Archive Transformation - Relocation to DeepStore

Client: Cambridgeshire County Council

DeepStore cross-sectionIn summer 2011 a need arose for Cambridgeshire County Council to start planning the relocation of its archaeological archives from a converted barn at Worts Farm, Landbeach. The bulk of the material that can be considered inert (pottery, stone objects, animal bone, etc) and human remains (non Human Tissue Act) along with the paper archive (context sheets, site diaries, etc) were to move to DeepStore in Cheshire; a vast, and growing, underground store in the salt workings 550m beneath Winsford and the surrounding countryside. The remainder, which requires a storage environment with tightly controlled humidity and temperature values (including conserved metalwork, preserved textiles, leather and intact pottery), were to move to a converted Cold War bunker underneath the County Council offices in Cambridge. The move would involve re-cataloguing, and in some cases re-packing, items in the existing archive.

Early in the planning phase of the project Cambridgeshire’s Historic Environment Team approached exeGesIS with a view to developing an approach that would allow the new archive catalogue to be integrated into the Cambridgeshire Historic Environment Record (CHER), thereby allowing full cross-referencing of archive items with Monument and Event records.

The solution that emerged from discussions between Cambridgeshire’s archaeologists and exeGesIS heritage data specialists, was based around the County’s existing use of the Historic Buildings, Sites and Monuments Record system. Two custom administrator functions would be developed; the first to create spreadsheets that would be populated with archive metadata during the cataloguing process and the second to read the spreadsheet information back in to HBSMR, creating a source record for each archive item.

An important feature of the development was to ensure that archive items could be quickly recovered from DeepStore and returned to Cambridge. This relied on the inclusion of the Deep Store reference within the HBSMR Source record. This was achieved by labelling each of the archive boxes with a pre-prepared DeepStore barcode label. The barcode was scanned using an inexpensive, off-the-shelf scanner and the barcode data was automatically recorded alongside the other metadata in the spreadsheet for later upload to HBSMR.

The system has now been in use since March 2013 and over 17,000 archive items have been catalogued and over 10,000 boxes have been dispatched to DeepStore. Over 230 archive boxes have been successfully recalled to Cambridge so far for involvement in PhD research and public engagement opportunities.

Further information from Crispin Flower.

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