Friday, 12 June 2015

Grahamstown Gazette: the Heritage Building edition



Every month I write a local heritage-themed column, on behalf of The Treasury, for the Grahamstown Gazette. Here's my piece for the June 2015 edition.

From The Treasury:

We had some fantastic news at the beginning of May: The Treasury Research Centre and Archive won the Heritage Award at the recent Waikato / Bay of Plenty Architecture Awards, and is now eligible for a New Zealand Architecture Award this November. The judges called our two buildings a 'clever and elegant pair' and commended the archive as 'shamelessly contemporary,' with the ability to 'transform the town's view of the value of good architecture, in terms of both its historic and future heritage.' We are thrilled to see the hard work that went into this project being recognised at such a high level. The awards are held annually by the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

The Carnegie Library building is open to the public, but we often are asked what exactly goes on inside the Archive building. If you’ve ever walked past us on Queen St or Davy St, you might have caught a glimpse of our volunteers in the workroom sorting, cleaning and preparing archival documents for storage.
The first stop for newly donated items is the fumigation room at the back of the building. By fumigating or freezing the documents, we can get rid of the bugs that love to lurk in old papers – silverfish and mould are serious issues for archives. Next, the volunteers clean up the items and get a good sense of the significance of what has been donated. Different objects require different cleaning techniques. Old letter books, for example, often have a lot of dust between the pages, so you’ll often see us using a dry brush to gently remove the dust from pages and spines. 

There are several different volunteer teams working in the building to prepare different types of archival documents. Our Photography Section have a separate darkened room where they deal with photographs, negatives and film. Eventually we hope to buy equipment for digitising and copying these photos. Meanwhile, our Archive group deals with paper items – loose documents, books, newspapers and plans.
When the items are debugged, clean, arranged and described, they are stored in acid-free boxes or folders in the Archive room. This room uses state of the art technology to preserve the items. It is temperature controlled, and has special lighting and fire prevention technology to ensure the documents are safely stored. We use a series of huge shelving systems on wheels to store everything safely. 

While the Archive is a work area and not open to the general public, we do occasionally take special interest groups for pre-arranged tours. If your group would be interested in learning more about The Treasury, give us a call.

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