The end of November saw the final stages of Edinburgh City Archives’ move of the major part of its archival holdings into a new purpose-built storage facility at its Murrayburn repository.
The move comes in the wake of a Friendly Audit of Edinburgh City Archives which was undertaken by the National Archives of Scotland in 2005 and which found the existing storage facilities deficient in most of the assessed areas. On the back of the report and survey, a Business Recovery Plan, covering all aspects of the service, was drawn up and approved by the Council in 2009. Following on from this, staff undertook a Preservation Assessment Survey in August 2010 which served not only to confirm the Report’s findings but identify storage problems in greater detail. One of the central objectives of the Recovery Plan, which sets out detailed measurable and time-scaled actions over a five year period, is to tackle the storage accommodation issues.
The new repository offers accommodation for the City’s records which conforms as closely as possible to the guidelines set down in British Standard BS5454: 2000 Recommendations for the storage and exhibition of archival documents. The temperature and relative humidity of the repository environment are now monitored and controlled and the storage furniture is archival standard, electric mobile shelving on two levels with expansion space for future deposits of records.
The relocation of the archives to the new store was a mammoth task requiring much preparation and planning. The move itself took well over two months, saw staff directing and working alongside a small team of removal men, using a large lorry and packing and unloading several hundred crates and using similar volumes of numbered sticky labels to keep track of the ‘what’ and the ‘where’! Additionally the spreadsheets staff had already prepared in conjunction with highlighter pens to record progress ensured that the correct records were moved at the right time, and finally located on pre-allocated shelving in the new store.
Edinburgh City Archives’ old repository now looks a shadow of its former self; a near empty shell devoid of all its past character and its wonderful archives. By contrast, the new repository is positively gleaming and Edinburgh’s unique archival heritage is housed in an environment fit for purpose and capable of protecting it for present and future generations of archive users.
We still have a good way to go to ensure that everything is properly organised and stored and readily accessible. A priority is the creation of a new electronic locations guide for the archives which will need each shelf to be given its own unique identifier; with over 9000 shelves in the new facility this will involve a very large labelling job for some lucky individual – any volunteers?!