Consultation is now well underway to help develop our plans for a brand new home for the Wakefield and West Riding archives, currently housed in the Registry of Deeds building.
A Heritage Lottery Fund ‘development grant’ was awarded at the end of 2012 which will help us develop our ideas for a larger application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. This will secure enough funding to build a new home for the Wakefield and West Riding archives. Next year, we will be submitting a bid to the funders which will outline our architectural plans for a new building; information on how it will improve the condition and management of the collections; the activities and audience engagement programmes that will operate from the new building and the impact this will have on the protection of and access to West Yorkshire’s heritage.
The Registry of Deeds building itself, although much loved by staff and visitors, has been deemed ‘not fit for purpose’ by The National Archives. During their survey of the building in 2009 they also cited the inaccessibility of the building to disabled visitors and recommended that even with a regular maintenance programme and improvements it would be ‘difficult to overcome the problems associated with a building never intended for archive preservation and public access’. Sadly, the cost of refurbishing the Registry to acceptable archival standards and making the building meet current Equality Act legislation is too prohibitive. Therefore, the funding we seek will be for a brand new building which will form part of the wider Kirkgate regeneration plans for Wakefield.
As the official place of deposit for the former West Riding of Yorkshire the Archive collections held at the registry cover a huge variety of subjects and a geographic area that stretches from Sedbergh down to Sheffield.
As well as the archive collections we will also be working alongside West Yorkshire Ecology service and West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service, who provide access to the Historic Environment and Ecological Records for the county and with whom we share the current building. The new facility will provide a single one-stop shop in the best possible accommodation for all our services, their staff and visitors. This enormous collection of knowledge, expertise, resources and records will be housed together in one purpose built and fully accessible facility.
This project has generated an exciting opportunity for the service to assess and improve the way in which it interacts with residents and institutions across the region. Work has already begun to consult with key groups of users and non-users and to talk to them about how they would like to work with the new facility, what they expect, what they would like and what we can do to make it happen.
A wide variety of groups representing the local community and the wider region will be consulted throughout the planning process. The current priorities are to engage local school groups in order to develop a new learning programme for the service. We are also working to introduce local communities to some of our extensive county-wide collections – including the vast collection of records acquired from the National Coal Board.
This has created an exciting opportunity to work on a collection of national and regional significance which until now we have not explored fully.
If you are interested in helping to shape the future of our Wakefield office please get in touch and do come along to one of our events: firstname.lastname@example.org