As many may already be aware … Lexington Historical Society will open its new Archives and Research Center in the fall of 2019! This is a very exciting time for the Society, and for me as the Archives Manager. This new building will allow us to have a handicapped accessible facility for researchers, as well as additional storage space with state-of-the-art features for our growing collections. The new processing lab will provide ample space for volunteers, interns, and staff to process collections, and the new reading room will give us additional space to exhibit some of our smaller, lesser known holdings as well as a relaxed atmosphere for conducting research.
This project is very exciting and will have so many positive effects on the Society. But it also requires that we move our archival collections from their current location at Hancock-Clarke House to the new storage space … which will be located across town behind Munroe Tavern. And this comes with its own set of challenges.
Many of our archival collections are extremely old and/or extremely fragile. The Society has been in existence since 1886, so we have done our best to improve storage conditions to align with best practices over time. Storing archival collections “properly” can be very expensive and a very time-consuming process, so to some degree we had to triage our needs. Because collections have been able to stay put in our current archives until now, it hasn’t necessarily been imperative that they be stored in a way in which they were safe to be moved. In many cases, as long as an item has been stored safely on a shelf and remains stable in its current state, that has been enough until now.
Now that everything needs to be moved across town, though, all items need to be stored properly and very securely. This will be one of the most challenging parts of planning required for this exciting move. In preparation, we closed the archives to researchers and the public as of April 15, with plans to reopen in the new space sometime in the fall. Now we have begun the rehousing process – and the archives have been covered from floor to ceiling with archival boxes, enclosures, and folders of various shapes and sizes.
Making sure that collections are housed properly is not a quick and easy project – and as I mentioned, it’s not a cheap one either. Check out the costs of just a few of the items that we have needed to order several of (or in some cases, several dozen):
And these are just a few of our more standardized items! We have hundreds of glass plate negatives and glass lantern slides in a variety of sizes, with each variation in size requiring its own set of enclosures and its own storage boxes. We have a large Bible collection, and many of the Bibles are in very fragile conditions and need their own oversize boxes in unique sizes. Every scrapbook or photo album needs to be stored (either on its own or with other similar items) in a way that it won’t have too much space to slide around in a box when lifted off of a shelf and put onto a moving truck. Oral history collections require boxes made to store cassettes, postcard collections require postcard boxes, posters and blueprints that have just been sitting on shelves until now require archival poster tubes so that they don’t get crushed in the move – and on and on. So, this is a big undertaking!
And we haven’t even discussed the necessary labeling of these boxes after the rehousing process has been completed! Each box needs to be labeled with a collection name, as well as a unique identification number (which denotes the collection number and the box number within the collection). This newly implemented ID system will serve the purpose of allowing us to individually identify each box that is involved in the move and to be able to account for each box as we inventory.
We are very excited to think, though, that after this move has been completed, most of our items will be stored safely and securely. Our boxes will be labeled clearly and will make collections easy to identify and sort through. We will feel much more comfortable giving researchers access to collections in the new reading room space, since we will now have a much clearer idea of what items are in each box in each collection. And when everything is all said and done and the hecticness of the move is complete … when we get to put these brand-new boxes with their properly housed materials on their brand-new shelving units in a brand-new building …. well, it is then that we will take a deeply satisfied sigh.
-Elizabeth Mubarek, Archives Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.