18 March 2016

The art of organising for preservation - an intern reflects

SAHA was endowed with money from the National Lotteries Commission for a much needed archival refurbishment. This allowed for the purchase of mobile shelving which is a more efficient use of space and also the replacement of a non-functioning humidifier. A large amount of work needed to be done before the work on these two upgrades could begin.

This plan was used to determine a new layout of furniture to use space more effectively and make sure it would fit in the new locations.

There is a real challenge in the reorganisation of archival material - firstly, keeping the material in order and not mixing up the collections, secondly making sure not to cause any harm to the material while moving it. The ideal situation would of course be to move the collections as little as possible. These challenges, combined with limited space available for reorganisation, meant planning was essential.

Plans took form initially in small to scale drawings with cut out shapes representing the furniture to more sophisticated scale drawings as seen by the adjacent picture of the plan created by one of the archival interns. SAHA has three storage areas on site. In order to make space in the main archive for shelving, the archival team had to reorganise and juggle all of these areas. The first step was to plan the most effective and efficient use of space given the materials that need to be accommodated. You can see one of the plans, done to scale, to help with this process.

Moving things around has resulted in a number of changes to storage areas at SAHA. The exhibition kits and exhibition material are now stored all together in part of the director’s office. The main office storeroom is now dedicated to filing cabinets for the storage of SAHA publications and support services material. Unsorted material previously stored in main archival storage area was moved along with some shelving to the archival sorting room.

A whole lot of boxes containing books and periodicals from the former NiZA (Netherlands Institute of Southern Africa) library have been moved to the main office storeroom temporarily. These books and periodicals are available for distribution to archives and libraries in South Africa. The Freedom of Information Programme collection and a number of filing cabinets from the main archival storage area have also temporarily been moved to the sorting room until the installation of the mobile shelving and humidifier is complete.

The current challenge, which will be discussed in a future news story, is to remove a large exhibition frame owned by Constitution Hill that does not fit through the door. This is but one of the many challenges which one encounters refurbishing the archive. What still needs to happen in the archive is moving the collections onto the new shelving and reorganizing the rest of the archival space efficiently around this new shelving.

The main store before the reshuffleThe main office store room after the reshuffle

Reorganization used a lot of muscle. The whole SAHA team was involved.  Thanks need to be given to the SFJP team for all the heavy lifting and the FOIP and Support Services team for their help with moving some of the shelving.

Reorganising the space in the archival sorting room during the archival refurbishment, March 2016The archival sorting room during the archival refurbishment, March 2016