Not everything we hold in libraries is ready for disposal yet. With unpublished material (i.e. archives) you know that you have pretty much the only copy that exists, or possibly one of only two or three copies. Archives are being digitised gradually (e.g. the UK National Archives digitisation programme ) but meanwhile we need to take special care of our archive holdings.
When disasters affect libraries it can be … disastrous, but with archives it can mean the complete loss of historic documents. I well recall the terrible fire in 1994 at Norwich library . Luckily the fire-proof basement saved some treasures like the city’s 800-year old charter, and careful restoration work saved other documents, but there were still losses. More recently, in 2006, a fire at Iron Mountain warehouse resulted in total destruction of the facility, with the loss of all the business records stored there.
This is all by way of an introduction to a new store that the BBC have been featuring in their news reports this morning, for some reason only they know. Called Deep Store it is a new store for all kinds of things – paintings, archives and even a grand piano. The BBC report explains that it is a working salt mine, producing a million tons of salt a year. The underground excavation has also left an enormous underground space, big enough to fit 700 football pitches. Conditions down there are just right for storage – it’s too dry for mould, too deep for mice, with a constant temperature (14C) and humidity. Deep Store’s Sales Manager said:
‘A single room is probably about a third of a football pitch. If you compare that to the whole of the mine, DeepStore has about 3-4% of the mine. And the mine is still producing on a daily basis. We’ve calculated that every piece of archived document ever produced in the UK can be actually be stored underground. So we’ve got a long way to actually fill the mine.’
I wonder if I could send them some of the boxes of old papers on the top of my bedroom cupboard?