Qubiqa Shelving Chosen For New Cumbria Archive Centre

More than a million historical documents were moved from the former archives at Carlisle Castle and other store rooms, to Cumbria County Council’s new state-of-the-art archives centre in Lady Gillford House, Petterill Bank. This property was purchased in 1936 by Cumberland County Council and was used for a variety of establishments, but was best remembered as a hostel and workshop for the blind.
However the building had lain empty for several years and has now been refurbished to provide offices with an extension providing new Repositories and Search Rooms on Ground and First Floor levels. The collections cover a huge range of historic documents, dating back nearly 1000 years. Qubiqa were proud to be chosen to provide the shelving for the new archive centre which was funded in part through a £4.79 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant - the largest grant the fund has ever awarded in Cumbria – giving a new lease of life to the listed stately home.

After visiting an existing site in which Qubiqa’s Electronic mobile shelving was in use, the client team contacted Qubiqa a full 4 years before the shelving was eventually installed. Qubiqa were requested to assist in providing figures for the required storage capacities, which would enable the Architects to determine the size of the Repositories required to house the collections, whilst also providing adequate expansion space for future accruals. This proved a testing challenge to all, given the constraints on the site, which is in a residential area. The final layout drawings for the shelving were the twenty first revision of the plans started 4 years previously! There are also twenty three different bay elevations to allow for the different media being stored.

Both of the large repositories measure approximately 38m x 11m, and runs of shelving are generally 9m long except where a central lobby necessitates shorter lengths. At right angles to this on both floors are runs of Cantilever Racking 600mm deep, storing rolled maps longer than 900mm. On the Ground Floor any rolled or flat maps/plans less than 900mm in length are accommodated on double deep shelves set with 100mm gaps between them. The remaining Ground Floor storage comprises Standard Sized Volumes, Small and Medium Volumes of varying sizes, with the last third of the area used for Standard Sized Boxes, which are stored on ‘specially’ manufactured shelves 475mm deep to suit.
The large First Floor repository is mostly used for storing Standard Size Boxes. In addition to the two large repositories there is a small Audio Store on the Ground Floor and a small Photo Store on the First Floor. In total there is in the region of 1100cu.m of storage provided by Qubiqa, with the vast majority stored on our SHADE E9000 Electronic mobile shelving.

This was chosen not only for its user friendly features (easy and quick for staff to move the long, high and heavy units), its Archive friendly features such as the Air Circulation feature (units open automatically when not in use, to allow air to penetrate between the mobiles) and the Integral Lighting feature (provides excellent illumination levels and also switches off automatically when not in use, thereby saving energy) but also its Future Proofing Features (ability to link to the clients database to aid tracking, retrieval and replacement of stored media most efficiently). Although the client did look at manual systems, the Electronic mobile shelving really was always high on the ‘wish list’ for all the users, especially after site visits to see other systems had been undertaken.

Maximum capacity really was an absolute priority here. Consequently many of the bays clear the overhead ducts with millimetres to spare. Bays go to a height of 3230mm on the First and 2930mm on the Ground Floor.

Anne Rowe, County Archivist for Cumbria comments: "I always regarded the shelving installation as one of the key aspects of delivering a successful new archives centre for Carlisle. We needed to find the most cost-effective solution to storing documents of varying shapes, sizes, weights and formats. The Qubiqa shelving has enabled us to do this in a very flexible way. The shelving looks classy, works very smoothly, and also cuts down on manual handling which is a real plus point for the staff."

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