Giving archives a makeover!

With the launch of Heritage Quay just months away, we are currently very busily planning of the move of our collections from their existing (and inadequate) accommodation, to the brand new facilities of Heritage Quay that will meet national and international archival standards. And though, as you might imagine, lots of the preparatory work involved in this planning process consists of creating detailed lists of collections’ locations, a just as important element that I am currently engaged in is the preservation and repackaging of collections prior to the move.

On this subject we might sound like a broken record, but the importance of ensuring that archival records are kept in the best possible conditions really cannot be underestimated, and this is one of the most important reasons behind our current HLF project. As archivists we are in the very strange position that our primary objective of ensuring that our collections will last forever(!) is probably an impossible task when thought of in terms of such an infinite timescale! However when we talk about the timescales for preserving our collections, most archive professionals prefer to use the term ‘in perpetuity’, which we take to mean that we pass our collections onto our successors in the best possible condition, so that they are able to do the same.

Stongroom, to be repackaged!
Stongroom, to be repackaged!
Strongroom, repackaged collections
Strongroom, repackaged collections

Seen from this perspective, some of our more mundane and relatively simple tasks, such as cleaning records, removing them from dirty/decaying containers and repackaging them in acid-free archival quality materials, take on a far greater significance. Also the importance of accurately labelling and numbering records during this process cannot be underestimated, because an archival record being irretrievable poses just as big a risk to the vital information that it contains as the physical deterioration of the record itself.

Huddersfield Technical College part-time student reports being repackaged out of decaying box files
Huddersfield Technical College part-time student reports being repackaged out of decaying box files
Repackaged British Music Collection box, all neat and shiny - so satisfying!
Repackaged British Music Collection box, all neat and shiny – so satisfying!

And so these are the positive thoughts that keep us motivated as we work our way through the never-ending but vital re-packaging, re-boxing and numbering work in preparation for the big move! Not long to go now…. and so much to do!

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