Thin End of the Wedge? Online Security and Research “overseas”

March 30, 2022 at 12:51 pm (europe, news, research) (, , , )


Today, wishing to look up a citation for a drawing done, surely by one of the Smith sisters during their occupation of Tring Park (so, late 1820s most likely, but, depending on WHICH of the six sisters, perhaps into the early 1830s), I could not make the Hampshire Record Office catalogue actually SEARCH.

Was/Is it down?

I wasn’t sure that it wasn’t MY internet connection; me or them; or whatever??

I now searched rather than use my “book-marked” link, just in case there had been an update (although the SITE came up; it just didn’t actually SEARCH).

I clicked on the Hampshire Archives and Local Studies link on google – and got a “This site can’t be reached” error message. Again, was it my connection??

I clicked on the link for their Facebook page. And was ASTONISHED to see the following “pinned” to the site since March 16 (2022):

* * * * *

“As part of our current online security measures, connections are blocked to Hampshire County Council webpages from countries outside the UK, EU, and European Economic Area (EEA).”

* * * * *

The link, by the way, they supply does bring up the catalogue – but it still wasn’t searching for me.

My great fear, of course, is that “Online Security Measures” of THIS sort will bring my research to a screeching halt. The Hampshire Record Office is one of “the” biggest stash of Smith & Gosling-related stuff! And any collapse of online access really closes down my ability to find further items relating to my research, which (lately) has been done by a locum whenever I’ve located something I absolutely had to CONSULT and couldn’t do in person.

I have located, to date, items like diaries, drawings, and letters in countries as far apart as the U.S., the U.K., Italy, Australia. If I can’t SEARCH, I cannot FIND.

I won’t be alone… I will be in good company, I’m sure.

I haven’t looked to see what other archives this same directive affects – I’m sure HRO is not alone (so many use the same “Calm” catalogue structure).

Believe me, I _know_ about security vulnerability – but closing ACCESS from countries NOT in “your neighbourhood” cannot be the solution! Not for archives, especially.

I might say, given past access denied, this is NOT the first time that the likes of the U.S. has come in for such denial to freely available data. Obviously, those few (I can think of access to Queen Victoria’s Diaries), will now be joined by the likes of PUBLIC Archives.

Thin end of the wedge, indeed. Especially for those of us who use the nomenclature of “Independent” researcher. Some sites cannot even be “purchased” for use by individuals (I think especially of the GALE databases).

It has been said before, Two Countries DIVIDED by a common language. The UK really has shut “US” out with this move.

I hope that in the future there will be access at least through a “sign in” registration. But for now, I’m waiting to get home to look at my downloaded Austen Leigh archive information – and waiting for a sign that the catalogue was actually DOWN today (about 5 PM UK time) [I will update this, should that be the case]. I rather have my doubts, but would LOVE to be pleasantly surprised.

UPDATE: 90-minutes later and the SEARCH is actually working. And I found the citation for the drawing of Tring Park’s room. Lessens, a bit, the block of items beyond the HRO online catalogue, but I fear it’s just a matter of time…

further UPDATE (July 2022): I’ve been able, still, to access the full catalogue.

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