The dust has settled after the first stages of our building works and this has been another relatively quiet week, other than the removal of some air ducts. The lull is down to the discovery of some previously unidentified asbestos and we need to follow a proper process for removing this. But there’s always a bright side and the current waiting game presents an ideal opportunity for the site tours we were hoping to offer.
First in the queue for tours are our ‘For the Record’ project partners. And we began yesterday by showing a few key members of the Friends of Gloucestershire Archives around. The photo below shows us in what’s going to be the new Heritage Hub reception area, wearing our Mickey Mouse shoes and egg head hats, and looking at the architects plans to get a better idea of what the spaces are going to look like.
Left to right: Jill Shonk, Heather Forbes, Liz Jack, Stephen Haygarth and Hilary Haygarth.
We plan to offer bookable tours to anyone who’s interested later on in the building programme. If you come along we hope that you, like us, will be excited by what’s happening!
Access & Learning Leader
This week our builders have been busying themselves with behind the scenes arrangements to progress the next stages of construction. So I thought you might like to look ahead with me, to get a taste of what the Heritage Hub is going to be like when it’s finished.
Firstly, hot off the press, here’s the latest image of how it’s going to look. Very smart!
We want the inside to be stylish too, and are looking forward to receiving the draft mood boards soon. These will help us to consider the look and feel of the internal spaces, and to make good interior design choices, bearing everyone’s needs in mind.
Like our builders, we too have been making behind the scenes plans. But ours are about adorning the building and its surrounding site. There are two strands to these: internal and external interpretive displays that reveal a potted history of the historic county of Gloucestershire’s cultural and natural heritage; and, on a functional level, information sharing media and signage that will show visitors what the Heritage Hub has to offer. We’ll be working with stakeholders and community groups to develop these over the coming months. And we’re eagerly waiting to hear if our allied bid to Arts Council England has been successful, as it would allow us to include more art installations as part of our storytelling. We should know the outcome in mid May. ‘Fingers crossed!
Access & Learning Leader
This week we’ve been doing a bit of time travelling, journeying between the present and the 1970s when our building reached the end of its days as Kingsholm School. It’s been a low budget trip as we haven’t needed a TARDIS or the Time Lords’ other advanced technology. Instead, our trusty time portal has been some perfectly preserved photos that are in our collections, which means you can enjoy the tour too!
Cloakroom area then research room; the entrance to the new Heritage Hub will be on the right.
Gym then strongroom for outsize items; the wall to the left will be removed to create a flexible volunteer workspace that links to the new research room.
This area is soon to become the new Archives research room; most of the internal walls will be removed to create it. The right hand wall behind the red fire extinguisher is the other side of the wall on the left in the images immediately above.
More school day clues: playground tarmac under the concrete footing, an inkwell and marbles.
And finally the most up to the minute news: the tell-tale photo below shows the Horsa (hut) featured in last week’s post has finally bolted and we’re ‘ready for the off’ with works to lay the foundations of our new strongrooms!
Come back next week for another update.
Access & Learning Leader
So, what’s been happening this week? Well, our builders have removed the giant slab that formed the base of the Horsa Hut they demolished last week. The excavator swapped its careful claw for a pummelling pecker and broke it into tiny pieces. Result! You can see, but not hear (unlike those of us working onsite!), this for yourself from the images below – also by clicking on this video link: https://youtu.be/Y6hKgdm3s90
These works are all part of the groundworks needed to prepare the way for the three new specialist storage rooms (‘strongrooms’ in archives-speak) that are going to be built onto the back of our main building. They also involved an unexpected rescue operation: saving and re-homing a displaced hedgehog, now safe in our Archives Support Officer, Jenny’s garden and enjoying the company of other prickly friends.
Recently rescued hedgehog happily snoozing
Back inside, the inner entrance door to the old Archives reception has been removed and the builders are ready to knock down some walls to create the new Heritage Hub spaces. They’ll be able to get on with this as soon as they have the necessary propping design (another new term for my construction vocabulary). I’m discovering there’s a lot more to this building malarkey than meets the eye!
