By Moya Sherriff, Intern, Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre, and Jane Teal, Archivist, Anglican Diocese of Christchurch.
With Christmas looming around the corner, I have reached the halfway point in the internship at the Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre (CCCRC). If you are a fan of this blog, you will know that my experiences of the CCCRC will not give a full picture of what is happening inside these walls. In light of this, every now and then, I am going to be asking participants to share their stories with you.
Our first contributor is Jane Teal, Archivist of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch. She is responsible for their organisational and parish records. They provide a rich source of information on its people, its places and its stories. Jane’s role is to provide the information that assists in the day to day running of the Diocese and as well as making information available to the public.
Pre-earthquake the Archives were housed on one complete floor of the Anglican Centre on Hereford Street in the CBD. When the February earthquake hit, “I had no idea of the state of the archive because I was not working there at the time. I presumed the building had lost humidity and temperature control when the power went off. I had to make an application to get accreditation to enter the building. In March, I remember walking up the middle of Hereford St with five burly blokes. The silence was deafening. I had 15 minutes to assess the situation, in the dark, and so I took photos so that at a later stage I would be able to come up with a plan”. In May, the Diocese was granted permission to remove items that were essential to the running of the organisation. At this point Jane removed a carload of archives including the Bishop’s registers and the Harper papers. In late September – early October, after Church Property Trustees could ensure the safety of the building, a crew from Canterbury Museum, Christchurch Art Gallery, Air Force Museum, a private contractor and the Archivist removed these archives from the building over a period of five and a half days. A container was hoisted up to the 3rd floor window, and with the help of men from C. Lund and Son Ltd the crew members, using headlights and sometimes light provided by a generator, packed and moved boxes out into the containers. Three shipping containers were removed from this site into a warehouse.
Jane explains that one of the biggest challenges with the rescue was “the inability to plan, it had to be done on the hoof. We had several different teams in different spots packing up records, which has had ongoing implications. The result is like unpacking a bad Christmas present every day, everything is in different areas within the containers.”
“When the opportunity arose to have space at the CCCRC the Diocese and Church Property Trustees welcomed it with open and very grateful arms. We began with a 2 ton truck on a Saturday morning, and have been gradually adding to the shelves with car loads ever since. It does not solve all the access issues, but it does mean we have the ability to make deliberate choices about what material moves into the CCCRC, meaning the archives once more can take their place as an integral part of the day to day running of the Diocese. With a portion of the collection elsewhere it is now possible to deliberately search for, and increasingly find, the missing boxes in the containers stored at the warehouse.”
Post-earthquake, Jane’s primary role is to answer questions relating to Church Property Trustees and the Diocese. She divides her time between this ongoing task and trying to regain order to the archives by checking “each box to make sure that it is true to label. Not only have some mixed up files been un-mixed, it has also provided the opportunity to work on two projects that were started before the earthquakes – file amalgamation and disposal.”
“It has not only been an advantage to the collection to have a clean, dry and shelved space, working in the CCCRC has also been beneficial in having a place to connect, exchange skills and ideas which is something that sole charge archivists rarely have access to on a regular basis.” One of the biggest future challenges is finding a space for the archives at the end of 2015 when the CCCRC closes.
Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre
Moya Sherriff & Jane Teal
18 December 2013
Other posts by Moya:
Diary of the CCCRC intern – month 2