Contemporary Collections: Preprints from the AICCM National Conference 17th g 19th October 2007 Brisbane pp. 169-179
In 2003, the NSW Department of Lands moved from their original purpose built premises in Bridge Street to premises in Queen’s Square. The original building incorporated a storage room specifically designed to house the more than 1 million plans detailing all land purchases, divisions, roads etc of NSW. There is no such storage space in the new building. This move prompted the Department of Lands to decide to digitise the plans for continuing business purposes and then transfer the originals to State Records NSW. Before the plans could be copied and transferred major preservation work was required. The Plan Room storage system was considered state of the art when originally designed and built in 1891. However by today’s standards it is antiquated and causing storage, handling and access problems resulting in many of the plans being severely deteriorated – with further damage occurring daily. In 2004, following advice from State Records NSW to preserve the plans correctly, the Department of Lands contracted Preservation Australia to undertake a Business Case Study to determine the preservation requirements, and associated costs, to allow the entire contents of the Plan Room to be digitised and then transferred to State Records NSW.
This paper looks briefly at the methods used to survey and assess the plans, determine conservation categories and procedures, and the calculation of the overall cost to Lands over the life of the project. The paper also considers the role a consultant can play in situations such as these, particularly when liaising between a colleague at an agency such as State Records and a client such as the Department of Lands. It describes the discussions undertaken and the decisions made to address the pragmatic considerations of stabilising such a vast collection (which is still being ‘used’) with limited resources, against the need to ensure that the collection does not pose an unreasonable ongoing preservation burden to a collecting archive such as State Records NSW.