by Claire Skinner, Archivist

Have you ever stopped to appreciate the beauty of a well-placed label? Staff from Plymouth and West Devon Record Office certainly have. No skewiff angles or slapdash sticking for us – we like our labels neat and tidy!

Under the expert eye of Senior Archivist Anne Morgan the team are currently numbering up the shelving in The Box’s archive store. This involves the application of over 2,400 labels!

We have to wear appropriate protective gear, as The Box is still a construction site so resplendent in hi-vis vests, hard hats, gloves and steel toe-capped boots we make our way through the noise of drilling to the quiet of the archive. With the distant sound of a workman’s radio playing house music to accompany us, it feels a bit like taking a very unusual exercise class. Certainly the process of crouching down repeatedly to stick labels to the bottom shelves in each bay does wonders for muscles I didn’t know I had!

Photo of a man in a PPE vest and hard hat labelling a shelf

Applying the labels isn’t just a workout for us – it’s also an intensely practical, essential process. Without these labels it will be impossible for us to locate and retrieve all the wonderful items that will be stored on the shelves. Later this year we’re moving our collections into The Box and the labelling is a tangible step forward to making this happen. Retrieval is vital for the public to be able to use our collections when our research room opens in 2020.

Photo of a white metal shelf with a numbered labelAs you can see from the image to the right, we’re using an alphanumeric reference for the archive locations. Every item in our collections is packaged appropriately to protect it from damage during the move.

Our collections are already numbered and staff plus a brilliant team of volunteers will work to record the location of the items, linking the shelf number to the item/box number. Hey presto! A satnav for archives is born. When we get a request to view an item we’ll be able to look it up on our database, find the location and go straight to the right shelf!

We’ll be storing over 19,000 boxes containing amazing stories of the people and places of Plymouth and the west Devon area. It’s equivalent to over a mile of archives.

We can’t wait to share those stories with you – but in the meantime, we’ll get back to the bending, stretching and sticking those lovely labels!

Photo of an archive store with white empty racking with black handles