New look Nottingham Archives

Last week I made my first visit to the revamped Nottinghamshire Archives.  Finished last spring with new storage added they took the opportunity to refurbish the public areas.

As you can see they are now bright and airy and everything has been moved around.  The reception desk is still the first thing you see when you walk in, the lockers (although now disguised as a wall with images on each locker), loos and break area are still in the same place but the Library area now contains the card indexes, microfilms and paper catalogues in its own discrete area.

The Library area

This is a good idea but I do have a few moans about it.  I really liked the old card indexes in their wooden drawers which could be removed so that you could sit down at a table and not have to write and stand at a weird angle for hours.  The new metal cabinets not only have nowhere to put paper down easily but the drawers go all the way down to the ground so you are forced to kneel and use the ground as your table.  Which may be OK for the youngsters but for those of us with failing joints we not only need a gardening kneeler but a hoist to get us back up again.  You can of course take your chair over to the cabinet but you are then blocking someone’s access to those filing drawers and it doesn’t help with the lowest ones at all.

In addition, to reach the top shelves of the shelving rack it is necessary to use a kick-stool.  Again for those who are not so robust or with balance problems this is a definite health and safety hazard and perhaps could be replaced with a set of kitchen type steps with handrails?  They are not so very expensive.  I know that accessibility for the “not exactly disabled but nowadays physically challenged” is my hobby horse but I do feel that simple things like this make things easier for everyone and it should be an integral part of everyday design.

The media area

I did not use this part on my visit but it looks so much brighter than it did.  The layout is much less confined with room for wheelchairs – you did tend to feel a bit hemmed in before.  When I arrived which was early on a Saturday morning there was already someone there using the computers and there seemed to be more of them now with less microfilm readers but still enough I would have thought for most days.

The search room

This is always where I spend most of my time.  Again this seems much less cramped and is now a larger area.  On my visit a group doing local history had taken over the block of 8 tables in  the forefront of the image and had various maps spread out making comparisons.  It fully illustrates one way the search room is used successfully.

The staff remain the same – friendly, helpful, quick to obtain documents, knowledgeable.  I hope they like their new surroundings because I certainly do.

Jacqui Kirk