The structure of the '30 nm' chromatin fibre has eluded us for 30 years and remains a major unsolved problem in biology. Progress during the past year has led to the proposal of two significantly different models: one derived from the crystal structure of a four-nucleosome core array lacking the linker histone and the other, much more compact structure, derived from electron microscopy analysis of long nucleosome arrays containing the linker histone. The first model is of the two-start helix type, the second a one-start helix with interdigitated nucleosomes. These models provide new evidence that the topology and compactness of the '30 nm' chromatin fibre structure are regulated by the linker histone. The structural information also provides insights into the mechanisms by which the degree of chromatin compaction might be regulated by histone composition and post-transcriptional modifications.