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Treasure Trove of Stored Documents

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Treasure Trove of Stored Documents

Post by leauk on 8/9/2010, 08:37

Justice Minister Lord McNally visited the unusual home of thousands of important and historical documents – a salt mine 150 metres underground.

The records management company DeepStore, which operates from Winsford Rock Salt Mine in Cheshire, stores 31km of documents on behalf of The National Archives.

Information stored in the salt mine includes sixteenth century court pleas and the naval service records of two distinguished First World War veterans - Henry Allingham, who was one of the last surviving First World War servicemen, and Claude Stanley Choules, the only surviving veteran in the world to have served in both world wars. These and many of the documents held in the deep storage facility have been digitalised and can be viewed on-line on The National Archives’ website.

The deep storage facility was created when millions of tonnes of salt were removed from Salt Union’s rock salt mine. The unique storage space is the size of 700 football pitches, stretches to 100 miles and is still growing as approximately one million tonnes of salt is mined every year. It is an ideal storage facility for documents as it has consistent temperature and humidity levels and is naturally free from several dangers – such as ultraviolet light, rodents and flooding.

Visiting Winsford Rock Salt Mine Lord McNally said:

'It is amazing to think that 150 metres underground is a treasure trove of interesting and historical documents belonging to the nation, all safely and securely stored for use now and preserved for future generations.

'The deep storage facility at Winsford Rock Salt Mine provides an innovative approach to safeguarding information and the on-line copies offer the public the opportunity to access thousands of historical documents and a huge variety of interesting records. This enhances transparency by making more information accessible to everyone, something the Government is strongly committed to.'

After visiting Winsford Rock Salt Mine, Lord McNally visited the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in Wilmslow where he met the Information Commissioner Christopher Graham and the ICO’s customer service telephone helpline team. The ICO’s helpline is responsible for answering a wide range of enquiries from the public and from organisations about compliance with the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

The ICO’s helpline received over 210,000 calls last year, the vast majority of which were enquiries about the Data Protection Act. The visit enabled Lord McNally to learn more about the types of questions asked and the issues being raised by members of the public and businesses – of particular relevance at the current time given the Government’s Call for Evidence on data protection launched last month. This seeks views on how the Data Protection Act and European Directive on Data Protection are working, the impact of the Data Protection Act on individuals and businesses, and whether the current powers and penalties of the Information Commissioner should be strengthened.

Peter Jackson MIBA, FBII, MIAPI, DipAPI, LLB(Hons)
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