University Archivist and Records Manager Sarah Wickham
Already a key centre for the study of topics ranging from the history of education to the rise of Labour and the birth of Rugby League, the University of Huddersfield is now poised to develop a new £1.7 million Archives Centre that will have space and facilities to meet demand from huge numbers of new users and offer scope for special activities.
There will be more than one-and-a-half kilometres of shelving, enough to accommodate the 60,000 books and documents in the collections housed by the University’s Archives and Special Collections Service. But there will also be an extensive programme of digitising documents, so that researchers around the world will have instant on-line access to material.
The new Archives Centre will occupy two levels of space in the University’s Central Services Building that are currently home to a large cafeteria-restaurant and a conference venue. When the University’s new £21 million Learning and Leisure Centre is completed in 2014, these areas will be vacated and cleared for redevelopment.
Meanwhile, the Heritage Lottery Fund has already awarded £77,800 for the first phase of the Archives Centre project.
“Stage One consists of all the planning and prioritising, doing more work on audiences and drawing up the plans and the designs for the refurbishment,” says Sarah Wickham, who is University Archivist and Records Manager, currently on secondment as project manager for the new development.
During 2013, there will be a second HLF application for the sum of £1.5 million. When this is awarded, the University will also make a contribution, and the new Archives Centre will be developed at cost of £1.7 million. The refurbishment will be completed during 2014 and the programme of cataloguing, digitisation and activities will continue until 2016.
The vastly-increased space in the new Archives Centre will be accompanied by extended opening hours, so that the collections are much more accessible. There will also be space and funding for exhibitions and educational activities.
“A lot of what is being done in Stage One is about consultation, finding out what people want to use our archives for. We are working closely with West Yorkshire Archives Service and Kirklees Museums,” said Sarah Wickham.
“We are hoping that large numbers of the public will use the new Centre – and not just local people. Aspects such as the Rugby League archive and the contemporary music collections are obviously of interest way beyond Huddersfield.”
Researchers unable to visit the Archives Centre will be able to access increasing amounts of the material online, free of charge, as the result of an in-house digitisation programme now underway.
But online research will never supersede the hands-on archive experience, according to Sarah Wickham.
“There is no substitute for touching something that is decades-old, maybe handwritten. And for some aspects of research, the actual make-up of a document is important in itself.”
Story originally published at http://www.hud.ac.uk/news/featuredstories/kickstartfor17millionarchivescentre.php