The storm before the calm

Is it really that long since my last post? Oh dear, time has flown. Since then I have unpacked, sorted, shelved and scanned the barcodes of over 850 boxes. I keep taking pictures to post on here, and then before I get the chance to put them online I unpack more boxes and so take more recent pictures and so want to put them up instead!


Four out of thirty-odd large shelving units.

Here are the photos from last week – the shelves are filling up nicely. The rollcages that I receive are packed with a jumble of boxes packed in for space efficiency that I then need to separate out into clusters of accessions, which I group around my space in a sensible fashion. Hopefully I’ve just two more half-lorry load deliveries to go.

Yep - exactly the same roll cages that you see used for supermarket deliveries.

Yep – exactly the same roll cages that you see used for supermarket deliveries.

It’s time consuming and hard work, but physically sorting the boxes is a helpful “pass through” of the physical material for me on a macro scale. I can see the accessions fitting into my structure, and am surprised by the size of some of them, such as our civic defence and environmental health files. It’s frustrating that I can’t get properly stuck in yet, but at least I’m engaging with the records on a personal level.

Card indexes from various plan collections

Some of the legacy item-level finding aids – original indexes that correlate to various civic plan collections

The art gallery decant should be finished in early June, which means I’ll have not only the civic records but also the furniture and preservation supplies that I need to be able to setup ready for the volunteers. After working on my own for over a month to prep everything, it will be great to be joined by a group of passionate local people of varied ages and experiences to get our hands dirty together working with this collection.

I can’t wait to have the team in place, and will be organising a training day as soon as the workroom is finally clear of pallets and rollcages. Hopefully they’ll let me introduce them to you all on here, and join in this blogging journey by pointing out what catches their eyes as they physically process the documents.


Elsewhere in the Libraries and Archives department, the exploration of whether we might become a social enterprise continues to develop. It’s a long and complicated process, so our head of service Fiona Williams is blogging about it at . It’s a good place to find out about the bigger picture, or ask her any questions, or you can pop into a library to read the display boards and pass on any comments in person.

Thank-you for your patience with my infrequent postings. I really hope the calm is just round the corner. Moving an archive is a big task, but makes sense as part of this reinvigoration and reworking of access to all our collections for the 21st century: no pain, no gain!

Archives on shelf = peaceful. Archives in transit = hard work!


Move joy mezzanine


move before


Let’s start with a sign of the times. Do you remember the York Press article about the project that was out in the Autumn? The top picture is that of me standing in the mezzanine, pondering, surrounded my massive plan chests and towering stacks of plans of bridges. Well it’s now completely empty!

I think the slightly maniac expression on Joy’s face tells the story of that move! Part of that story includes our biggest plan chest, which must have actually been assembled on the mezzanine in the first place, as it didn’t fit through any of the doors. Here’s a pic of it being loaded onto the lorry after being taken apart and put together again, heading off to Deepstore.

move chest outside

So what about my end? Here’s what the strongroom looked like a week ago. These racks are far from ideal, only having 3 tiers, but are very strong which is really the main thing.


On Monday my first delivery turned up as expected, and was loaded into the strongroom without fuss – this is a much more accessible building!


This is what I was left with – pallets loaded with crates, filled with volumes. We’re using the crates for items that won’t fit into boxes. They have been kindly lent to us by the National Railway Museum, and are proving very useful. They are extremely heavy so I’ve had help putting them onto the bottom tier for now. Then I’ll have to unpack some because they take up a huge amount of space on my shelves in an inefficient way.


I’ve taken delivery of about 80 crates, all the rest should now be archive boxes packed in roll cages. Much more manageable. I’m booked in to get 3 deliveries a fortnight, and will be busy in between unpacking. Next week I’ll start making myself a record of all the locations. Every item (whether a crate, box or wrapped single item) has been given a barcode. With the aid of a usb barcode reader and a spreadsheet I’ll be able to build a record of what is where – essential for the intellectual and physical control of the archive.

So that was our week, how about yours?