[M]ajor changes will be taking place in Cumbria Archive Service over the next 18 months. In particular Kendal and Whitehaven Archive Centres will see significant investment that will bring a major improvement to the accommodation of our archive collections.
In Kendal, the creation of two new strong rooms in County Hall will bring collections into the Archive Centre previously held off-site. Popular Family History sources – held on microfilm and including parish and non-conformist registers and wills – will be relocated to Kendal Library where they will be available six days a week including Saturday and Wednesday evenings.
The investment in Kendal will significantly improve the quality of the accommodation for collections that are of national and international importance. However a proportion of the collections will still need to be accommodated off-site in Carlisle.
Whitehaven Archive Centre will see space created to support a wider range of County Council services on the same site, including the Library, Archives, Registrars and Community Learning. The Archive Centre will benefit from new and increased strong room accommodation.
To facilitate the improvement works, closure periods at both Kendal and Whitehaven will be necessary. Kendal Archive Centre will close for six months from 2 May 2018, re-opening on 7 November. Whitehaven Archive Centre is expected to close towards the end of 2018 for approximately 12 months.
The closure periods are necessary to allow refurbishment and building works to proceed. Staff will concentrate on essential collections work, including backlog listing, cleaning and preservation, transfer and recording the location of collections, and preparing collections for digitisation.
The investment in storage facilities and a greater focus on collections management goes hand in hand with a significant increase in digitisation to improve remote access, facilitate research and the protection of irreplaceable original documents and records.
Cllr Deborah Earl, Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “I am delighted that investment is being made in to Archive Centres. Like our libraries, they are important community hubs providing access to a wide variety of information that helps us to understand our past and preserve it for future generations.
“The council is committed to supporting archive centres and there will be further investment at all archive sites to ensure a sustainable Archive Service at a challenging time for local government finances.”