Awards ceremony

team of the year

Last week our parent department Computing and Library Services held its first ever awards ceremony.  After an exceptionally busy year of opening Heritage Quay, moving in, completing the catalogue for around 50% of the collections, developing events and other programming, and all the other things going on in our lives, I was really proud that the team were the runners up as the Team of the Year!  Our amazing colleagues in the Admin Office who keep the whole department running smoothly were the well-deserved winners.

Harriet, one of our two Archives Assistants, was also the runner up in the Best Customer Service category – any of our users who visit the searchroom or use our enquiry services will have encountered our friendly and helpful Assistants.  As a team we try to be responsive to the needs of our users – so if we got something wrong for you (or did something right!) please take the opportunity to let us know so that we can resolve it.

Calling all audiophiles!

The Heritage Quay Listening Room is now open for researchers to explore over 90 years of music and sounds recordings from the archive!

Heritage Quay Listening Room
Heritage Quay Listening Room

Music forms one of the most important strengths of the Heritage Quay collections and this is reflected by the sheer volume of audio recordings found within the archive. The British Music Collection itself contains over 21,000 individual recordings of 20th and 21st century British classical/art music, and the archive also holds extensive collections of sound recordings that relate to viol music, jazz, and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival hcmf//.

The volume and diversity of the recordings is also reflected by the variety of different audio formats that the recordings are stored on. The Heritage Quay Listening Room has been equipped with a range of professional playback and digitisation equipment to enable the long term access of these vital records into the future, regardless of format.


Analogue vinyl and audio cassette formats can be played and digitised to ensure preservation and to promote access

Access to the audio and written records of a collection allows us to get even closer to the subject; not just seeing/touching history but hearing it too!


The Listening Room is open to researchers during search room opening hours. Details about visiting the service can be found here.

Open for Researchers!

Today is the first day our new searchroom is open to researchers in Heritage Quay (our exploration space is sort of unofficially open, as our first exhibition is not installed until Wednesday). We’ve already had a number of bookings from people eager to jump back into researching our collections, and as ever, Rugby League and our political and music collections are proving popular with early researchers.

Our first researcher has in fact come from the other side of the world to look at the RFL archive! Has has not, of course, come specifically just to look at our archive (however important and exciting we believe ourselves to be!), it happens to be a happy coincidence that we have opened in time for him to visit us before he goes back to New Zealand. David Colquhoun is an historian who is writing a biography of New Zealand born rugby player, and successful all-round sportsman George Smith, and is doing research in archives across the North of England as part of his biography project. You can read more about this on his blog which is linked above. As he has a background working in libraries and archives, we’ve been grateful for his patience and professional understanding during our first morning!

David Colquhoun carrying our research in the RFL archives
David Colquhoun carrying our research in the RFL archives

We’ve already got a number of appointments booked in over the next couple of weeks and have had a few people walk in to the searchroom to make inquiries about collections which is great news as it seems the word about Heritage Quay is already spreading. This week is a bit of a soft opening as we work through our teething troubles and test our procedures, but if you’d like to see us up and running with the big curvy screen, multi-touch tables and fully installed, student-curated exhibition on the history of the university then please do pop in anytime from Tuesday 21st October. If you’d like to speak to one of the Archivists just pop into the searchroom and ask us, and we’d be happy to help!

Are we nearly there yet?

I was able to make a site visit to Heritage Quay last week. The end is in sight I think! – a lot has changed since I was last on site in June.

Group space
Group space
Serious air handling plant for PD5454:2012 storage environment
Serious air handling plant for PD5454:2012 storage environment
Main repository - resin floor ready for installation of shelving
Main repository – resin floor ready for installation of shelving
View of Huddersfield Narrow Canal from our office
View of Huddersfield Narrow Canal from our office
Looking across the office and searchroom into the exploration space
Looking across the office and searchroom into the exploration space

Noise in the archives!

Sadly the picture below doesn’t capture the excitement with which I unwrapped this latest addition to our service! As part of the fantastic new facilities in Heritage Quay we will have a dedicated Listening Room that will allow us to make thousands of archival audio recordings fully accessible to our users for the first time. With a turntable and specialised PC (with a digital audio workstation) our users will be able to listen to vinyl and digital archival recordings to their heart’s content.

HQ Tape deck

Meanwhile the significance of this tape deck reflects the fact that a large proportion of our audio recordings are currently stored on obsolete cassette formats that place these unique audio records at significant risk. Good quality playing equipment for such formats is becoming increasingly difficult to source and the fragile nature of cassette tape increases the risk of damage and the loss of these vital records for future generations. In response to this, our listening room will be equipped with archival quality digitisation equipment that will allow us to migrate these records onto much safer and more stable formats, thereby ensuring their continued access into the future (when subject to our professional collections management procedures obviously!). However the value of undertaking this digitisation work is not just limited to the improved preservation of the recordings. Migrating these records to digital formats will allow us to increase access to them and enable our users to engage with them in far greater and more diverse ways.

Plans are being devised as I speak, but I’m sure they’ll be involving our exploration space and the big curvy screen, not forgetting our Participation and Engagement Officer of course!

The Big Curvy Screen!

We’ve been busy working away to prepare digital scans and photographs to appear on the ‘big curvy screen’ and the digital exploration tables at Heritage Quay in October.

The ‘big curvy screen’ will use motion sensor technology to allow exploration of highlights from the collections – instead of pressing buttons visitors will be able to use their hands and arms to control what is visible on the screen. This type of technology is probably familiar to fans of video games but is a new innovation for a heritage setting so we’re very excited!

If you haven’t seen the ‘big curvy screen’ check out the architect’s fly-through for a preview of the screen and Wide Sky Design’s blog for the technology prototype development … then come and see if for real in the autumn!