, Operations Director for The National Archives and a resident of Kew, will talk about the history of The National Archives’ site. Previously known as Kew Meadows, it played an important role in both world wars and housed the Ministry of Labour and an experimental open-plan office building before the arrival of the Public Record Office almost 40 years ago. He will talk about the 1990s extension of what has now become The National Archives and the internal remodelling of some of the public access areas, and will bring us up to date with what has been happening with the neighbouring former Inland Revenue site.

Some tickets will be available on the day and some are available in advance. Please pre-book to reserve a space.

Conservation then and now: From mummified rats to infrared light and x-rays

12:00-12:40 and 14:00-14:40

One of the more unusual items in The National Archives’ collection is a mummified rat, used in the 1830s by Henry Cole to campaign to ‘keep safely the public records’. Today the repositories in Kew continue to do just that, archiving more than 180km of paper, parchment, photographs, textiles and plastics.

The approach taken by the Collection Care department has changed since the 1830s, when records were repaired on demand. Today a more proactive approach is underpinned by scientific research. Senior conservator Jacqueline Moon will highlight work on individual "iconic" objects and collections of thousands of items, as well as preservation projects and the exhibitions and loans programme, using images and a short film.

Some tickets will be available on the day and some are available in advance. Please pre-book to reserve a space.


We run an exciting range of events and exhibitions on a wide variety of topics. For more details, visit nationalarchives.gov.uk/whatson.

Entrance to The National Archives is free and there is no need to book, see nationalarchives.gov.uk/visit for more information.

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The National Archives

Bessant Drive

Kew

TW9 4DU

United Kingdom

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