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Guide to Moving Your Heritage Assets

December 27, 2019 • Sam Grabel

Hello!

This is a photograph of an extensively developed corporate archives. There are several shelves full of boxes and media in a very large room.

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.

They’re Assets. You Need to Take Care of Them.

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.

Identify & Design a New Space

This is a photograph of a set of shelves in a company archive. The shelves are filled to the brim with boxes that are tagged and organized.

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:

  • It should represent an upgrade over current facilities
  • HVAC temperature and humidity controls
  • Proper levels of incandescent and ultraviolet light
  • Fire and flood detection, suppression and precautions
  • Shelving and storage solutions
  • Proper security measures and access controls

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.

Appraise & Inventory Your Assets

This is a photograph of a corporate archivist appraising and conducting an inventory of the company's assets.

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:

  • Appraising the collection to determine scope, size and contents, including decentralized assets (those that are not contained in the primary collection and may be in other locations).
  • Downsizing, digitizing or integrating new items, according to the new space constraints determined in the previous step.
  • Documenting and organizing each box for easy audit at the destination
  • Preparing and packing materials appropriately for transit.
  • Collaborating with your IT provider to assess the best way to transfer digital assets. Have an archivist involved in backing up data prior to the move.

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.

Choose a Moving Company

This is a photograph of a wooden box from the company archives. It is labeled 'Fragile' in black marker on the side of the box.

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:

  • Look for a reputable company with experience moving archives. You don’t necessarily need an art mover, but many of our clients choose one for peace of mind.
  • Ask for climate control. Just as you want to preserve the collection in the new location, you’ll also want to protect it en route.

The Move

This is a photograph of two History Factory employees moving the company's sign as they migrate to new offices.

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:

  • Make sure there’s a clear path to get the items out of the old location.
  • Ensure a continuous chain of accountability.
  • If the moving company does not have formal training, consider embedding an archivist or someone trained in collections transit.
  • For digital assets, choose a specialized packing system that is shock and static resistant.

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.

The Bottom Line

Chris Juhasz, C.A., History Factory’s managing archivist, considers these the five most important considerations in any archives move:

  • Make sure that a trained archivist or someone with a background in collections or library management is involved.
  • Make sure that there is an organized transmittal system for boxes and shipping containers.
  • Choose a qualified handler/moving company.
  • Bring together all items from decentralized locations.
  • Make sure that the new location represents an upgrade over current facilities.

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!

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