– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

a note about the move and opening dates at St Cross

I am very frequently asked these days how the move is going, how many loads we have moved so far, how many van loads of material are still left to move, how long it is going to take, when the opening ceremony will be and when readers will be able to start coming to use the collections. Here are the answers I have so far – they are not complete.

We’ve already moved 8 or 9 van loads and that’s only recently listed modern papers collections, reference books and files from my office. We’re moving modern papers first in order to have as stable an environment as possible for the very old MSS to come into – every arrival creates fluctuations in the temperature and humidity in the repositories. I estimate that there are at least 7 full loads still to come in the main archive repository alone, and that’s one fairly small (though tightly packed) room. Factor in all the archives, early manuscripts and modern papers in the library basement, library annexe, ground floor grilles, Old Dean’s Room and archive office and we’re well into the dozens of loads.

And that doesn’t include the works of art on paper, the reference books to come from the library or the early printed books!

In short, I really don’t know yet. But I’ll keep you posted. So far it’s going well. But moving OUT is only one part, and far from half, of the job; moving IN though much more straightforward takes more time. I have a map of where collections will go to in the new repositories, but as there are several standard sizes of box (and lots of non-standard-size boxes), most of the shelves have to be adjusted before filling. We try to fill the crates and the van in a logical order, but inevitably there is some initial sorting of boxes needed at the other end. I put all the boxes away myself. There is no point having someone pass me a box from the bottom of the ladder; I would have to come partway down, turn round, take the box, adjust to its weight (often considerable), turn round on the ladder and go up again. Much easier and safer to go right down and carry the box safely all the way up. I should say that the ladder is more like a steep staircase with handrails on both sides and around three sides at the top! Once a collection is safely on the new shelves, I list the exact shelf location of every box; this goes into a database.

Moving depends on the availability of the van and manpower, and the weather. Also, I haven’t dropped everything else; there are still the usual numerous remote enquiries coming in by email and letter, and it’s been – and will continue to be – a busy season for exhibitions for college events, with a liberal dose of tours of the new premises as requested by college officers.

I’m not going to bore you with all the reasons why we decided to do this move in-house rather than getting a specialist moving firm (unless I receive another frequently asked question to this effect!), but please believe me, we did explore that possibility, and our decision was based on effectiveness, not cost.

I’m also asked regularly about opening dates; there will be several. For me, the real opening date means ‘when can readers start coming to look at archives and manuscripts?’ The answer to that remains Michaelmas term, October 2011. If that changes, the update will be posted here, on the website, via the NRA, on mailing lists etc etc etc. There will be various ‘opening ceremonies’ and open days for Balliol people and the general public; these dates are not up to me, have not been determined and will be similarly splashed about once they are set.

That’s all I know for the moment. .

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