Cambridgeshire Archives Roller Racking and Plan Chests
Cambridgeshire Archives recently relocated from Shire Hall, Cambridge to its new home at The Dock, Ely and opened to the public once more at the end of 2019. The £5.3M Archives project followed a National Archives' assessment of the Shire Hall basement accommodation, leading to the redevelopment of the former Strikes Bowling Alley.
The interior of the existing building was completely removed and the existing ground floor raised by one metre, with reinforced concrete to add strength and new interior walls to provide storage vaults and staff and public accommodation. The archive vaults incorporated new mechanical and electrical services (to ensure the correct environmental conditions for the archived documents), new lighting and zoned sprinklers for fire protection.
The archive – which conforms to BS4971:2017 recommendations – houses in excess of 850 tons of historical documents stored on more than seven miles of mobile and static shelving, plan-chests and rolled maps storage units. Mobile shelving is principally used in order to ensure that the available floor space – and height – is fully maximised.
The archive contains a wide variety of stored items from records of the County Council, original maps, records of parish churches, business and other authorities – along with parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials. The Ely facilities also include meeting rooms for the public to have appointments with registration staff, and a Search Room for using the stored documents.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The Commission was established in 1917 to commemorate the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the First and Second World Wars. The CWGC built and continues to maintain cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations in over 150 countries and territories and is committed to carrying out this work in perpetuity.
The Commission's system of records storage was outdated and no longer fit for purpose. The ability for a supplier/contractor to supply new shelving as well as unload and store existing records during the upgrade was paramount. Ultimately, the records needed to be relocated onto the newly installed shelving, without disruption to the day to day operations of the Commission.
Until recently, the paper records were stored in two main locations within a mixture of secure static and mobile shelving systems thought to be approximately 40 years old that had, over the years, been moved within the building and were suffering from operational problems. The CWGC took the decision to seek replacement systems that offered up-to-date technology and improved space planning with additional capacity for future expansion so that its significant UNESCO recognised historic collection could be
Rotadex was awarded the contract to manage the conversion as well as supply, deliver and install a replacement archiving system. Project coordination meetings were held with CWGC to plan the works including access, methodology and implementation. The installation was carried out in phases over an 8 week period. Three existing systems were carefully dismantled and removed for recycling as per Rotadex’s ISO 14001 procedures. These were then replaced with new Fineline BS 4971:2017 compatible shelving systems. The new design and upgrade achieved an increase of 260 linear metres providing an overall capacity of 1369 linear metres.
Chief Archivist Andrew Fetherston commented: “Following a competitive tendering process, Rotadex were awarded the contract to replace a mixture of mobile and static shelving which housed the archive of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at its head office in Maidenhead. As the work was carried out during the coronavirus pandemic, special measures had to be put in place regarding working conditions and access, and Rotadex was happy to work with us to develop an approach which worked for all concerned. Their team carefully decanted all of the collection, storing it in temporary shelving which they had erected onsite for that purpose, and professionally dismantled and disposed of the existing shelving, and installed the new units in a quick and efficient manner.”
Isle of Man Public Record Office
The new shelving was needed to provide at least 670m³ of storage whilst making use of the 3.77 metres of headroom available.
The solution included mobile units with 1.20 metre shelf modules to accommodate four box sizes and 11 storage levels. The units incorporated positive drive with reduction geared chain-boxes in order for multiple units to be moved in a single-handed operation. The tracking system also provided straight-line guidance and a passive anti-tip stabilisation system. All shelving bays were 420mm deep from front-to-back of shelf to maximise storage efficiency. All mobile units were equipped with push-button locking and A4 cardholders for guidance.
The system provided 5,359 linear metres of shelf space and used 981m³ of space including four working aisles. The system was installed in three phases to allow daily operations to continue and provide time for archive personnel to relocate material from old static shelving units to the new mobile units. Following forced delays due to COVID restrictions, installation commenced in July 2021 using Isle of Man local installation personnel with supervision from Rotadex and the installation was completed and handed over in December 2021.
Angela Skitt Public Records Officer, said: "Despite the ongoing global pandemic, Rotadex ensured the installation ran smoothly. Rotadex’s design met the challenge of creating a sturdy and safe shelving system, whilst making use of the 3.77 metre height we had available. We are delighted with the new shelving, which is of high quality and has given us space to continue to grow our archive collections."