Welcome to my first and last blog post!
This is a week of mixed feelings for me, because after five years leading the York Archives & Local History team (in the past few months jointly with Victoria Hoyle) I am now leaving to take up a new post as Project Curator at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden.
My last day in the office at York will be Thursday 5th June, so please accept my apologies for making my farewells via this blog, as it’s just not possible individually to contact everyone on York who I’ve met the last five years. The city archives has come a long way since 2009, and so many people in and around the city have been instrumental in getting us to where we are now.
In 2009 there was some doubt that we could succeed in our plans to apply to the Heritage Lottery Find for support for the “Gateway to History” project. And now here we are – only a few months away from re-opening a refreshed and extended city centre archive in York Explore which will be open to many more people than ever before in its history. So, to everyone who has helped the project at any stage with advice, or by attending a consultation session or sending in your views – thank you!
As you will have seen, York Explore has now closed for the final and most extensive stage of the Gateway to History project building work. From now until late autumn our contractors William Birch will be lifting and repairing the ground floor wooden parquet floor, replacing our life-expired heating system boiler; repairing the main slate roof for the first time since 1927, and completing the construction and fitting out of the new first floor archive spaces. It will all look different and yet reassuringly the same when it re-opens.
I had a look round the building last month before the closure. The main difference which you will see externally is, of course, the new environmentally-controlled archive vault which is being built on top of the children’s library and cafe wing of York Explore. The wooden carcass of this is now in place, sitting on the hefty load-bearing steel framework that was lifted into place by our big crane earlier in the year.
The new vault is linked to the existing building by a connecting lobby and ramp, which exits into the existing first floor landing via one of the mysterious corner doors.
One of the related pieces of work we are doing is to improve the look and feel of that first floor landing by de-cluttering the space, and improving the lighting of the glass dome.
As you can see, when I climbed up into the roof space, at some point in the past someone decided that the best way to light this dome was with three aggressively orange sodium lights which we will be replacing with softer illumination.
Whilst up in the roof space, I discovered a couple of the gratifying little surprises which York Explore can spring on you. Firstly, you’ll all be glad to see that the roof is being held up by proudly British steel:
And then, on the internal wall which supports the roof of the central bay of the building, generations of builders and maintenance workers have left a dated record of their presence:
As you can imagine, as an archivist I found this record of the past particularly striking. If only some of these workers could come back and see how we are taking the building into the 21st century for new generations of users.
One of my regrets about leaving is that I won’t get the chance to add my own initials to the wall. So I’ll just have to content myself with the knowledge that I’ve made my mark in other ways.
Thank you all, and goodbye.