Case Studies

Bangor University Archives

In 2020 Bangor University issued an invitation to quote for the replacement of their existing Archives storage system with new mobile shelving. The existing system was an Ingold Compactus electrically operated mobile system in excess of 55 years old and powered by 4 electric motors driving cables within the floor. The existing configuration provided 1523 linear metres of storage (74% of the Archives capacity) but the drive-train of the system was becoming troublesome and difficult to maintain making retrievals difficult.

The replacement project involved the emptying of the Archives into off-site storage by specialist contractors to enable the supplier of the replacement system to dismantle and remove the Ingold Compactus for recycling, supply and install new shelving tracks prior to a new floor screed to avoid using a timber or composite infill floor – and finally install new mobile shelving once the entire space had been refurbished. The project was funded by the AHRC Capability for Collections (CapCo) grant following a successful re-application by the University in 2023. Because of the time lapse between the original application in 2020 and the successful application in 2023 the mobile shelving was quoted twice to ensure cost certainty of all aspects for the University. The Rotadex proposal was deemed to provide best value in terms of design, quality, sustainability and project management. As a result Rotadex was appointed as the new shelving supplier in early 2023.

The refurbishment works and project control were undertaken by a local construction company – Owen and Palmer – and a detailed project timetable was drawn up in March 2023 from the point of emptying the Archives with the total works to be undertaken from March – September 2023 – a total of 23 weeks. The project proceeded to programme with the return of Archive materials from secure off-site storage at the end of August 2023.

Elen Simpson, University Archivist commented: "The new Rotadex shelving has been transformative in terms of storage and retrieval of material. We’ve also seen an increase in our storage capacity by extending upwards into the empty ceiling space and this will secure our ability to accept new material for years to come. The strongroom refurbishment has been a success story for the Archives and Special Collections at Bangor University, not least because every element of the project was completed on time, resulting in the re-opening of the service to researchers as predicted."

The system provided by Rotadex consists of 32 double-sided mobile units set out as 16 units either side of a central walkway & working area. The units were designed specifically around the dimensions of the 2 different archive boxes in use to ensure maximum use of the cubic space available. The system provides 2214 linear metres of plan shelves for boxes, items or volumes and an additional 100 linear metres of cantilever shelving for large or rolled items requiring continuous shelves. The shelving system is clipped adjustable throughout with 9 storage levels to each bay, double-skin uprights to ensure no sharp edges or hidden recesses, includes push-button locks for all units, decorative end panels and A4 Perspex cardholders for stock identification. The shelving units either side of the room are all mobile units to enable easy access to all points of the room for cleaning. The specification and layout is compliant with BS4971:2017 and the units were powder coated RAL 9003 (signal white) to assist with lighting spread into each aisle.


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."


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