It’s time to Explore Your Archive!

This week the Explore Your Archive campaign is running across the UK and Ireland. This annual campaign was launched last year by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland) to ‘raise awareness of archives, their value to society and the impact they have on individual lives.’ Its aim is to promote archives to people who have previously never interacted with them, through a week-long programme of events and activities. Click on the video below to watch the advertisement for this year’s campaign:

Obviously we would have wanted to take part in Explore Your Archive this year, but as the building phase of the York: Gateway to History project hasn’t quite finished yet we are not able to offer tours of the new service or any exhibitions at the moment. Never fear, though, as yesterday I put on my hard hat and high vis jacket and took my camera to York Explore to give you a virtual tour of the new public spaces instead…

You are now entering the world of Archives and Local History…
When you arrive on the first floor landing at York Explore, you’ll see we’ve cleaned and re-grouted the floor tiles, and installed a new SmartTV screen next to the entrance to Archives and Local History, which we will use to provide useful information about our services and to advertise events. We have a similar screen on the other side of the landing for people using the lift.

First floor landing

We have cleaned the landing and installed new benches to make it a more welcoming space.

Stop 1…Local History
This is the first room you come to in the new service, and as well as housing our Local History collections it is also the Quiet Study space for the library. We’ve installed a new staff desk, refurbished the bookcases, the parquet floor and some of the existing tables and chairs and laid a new carpet. There’s also new lighting, and behind the scenes we have installed a new ventilation system to regulate the temperature better. We are currently awaiting the delivery of six new height-adjustable desks, chairs and some additional bookcases, so when it’s finished the room will have space for 32 people, including four using public network PCs. The room will also be equipped with two computers for searching the library and archives catalogues, a SmartTV screen and a walk-up book scanner. The bookcases are currently empty, but I promise we will have the books on the shelves by 5th January!

Reception desk

The new staff reception desk in Local History

Local History

Not all the furniture has arrived yet but it is already looking great!


…and on your left
The new Archives Reading Room is located to the left of the staff desk as you enter Archives and Local History, and is now complete with a stunning glass door for security. The room will accommodate 12 archives users at once, and also has a new staff desk. By the time we open it will also have a SmartTV screen, book scanner and a height-adjustable digitisation table with a tripod for people wanting to photograph archives. We have managed to get the periodicals back on the shelves in this space already, and we will also have some council minutes, accounts and early electoral registers on open access for the first time.

Reading Room Door

Entry to the Archives Reading Room is through our new glass door.

Archives Reading Room

Part of the Archives Reading Room.

Through to…Family History
Our new Family History room is at the other end of Local History, in a space which was previously closed to the public. It’s also the room that has undergone the biggest transformation, as we have removed the old shelving and installed a mezzanine level which will hold a large table and chairs. It’s not the easiest space to photograph given its height, so rather than relying on my photography you might need to visit it for yourselves to see what a great room it is! The Family History room will also have three public network PCs, three new digital microfilm readers and a SmartTV, plus some comfortable chairs and tables for anyone wanting to use their own laptop or tablet to access the library Wifi.

Mezzanine

The new mezzanine structure – it’s a feat of engineering!

PC tables

Our new desks awaiting their PC’s and microfilm readers

…and finally…
Our final port of call on this whistle-stop tour is most likely the one you have all been waiting for…the inside of the ‘gold box’. I can confirm that the new mobile shelving has been installed and we are waiting for our first batch of archives to come back (which we are very excited about!).

Shelving

One of our new runs of shelving – it won’t be this empty for long!

And that concludes our virtual tour of the new service! I hope that it gives you an idea of some of the work we have done over the summer, and I look forward to seeing you all in the new service January! As I mentioned earlier this year’s Explore Your Archive campaign is running at the moment, so if you want to find out more about events in your area visit their website.

If you do have any first impressions on the new service, please let us know, either by commenting here or by emailing me direct (laura.yeoman@exploreyork.org.uk).

