December 27, 2019 • Sam Grabel
So you’re moving into a new facility—great! Maybe it’s to a different location— hopefully, a bigger or newer place for your teams to work. Or maybe you’re consolidating facilities into fewer locations and bringing people together.
Regardless of why you’re moving, you’re bound to face the question of what to do with your historical assets: valuable documents, digital records, product prototypes, videos and any other items related to your company’s history.
These assets may make up an archives. Or they may be stuffed in a cupboard or trapped on a hard drive or server. No matter what, you still probably need to move them from point A to point B.
But wait! Remember that these assets might be priceless and irreplaceable— part of your company’s heritage that could be used to help your business in a multitude of ways. That box is not just an ordinary file box, just as moving a box of books is not the same as moving a sculpture or painting.
We’ve put together this short guide to help you figure out how. History Factory has managed both small and large archives relocation efforts, across the country and around the globe. We hope you find this helpful.
Before you decide to relocate your company’s assets, it is extremely important to understand the size and type of space that it will inhabit in the future. Key considerations in choosing this space are:
Each of these factors will affect what types of assets and how much of the collection you can bring with you from the old location. Temperature, humidity and light all can wreak havoc on paper, film and image collections. Physical objects generally hold up better. Shelving and storage solutions will also dictate whether you can add to the collection in your new location, or if downsizing will be necessary.
The next step should be taking stock with an inventory—that is, a record of what is in the collection and where it is stored. The initial investment in an inventory is the costliest part of the relocation process because of the human-hours needed to thoroughly document everything. However, it is the most important part. It will ensure the usability of your assets and will reduce the need for future investments to organize it further. Activities during the inventory include:
Take this time to create clear guidelines that outline what to keep and what to throw out. Get rid of photocopies of “Reply All” emails that document the minutiae of daily office life. Get rid of excess copies of other documents while you’re at it—though we do recommend that you keep more than one copy of documents that are especially important.
Removing (deaccessioning) items from the collection and/or integrating new items creates new opportunities for the collection, either to reduce clutter or expand its scope. Corporate clients generally keep far more than is necessary or even beneficial
In the past, clients who haven’t wanted to keep physical items but still believed they were valuable chose to digitize them in an easily accessible and searchable format. Others have donated underused assets to historical societies or university libraries for use by historians and scholars. The goal is to have measured and responsible deaccession that safeguards historically and culturally valuable materials.
Space permitting, companies may look to fill gaps in their history by acquiring new materials. These new materials may be accessioned from decentralized locations or through a discovery program, which invites employees and retirees to donate items of value that may be collecting dust in their attics.
Moving digital assets might offer a good opportunity to assess the current state of the hardware used for storage and upgrade to newer technology, if necessary.
This is the least expensive part of the process, and price differences are negligible, whether you’re moving a collection across campus, across the country or across the globe. However, be sure to take into account these important considerations:
The big day is quickly approaching. You’ve successfully navigated the first few steps. Now it’s time to move the collection out of the old space and into the new one. Forge ahead with these considerations in mind:
It’s more than likely that there is no clear path to get items from the objects’ fourth-floor location to the loading dock. Furthermore, the loading dock may not be the same height as the moving truck. It might be necessary to transport the items on smaller vehicles to a staging area before you put them on the larger truck—kind of like smaller boats taking passengers to a cruise ship that’s too large for the port.
Remember that these materials have been organized in a specific way for the people on the receiving end, and make sure the people handling the materials at any point during the move preserve this organization.
Some moving companies will offer GPS locators so you can track trucks in real time. If this is not the case, get the phone number for the dispatcher or driver so you can remain in contact throughout the move to ensure a chain of accountability.
Chris Juhasz, C.A., History Factory’s managing archivist, considers these the five most important considerations in any archives move:
History Factory has more than 40 years of experience handling archives and would be happy to help you launch or relocate your corporate archives. Contact us today!