The Foundation staff have been monitoring the situation closely since the Coronavirus crisis worsened in the western hemisphere in March.
We have been reluctant to proceed too quickly to change arrangements for our 2020 research programme given the huge uncertainty globally as to how the pandemic is evolving and will play out as fears of a second wave emerge. There is still great uncertainty. We believe it is right always to be guided by the public health advice and the safety of staff and participants is paramount.
As you may know the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland has been closed since mid March (as have many other archives). We learned this week that PRONI will open in a limited capacity on 24 August.
The arrangements will be very restrictive, PRONI indicated the following to us:
… the service will be much reduced. We will only be operating the Reading Room, however self-service microfilm readers have been moved there as well. It will be by appointment only, slots restricted to no more than one a week per person, and slightly reduced opening hours to the public. Document orders will need to be made in advance. There will also be no reader registration on reopening. All of this will be subject to ongoing review.
PRONI also made it clear that group visits will not be an option until after the pandemic is over.
In light of this latest advice from PRONI we feel we have no other choice but to postpone our 2020 programmes. In doing so we have not taken this step lightly, but we are aware those who had registered for our programmes may be thinking about it in respect of your travel and other plans.
In addition, even though we had been willing to proceed as planned we also cannot guarantee that the various tourist attractions and other archives will be able to accommodate visitors.
We waited as long as possible for clarity on the situation regarding access to the archives but given the advice recently received we want to communicate this to you as quickly as possible.
Booking advice for our 2021 programmes will be made available shortly