National treasure

Regarding Stephen McGinty's experience on visiting the National Archives at Kew (your report, 24 July), it reminded me of a visit I made to the US Library of Congress some years ago.

In the manuscript room, an armed guard sat on a dais above researchers - just in case some razorblade fiend cut out the signatures of the famous from letters. I've never been so nervous of the consequences of giving the wrong impression.

Then asking for an obscure novel by a Scottish exile, I was sent upstairs to a locked room with an attendant. On arrival, the curator seemed embarrassed and fidgety and asked what I wanted. I gave the name of the author and title of the book. The curator heaved a sigh of relief. He said that readers usually only came to see Playboy in that Fort Knox room.

The lengths some nations go, as Mr McGinty said, to protect their heritage.


Arran View Gardens

Seamill, West Kilbride,