Access & Learning Leader
As hoped, there’s been plenty of visible action this week!
Inside, our builders have begun the process of removing internal walls to create the new Archives research room and linked volunteer workspaces. And the view from the corridor outside my office door has changed, as you can see from the image below.
Former Archives reception area, leading to former research room
In its current state, it’s easy to imagine how the building must have worked when it was home to Kingsholm School. More so if we add in the reminiscences of former pupils – apparently the long, wide corridor doubled up as a gym!
If you look closely at the image you’ll also spot the walls that are due to be removed as works progress (the blue ‘OUT’ lettering is the giveaway), so we can begin to see what the building should look like when it reopens as Gloucestershire Heritage Hub.
Outside, the landscape has changed dramatically! The Horsa Huts next to the railway track have gone, freeing up space for a new access route to our collections storage areas. It’s been a fascinating learning experience, watching the Huts (formerly a conservation lab and archaeology store) disappear: I was expecting to see everything flattened in a dramatic swoop but I was wrong. Instead, an excavator operator carefully deconstructed the Huts using a muncher (‘get me’ with my new vocabulary!), picking off the different construction materials and sorting them into piles, ready for recycling. You can see this for yourself if you click on this link: https://youtu.be/PTVW5-ar1iw
Bye bye, old conservation lab
Demolition almost complete
‘All very exciting. More next week!
Access & Learning Leader
Earlier this week I happened to glance through the window of one of our decommissioned office spaces. And I saw the strangest sight: a blue polythene tunnel leading to the door of one of our outbuildings and, just outside it, a weird looking being, not unlike an astronaut.
“What’s going on?” I wondered. “Are we hosting Sci-Fi productions as a new income generation scheme? Or maybe I’ve missed headline news about a zombie apocalypse in Gloucester?”
Thankfully, the aliens hadn’t landed and there was a simple explanation for the tunnel and the man in coveralls – asbestos removal. This work is taking place in both our main building and the Horsa huts opposite the old overflow parking area. It is an essential part of our building programme and is being carried out by experts. Once it’s been completed, it will allow our builders to push on with the removal of internal walls (to create new Heritage Hub spaces) and demolish the Horsa huts (to provide a new onsite access route). All being well, we should see some of this action next week. Meantime, “Live long and prosper”!
These photos show the controls needed to remove asbestos from a floor duct. The route is sealed to prevent the escape of fibres. Workers take a shower in the mobile unit after they have taken off their overalls and masks, which they put into sealed plastic bags.
As Collections Care Conservator at Gloucestershire Archives, I recently attended a training course on the Conservation of Photographs. It was taught by Susie Clark, one of the UK’s leading experts in this field, who stressed that certain types of photographs and photographic negatives benefit from being stored at freezing temperatures, as this slows down the rate of deterioration.
So we decided it would be good to provide this enhanced level of care for some of the Archives’ valuable yet vulnerable photographic collections. And, knowing walk-in freezer rooms are expensive to create and maintain, we decided to opt for a more cost-effective and practical solution – two free-standing commercial freezers, one small and one large, sourced from a Gloucester firm. These arrived on Thursday 23 February.
Our new freezers feature strong adjustable metal shelves, an auto defrost function, a digital temperature display so we can monitor the temperature inside each freezer, big castor feet so they can be moved around, and lockable doors.
As well as being an effective means of preservation, freezing is also a proven and chemical-free way of killing off insect pests like wool moths and “bookworms” (the larvae of various species of wood boring beetles). There’s always the possibility of us needing to do this as some of the unique material that comes our way can be infested with pests, as you can see from the image below. Thankfully, we now we have a better way of dealing with them!
This photo shows the cover of a book that was recently given to Gloucestershire Archives. Because it had been stored previously in a damp environment, it was severely damaged by mould and by the larvae of one species of wood-boring insect, possibly the common furniture beetle.