Mammoth job to move archives to new-look repository

2009-12-01 00:00

ANYONE who has had to do research at the Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository in Pietermaritz Street knows conditions there are not ideal. There is no air-conditioning for a start, which is bad news both for researchers and, more seriously, old documents — many of historical importance.

This will change when planned renovations are complete, but in the interim, the public are cautioned that while there will be access to the archives, it will take up to two days to retrieve documents. This is because the archives are being moved off-site.

Renovations got under way last year, but came to a halt when the Public Works Department cancelled the contract.

It is believed this was due to unhappiness about the standard of work. However, it was not possible to confirm this at the time of going to press.

During this initial renovation period, the archives were kept on site.

“This time around we need to vacate the building totally so that, when a new contractor is appointed, we can hand over the building in total,” says Pieter Nel, assistant manager in Repository Management at Department of Arts and Culture at the Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository.

“It is hoped to have all the material moved to an off-site location by March,” says Nel. “There are six floors and we are doing one floor a month.”

The material is being moved off-site by a company speciali­sing in storage systems. “Once the material is moved, the company doing the relocation puts it on their system and that takes a week or so,” says Nel. “During that time, documents are not available.”

“Up until the end of March, the reading room will be fully operational in its present location,” says Nel. However, he recommends that from now on members of the public contact the archives in advance to order material as off-site material can take up to two days to retrieve.

The archives can be contacted at 033 342 4712/3 or e-mail pmbarchives@kzndac.gov.za

After March, the reading room, which provides the public access to the archive repository, will be situated in another go­vernment building. As yet, it is not known which one, but it will be located in the city centre. “Our commitment to the public is to run a reading room ser­vice,” says Nel. “But without all the noise and dust of having a contractor on site.”

Nel thinks it will be two years before renovations are complete and the archives can return to Pietermaritz Street. The renovated building will have improved security with CCTV cameras and new access control procedures, an air-conditioning system, temperature control and fire protection. “Ultimately it will be an ideal environment for what we’ve got,” says Nel.

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