Our Strongroom Survey Says...

Back in August 2022, when the archive service and Reading Room were still operating as normal and before this microsite even existed, work on the move had already begun with a series of store surveys - one for each of the secure areas we would later cover in our Store Tours vlogs. The purpose of these surveys, undertaken by a few members of the team as an extra task on top of their everyday work, was to generate a comprehensive snapshot of the move-readiness of our collections, building on our existing strongroom management spreadsheets which document every collection we hold, its extent (how much room it takes up on our shelves), and where it is currently located.

Starting these surveys so early on gave us an important time advantage that's been key to much of our subsequent work, most obviously in how much groundwork could be laid before the period of Restricted Access began and the rest of the team were released from their usual workloads. Starting as soon as possible also allowed precious extra time to analyse the data and, even more importantly, to properly plan each of the subsequent move-related tasks. Making a little bit of breathing room for ideas and solutions to bubble up to the surface is always going to be a good thing, and combined with the survey's overarching view we've been able to apply these to multiple collections at once. Having completed these surveys and digested the findings, the resulting decisions and actions are now making a big impact on our move preparations.

On a practical level, the survey's assessment of each collection's current storage state has allowed us to pick out any packaging in need of a transportation-ready upgrade. If you watched our very first Store Tours vlog you might remember that we touched on how the packaging requirements for regular strongroom storage differ from those needed for safe transportation, and over the last few months items within each of our stores have undergone these improvements in preparation for the move - improvements that will also make the material in our collections even better protected once they're shelved in our new facility. (A rather neat added benefit!)

As well as making things move ready, the shift to standardised shapes and sizes of archival box has allowed us to safely store our individual collections more efficiently and to utilise our current shelving more effectively, giving us some much-needed temporary space in which to order and arrange our collections in advance of the move (and no doubt benefiting our future strongroom space too!). This packaging and repackaging of our collections - all directly informed by the surveys - has also made it possible for us to bring together parts of larger collections that, for reasons related to size and space, had previously been spread across multiple strongrooms. The most obvious example is The Minton Archive collection, which despite its name actually comprises material from over twenty different companies, Minton and Royal Doulton being the two largest by physical size. Through our consolidation work all of these companies' records - including the Minton pattern books we featured in a recent post - are being brought together into a run of newly-cleared shelves in basement store "C".

For our archivist the strongroom surveys have made it easy to ensure that all our collections are correctly and clearly labelled, and to zero in on any of our older accessions in need of a bit of extra identification to bring them up to modern standards. Also captured as part of the surveys was our historic accession backlog, much of which has been formally added to our list of collections and, most importantly, is now ready to move. 🥳

Posted on 18th May, 2023