Boxing clever as West Yorkshire Archive move gets under way

TREASURE TROVE: Archivist Helen Walker moving one of the many deeds volumes in Wakefield. PIC: James Hardisty
TREASURE TROVE: Archivist Helen Walker moving one of the many deeds volumes in Wakefield. PIC: James Hardisty
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WITH 10 million documents that could scale almost twice the height of Mount Everest, staff at West Yorkshire Archive Service have quite a task on their hands.

Along with a team of specialist movers, they have begun the enormous, six-month job of moving over 100,000 boxes of historic documents from its current home at the Registry of Deeds in Wakefield, just over a mile across the city centre to a new, purpose-built £3.9m building on Kirkgate.

Yesterday that began, when index volumes for the Registry of Deeds were moved over. They are among the archive’s most significant collections, with some 12,763 volumes containing 7m extracts of property transactions from 1704 to 1970. The index volumes provide the “way in” for members of the legal profession who rely on them.

The new West Yorkshire History Centre, which has been funded by the Heritage Lottery, will officially open in the new year, providing specialist secure storage, a large public search room, a state-of-the-art conservation studio and more.

The audience engagement and learning co-ordinator at the archive, Anna Carter, said: “The old building had lots and lots of small strong rooms, where we keep the documents, but our new, purpose-built home has two large depositories that are environmentally controlled, which mean the documents that we look after will last for many, many years to come.

“It has taken a huge amount of planning to get to this point, and every container and shelf has been barcoded so we automatically know where everything is once it’s moved.”

“Getting the house in order” has also enabled the staff to unearth documents they did not know they had, such as original poems. Many of the collections are of national significance, such as the National Coal Board collection of over 2,000 boxes relating to collieries and coal miners in Wakefield and the south Leeds areas, and the records of the Stanley Royd Mental Health Hospital.

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