The Cumbria Archive Centre project involved the creation of a modern archive centre for north east Cumbria public records offices and the restoration of the Grade II* listed mansion, Lady Gillford’s House at Petteril Bank, for public use.

The new archive building, by architects Austin-Smith:Lord, accommodates the main archive vault and public study area and takes the form of a contemporary pavilion in landscaped grounds to the east of the historic house. It provides exemplary environmental conditions for the consolidated collections, some of which date back to the 12th century. Bruynzeel was asked to advise on and then supply mobile shelving for the project. The building opened in June 2011.

The solution
The new archive shelving was funded, in part, through a £4.8m Heritage Lottery Fund grant – the largest grant HLF has ever awarded in Cumbria. After visiting an existing site where electronic mobile shelving was already in use, the client team engaged Bruynzeel four years in advance of the build deadline. This allowed them to integrate a storage solution at planning and design stage.

“I always regarded the shelving installation as one of the key aspects of delivering a new archives centre for Carlisle,” said Anne Rowe, Cumbria County Archivist. “We needed to find the most cost-effective solution to storing documents of varying shapes, sizes, weights and formats.”

Bruynzeel was requested to assist in providing figures for storage capacities. Bruynzeel’s input helped the architects to determine the size of the repositories required to house the archive, as well as provide adequate expansion space for future growth of the collection. The plans resulted in a complex installation featuring 23 different bay elevations to allow all the different media to be stored efficiently.

Both of the large repositories measure approximately 38m x 11m, and runs of shelving are generally 9m long except where a central lobby necessitates shorter lengths. At right angles to this on both floors are runs of cantilever racking 600mm deep, accommodating rolled maps longer than 900mm. On the ground floor any rolled or flat maps less than 900mm in length are stored in double deep shelves.

In addition to the two large repositories there is a small audio store on the ground floor and a photo store on the first floor. In total there is approximately 1,100 cubic metres of storage, with the vast majority stored on electronic mobile shelving finished in Jacob Jensen-designed Shade fronts.

“The shelving looks classy, works very smoothly and also cuts down on manual handling which is a real plus point for the staff,” said Anne Rowe.

The electronic mobile shelving was not only chosen for its look. It has a raft of archive-friendly features such as air circulation and integral lighting (provides excellent illumination levels and also switches off automatically when not in use, thereby saving energy), as its future proofing features. Clients are able to link units directly to their database to aid tracking, retrieval and replacement of stored media.


  • 1,100 cubic metres of storage
  • Air circulation feature to preserve archive in optimum condition
  • Integral lighting
  • Jacob Jensen-designed Shade fronts on all mobile storage
  • Special collection storage includes rolled and flat maps, glass plate negatives, audio and video media

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