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How to build a new archive, Part 1

Another new voice on the blog! I’m Victoria Hoyle, the City Archivist; or at least 40% of the City Archivist.  I job-share the role with Richard Taylor, working on a Monday and Tuesday.  The rest of the time I am studying for a PhD about archives and communities in York. (More on that another time!)  My job is to manage Archives and Local History with Richard, and to deliver our vision and objectives.  At the moment my life is all about the Heritage Lottery funded Gateway to History project, which I know you have heard about already.   Sarah has written about her work with the community archives recently – very exciting! – so I will give you an update on the building works which are now in full swing.

Over the next 9 months we will be extending York Explore Library to add an archives store, and refurbishing the former reference rooms to create three new public areas for using archives and local history collections.  We have planned the building work in four phases so that the library can stay open for as long as possible.   It will be business as usual until Phase 4 when the whole building will close for the most intrusive of the works.  According to the current timetable the closure will be from the beginning of June until the end of October this year.

We are about halfway through Phase 1 at the moment, which is all about preparing for the new store to be built in Phase 2.  The work is focused on the ground floor in the Children’s Library and part of the cafe as these will be directly beneath the new store.

The new store won’t be visible from the front of the library as it will be hidden behind the original frontage.

The new store won’t be visible from the front of the library as it will be hidden behind the original frontage.

If you know the library you might be wondering where exactly the store is going to go, because it looks like the building already has two storeys.  Actually the second floor is missing on the right hand-side.  The new store will fill the gap.

Our local contractor William Birch & Sons Ltd started on site six weeks ago on 6th January and put up a hoarding around the Phase 1 working area.

The hoarding protects staff and customers from dust and debris. If only it were sound proof too – hammering and drilling is our library soundtrack at the moment!

The hoarding protects staff and customers from dust and debris. If only it were sound proof too – hammering and drilling is our library soundtrack at the moment!

This part of the library is now strictly off limits without hard hats and high vis as heavy duty structural work is going on.  This morning I donned mine and tagged on to a tour with our Design Team to give you a sneaky peak behind the scenes.

Going where no archivist has gone before...

Going where no archivist has gone before…

Stripped of all the books and furniture the Children’s Library looks huge.  The story-telling space is now filled with scaffolding.  There were two skylights in the existing roof and one of the first tasks was to remove and fill these in so that the new storey can be built on top.  I say ‘built’ but the skeleton structure will actually be craned into place and then finished on site.  The big craning is due to take place in a few weeks time.

This photo looks dark because of the dust and hoarding.  We don’t think that blocking the skylights will make much different to the light, especially when all the windows are cleaned.

This photo looks dark because of the dust and hoarding. We don’t think that blocking the skylights will make much difference to the light, especially when all the windows are cleaned.

The second big job is to strengthen the steel supports so that the ground floor can take the weight of the new store.  The existing foundations were originally designed to take a second floor but archive stores need some extra support.  This is not only because of the mobile shelving but because the documents themselves are extremely heavy.  Anyone who has tried moving a filing cabinet full of papers will understand what I mean!  Once the new steels are installed the building will be able to take a weight equivalent to six regular storeys.

These existing steels will be replaced with stronger ones.  We are also putting in a new column with deeper foundations on the back wall.

These existing steels will be replaced with stronger ones. We are also putting in a new column with deeper foundations on the back wall.

The builders are also taking this opportunity to investigate an existing problem with the library floor.  Over the last few years it has been buckling and lifting in places, suggesting there is moisture trying to escape.  During the Gateway work we will also be fixing this and an initial step is to establish a cause.  Cue lots of digging big holes!

As of today the building work is running to time.  This means that Phase 2 – craning on the store and installing the walls – will begin in two weeks time.  There will be a temporary closure of Library Square, and probably the Library itself, during this period because of the enormous crane in front of the building.  Once the structure is in place the new store will really start to feel real.  I will be back out with my camera as soon as there is something to see!