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Thursday 23 February 2017

News: How many people can fit into General Register House?

The answer is the biggest crowd ever seen in the building - 2,700 visitors came to see the newly-refurbished General Register House on Doors Open Day, Saturday 27 September.

Robert Adam’s neoclassical masterpiece, begun in 1774, and still home to the National Archives of Scotland, has been given a makeover to accommodate the major part of the new ScotlandsPeople Centre for Scottish family history. Many people wanted to see how the building now looks inside.

Visitors in General Register House during Doors Open Day 2008

The majority of visitors went away very impressed, although perhaps not the person who arrived, luggage in hand, looking for the railway station. As a result of seeing what is on offer there has been an increase in demand for the ScotlandsPeople ‘taster’ sessions.

The centrepiece remains the magnificent rotunda or dome (1789), which Adam modelled on the Pantheon in Rome. Our rare statue of George III (1794) which has been cleaned and conserved, also attracted attention. Register House also boasts another rotunda, originally for storing records, the Matheson Dome.

A third rotunda was also on show next door in New Register House (Robert Matheson, 1861). NRH houses the General Register Office for Scotland, the Court of the Lord Lyon, and part of the family history centre, and it attracted 1,300 people, making a joint total of 4,000.

Activities in General Register House included tours, the resources of the ScotlandsPeople Centre and of NAS. The ‘records roadshow’ brought to light some interesting family papers, and we advised their owners about looking after them, and suggested suitable archives to those wishing to deposit them.

In the Historical Search Room a display of rare printed items, and the original royal ‘licence to print’ of 1507, marked the 500th anniversary of printing in Scotland. A conservation display showed the traditional structure and materials of books, including a facsimile of an important medieval book held in NAS, the original of which was also on show. Younger visitors were entertained with education activities, involving both interactive learning and hands-on fun with pencils and paper.

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Page last updated: Friday 19 June 2008

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