– 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.

what’s all this then?

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St Cross does not look quite its usual serene self at the moment; the aforementioned kitchen refit on the Broad Street site has precipitated a move of several hundred boxes of modern personal papers from the recently-encroached-upon Music Room to St Cross. Above, the first tranche of Broad Street arrivals, plus 250 brand new archive boxes.

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Several collections housed in the non-archival standard cardboard boxes shown here were moved out of the vestry repository to make way for the Broad St influx, and are being transferred to archival boxes before moving back into another repository. This is because the old boxes are 1) nowhere near acceptable quality for permanent storage of archival collections, 2) large and therefore too heavy to move safely when full, particularly if stored at floor level or at any height requiring a step or ladder and 3) prone to handles falling off and/or bottoms falling out, a major preservation and handling hazard!

The orderliness is deceptive – that’s about 70 big boxes tidily stacked in the chancel, the contents of which will occupy at least 200 green boxes.

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Happily this time, this photo is also spatially deceptive – this little repository unit, which has just been emptied of what’s now waiting in the chancel, will hold nearly 800 green boxes. By next week it will be full again.

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I have had invaluable help with all this adjusting shelving, reboxing and putting away for a few days in the last couple of weeks from Will Beharrell, formerly a successor of Fiona’s as graduate trainee in the Codrington Library at All Souls’ and now a librarianship student at UCL, whom I thank very much for this work and his excellent start on a list of Richard Hare’s correspondence.  However, there is a lot more to come, and until it’s all squared away I won’t be getting much else done, because the boxes need to be shelved in the repository so they are secure and easy to produce, and they cannot just sit around occupying the nave and chancel when readers and other visitors need the space and a good atmosphere to work in.

The Unlocking Archives series of talks on interesting discoveries in Balliol’s special collections will run again this year, starting next month!

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