The reason why I’ve been away from digi preservation for so long is that I’ve been managing the move of our paper archives from one repository to another.  The move itself has gone more smoothly than I dared to hope: everything happened on schedule, the ICT didn’t let me down, all the boxes fitted their new locations so my sums must have been accurate enough… it’s taken three weeks to move a mile of paper and parchment archives.

Our understanding is that we’re the first people to control a UK local authority repository move with barcodes. It’s taken 2.5 years of preparation, mainly spent in getting all our barcode data onto CALM, but the result this week is that all we had to do was a massive zap of all the barcodes in the building (that’s taken 48 hours), upload the data into CALM’s locations module, and voila! – we now know where everything is.

Boxes hundreds of em

Above: boxes in the new repository.  At the old record office we had boxes of different sizes and formats scattered throughout the building. In the new repository we have been very strict in storing boxes purely by format even if it means splitting collections up. We’re relying totally on the barcodes to find them.


Rolled maps in linen bags. Every single individual package, whether it’s a roll, a box, a freestanding volume or a folder in a drawer, has its own barcode.

James Dear

Even the 19th century portrait which we have on deposit has its own barcode!


Here one of my colleagues is zapping the boxes on their new shelves. First we zap the shelf (all the shelves have their own barcodes) and then we zap the items on it. This raw data gets imported into Excel where lookup tables replace the numbers with human readable information (eg replacing “L012345” with “Bay R6 shelf D”). Then it all goes into CALM’s locations module, so that it links automatically with the documents’ catalogue entries.

The methodology took us months to work out, followed by two years of repackaging work and sticking barcodes on everything, just to result in 48 hours of zapping in the new repository.

Here’s some details about our barcode methodology in the National Archives’s RecordKeeping magazine (we’re on page 36).

It’s been a long, long project but it’s all gone smoothly and I feel rather chuffed to have managed the move in a new way. Back to digi preservation soon!