Video: Inside the vaults of Belfast’s Public Record Office

An archivist at Belfast’s Public Records Office has urged the public to make use of the millions of documents preserved within its vast vaults.

Over the last week, the News Letter has been reporting on some of the hundreds of Government files from 1986 which have just been declassified at the building in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.

PRONI Public Records Office Northern Ireland files secret files.

PRONI Public Records Office Northern Ireland files secret files.

But as well as its stock of Government documents, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) holds enormous quantities of documentation from private citizens such as artists or landowners, political parties, churches and myriad other sources.

Graham Jackson, an archivist at PRONI, acknowledged that in an age of public sector austerity, some people may not see the value in funding such an extensive archive.

But he said: “The point is that we are keeping the records of the country, irrespective of politics, beyond the border, we’re keeping the records of Northern Ireland, past and present.

“We have a duty to make sure we look after them...and there’s no point in looking after these [documents] and keeping them safe from fire and flood if we don’t make them available.

“So it’s a two-pronged approach for the archivist and we have to make them available to the citizen.”