Concerns raised over humidity levels in new Swansea archive
Richard Youle – Local Democracy Reporter
Staff may have to manually alter humidity levels in a new archive store room in Swansea to avoid potential long-term damage to collections, a meeting heard.
Swansea’s county archivist Kim Collis said this would be a less sophisticated system than the current one at the Civic Centre, where humidity and temperature levels were controlled automatically.
Thousands of records and artefacts will be transferred in due course to a new library and community hub building at the former BHS and Miss Selfridge stores, on the corner of Oxford Street and Princess Way.
Mr Collis told a meeting of the West Glamorgan Archives Committee that design modifications had been proposed, some of which he thought were sensible.
However, he said the temperature of the planned archive store room would be controlled automatically but not, as things stood, the humidity. He said controlling both was essential for preserving archives.
Mr Collis said it was proposed to introduce fresh air into the archives storage area at the building to raise humidity levels if they dropped too low. In his view this could be problematic during hot, dry spells in the summer.
“It’s not exactly state-of-the-art, and it’s one (proposal) I’m not particularly happy with as your archivist,” he said.
Mr Collis added that an external adviser to the archive service said it was quite likely that the proposed arrangements would lead to a steady loss of moisture which could damage the archive collections in the long term.
Mr Collis said decisions about proposed modifications at the building – to be called Y Storfa – hadn’t been made yet. Discussions were ongoing between the various organisations involved in the council project, he said, including the Welsh Government, which is to contribute £5.5 million towards it.
Mr Collis said the Y Storfa archive proposal had always been “slightly experimental” because it was higher up the building than currently at the Civic Centre basement. But he feared the humidity control issue “will come back to bite Swansea Council in the years to come”.
Committee members thanked Mr Collis for raising the matter and expressed concern, with one suggesting that a scenario of staff boiling kettles to increase humidity would not be acceptable.
Another member, Cllr Lyndon Jones, said councillors had been previously assured that “all would be okay”, but it was clear to him that the proposed system was “not fit-for-purpose”.
He added: “We have a duty not to play fast and loose with our archive, and I think work needs to be done on that.”
Y Storfa will be home to various council services, which will move from the Civic Centre, plus others including Careers Wales and Citizens Advice Swansea Neath Port Talbot.
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