Leaking dome at National Records of Scotland causes massive damage to precious historical documents

Some of Scotland’s precious and irreplaceable historical records have been damaged after torrents of rain leaked in through a dome which has needed repair work for a number of years.

The National Records Scotland building on Edinburgh's Princes Street. Picture: Richard Rogerson/Creative Commons 2.0

The damage to a host of documents, including marriage and death certificates dating from 1800 occurred last Tuesday night at the National Records of Scotland (NRS) on Princes Street, following hours of torrential rain and thunder storms swept large parts of Scotland.

Former employees said the dome, at the back of the building, had been leaking for many years but that despite it being reported on many occasions by a large number of staff it was not given priority for repair.

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Checks carried out since the flood damage have revealed that reports of the leaks had not been forwarded to the relevant department.

The National Records Scotland building on Edinburgh's Princes Street. Picture: Richard Rogerson/Creative Commons 2.0

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It is understood the problem was discovered by the Register of Scotland and staff last Wednesday morning when they turned up for work.

The office went in to “emergency” mode as more leaks had developed.

Staff then spent the rest of the day moving heritage documents from “high risk” areas to safe locations, but it is believed a number of records have been soaked to such an extent they may not be able to be salvaged.

Last Friday civil servants were e-mailed as a plea went out for volunteers to give their telephone numbers so that they could be contacted at short notice to come in and help safeguard documents if there was more rain at the weekend.

The Met Office issued weather warnings for thunderstorms and heavy rain from last Friday into early this week for large parts of Scotland.

The official “be aware” warning was in place from 7pm last Friday until 10am the following day. In a statement the NRS admitted some damage had been done, water had got into the building and sometimes it relied on staff volunteers.

A spokeswoman at NRS said: “A small number of marriage, death, and still birth records from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century were slightly affected by water.

“There was no loss of information as we have robust procedures for dealing with incidents which have the potential to affect our records and documents. These procedures, which include a team of volunteer staff being on stand-by to respond if necessary, were implemented. All records held in New Register House have been digitised and where open to public access, can be accessed online via our ScotlandsPeople website.”

NRS holds records spanning the 12th to the 21st centuries along with many local and private archives.