Behind the Scenes…Stocktaking 2023

After a three year hiatus we had our first stocktaking closure period earlier this year where we were able to work on some larger projects we are unable to do whilst open to the public.

While our colleagues in the Record Office carried out their stocktaking in the strongroom and a serious sort out and de-clutter in their volunteer space, our colleagues in North Devon Studies did a ‘little’ shelf rearranging in the public area.

One of the reasons we close during our stocktaking period is so we can use the public space to work on collections and/or temporarily store items out of the way whilst we make improvements in our stack and work areas. This was the case this year.

We took the opportunity to re-organise our work spaces in both the stack and just off the main search room. We had created a new collections workspace and storage area in the stack around six years ago, and up until recently it had been working for us. However, in the last year or so it had become a real problem area.

Time for some rather scary before pictures of the space.

The first thing we did, with the help of a volunteer, was take out all the collections we were working on and store them in the public area. We had decided to replace the large stationery cupboard which was taking up valuable space and replace it with a smaller one from the work space just off the public searchroom.

This meant the contents of both had to be removed. With the help of Janet from the South West Heritage Trust we went on a major stationery de-clutter mission and only kept the items we would actually use in the future.

With the old stationery cupboard emptied our colleagues in the Record Office helped us move it and one of the tables out of the stack. Then, again with Janet’s help, we rearranged the furniture left in the space and brought in the smaller cupboard to create a better, more open work space (with the help of some left over carpet tiles).

The small cupboard which used to house our display and exhibition materials has now been turned into storage for conservation and preservation supplies. The shelves hold our manuscripts, postcard and digital collections along with the new collections which have come in and need to be re-packaged into archive boxes and processed.

The space feels much more open now (even with the large new collection which has just been given to us) and we have a dedicated area for our conservation supplies which had previously been stored in several different places.

Now for our favourite bit – the after pictures!

We still needed storage space for our display and exhibition supplies along with the remaining stationery supplies, so we got a mid-sized stationery cupboard with tambour doors for the work space off the public area where the small cupboard had stood.

This new cupboard might actually take more than our old big stationery cupboard as we also manged to get the Christmas decoration stored in there!

As for the items we no-longer needed, almost everything was found a new home.

We also took the opportunity to create a new visitor area outside the department. Before Covid we had a seating area in one spot and lockers in another. As we prepared to re-open after the first lockdown, the seating area had become a store for the furniture we weren’t able to use in the searchroom.

With our colleagues from the Record Office, we re-homed some of the furniture, moved the lockers and spare shelving units and set up the seating area with the table. We also moved the small display case which had been next to the lockers closer to the doors to the department and we will be changing the contents regularly.

It was very much a team effort to get everything done, with help from our volunteers and colleagues from our partner departments but well worth the effort. We now have a space we can use for our program of re-packing our current collections into archival boxes as well as processing any new collection which come in.

We will have more on these projects as we go, so watch this space.

…Barum Athena


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