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Archive office takes first steps towards new premises

Dec 29, 2021 | Leisure & Lifestyle

Changes to a County Durham archive will mark the beginning of an exciting new era for the service, as it prepares to move to a vibrant new local history centre.

From January 2022, Durham County Record Office’s search room will temporarily close to visitors to allow staff to begin packing its extensive collection of records in anticipation of a move to a new state-of-the-art history centre.

Throughout the preparation for the move, the public will continue to be able to access expert advice and guidance from the service’s archivists and specialists. The service will continue to respond to public enquiries by email and process online requests, as well as delivering its education programmes, online history talks and courses, and digitisation projects.

Approximately six miles of archives, currently housed in Durham County Council’s County Hall headquarters, will be relocated to the new purpose-built building, which forms part of the council’s history centre project on the outskirts of Durham City.

The development, which is due to open to visitors in 2023, is being delivered by contractors, Kier, and includes the refurbishment of the 19th Century Grade II Listed Mount Oswald Manor House. The project will bring together the council’s archive, heritage, and registration services at a single location, alongside a café and an exhibition space showcasing the lesser told stories of the county’s working people.

Cllr Richard Bell, Cabinet member responsible for the record office, said: “Our archives chart more than 900 years of history in records which span almost six miles. Whilst the move to the new history centre is massively exciting, it is also a huge undertaking which requires a lot of preparation to ensure the new history centre can open on time.

“Each individual item in our collection needs careful handling, specialist packaging and thorough cataloguing, all of which takes time. Restricting visitors from the search room, as we did during the Covid lockdown restrictions, will allow the team to prioritise its workload, focussing on packing for the move, to make sure we are ready to welcome visitors in the new history centre from 2023.

“The team coped remarkably well during the pandemic, when they were unable to welcome visitors in-person, with 97 per cent of archive users rating the service as ‘very good’ or ‘good’ in a national survey. The service will continue to offer the same high level of professionalism and commitment during this temporary closure, to help people with their enquiries.”

Further information about the new history centre can be viewed online at www.durham.gov.uk/historycentre