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Consultation response over plans William Salt Collection 'very good'

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: January 25, 2014

By Robin Scott

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A CONSULTATION into plans to house Staffordshire's archives in a single centre has already received more than 100 hundred responses.

The proposal to centralise the County Archives and the William Salt collection in a new space with improved visitor facilities, would see a three-storey extension to the Staffordshire Record Office on Eastgate Street in Stafford including a new search room on the ground floor; full disable access, an exhibition space and break out area, an additional 15 to 20 years expansion room for the collections and improved online access to the county's records.

The new site will also include purpose built strongrooms to provide the correct environment conditions and a modern automatic fire extinguisher system.

The county council has submitted a £4millon bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to finance the project and match 10% of the cost if successful.

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Cllr Mike Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Children, Community and Localism with Staffordshire County Council said: "We have a fascinating archives collection in the county and we want even more people to be able to enjoy them.

"Bringing together the county's collections from our record offices and the William Salt Library onto a new extended site will allow us jointly with the trustees to improve the services we offer to our visitors," he said. "Before we move any of the collections we are working with findmypast to digitise over six million records including parish registers, wills and marriage bonds.

"This will provide free access from Staffordshire Libraries as well as the Archive Service offices."

Councillor Lawrence said response to the consultation had so far been 'very good' with more than 100 people attending drop-in session and completing the online survey as well as giving their feedback to the project team.

John Giffard, chairman of the William Salt Library Trustees, who have been working with the county council for more than a year on the plans, said the trustees took their responsibility to the William Salt Collection 'very seriously'.

"This is not the first time that the Library has moved in its history and we face the same issues as in 1918, lack of space and less than ideal storage conditions," he said. "The collection is a rare gem and a key focus for the proposed new facility and we want to ensure that it is properly cared for and made more accessible to a wide range of people not just for now but for future generations."

Nick Kingsley, head of archive sector development at the National Archives said: "We have been liaising with colleagues at Staffordshire Archive Service to support their continued collection and preservation of the county's archival heritage.

"The provision of additional and purpose built accommodation at Staffordshire Record Office will underpin this important work and equip the service to face future challenges. We look forward to working with the service as it continues to preserve and protect the County's fascinating history.

"Staffordshire Archive Service has a proven track record of excellent service and was rated 4 stars, the highest award in the national archives self-assessment survey in 2010."

The Staffordshire Archive Service currently has three sites, the Staffordshire Record Office Eastgate Street and the William Salt Library both in Stafford and the Diocesan Record Office in Lichfield.

As part of the proposals a new service will be put in place at Lichfield, as a Lichfield Local and Family History Centre within the Library offering access to digitised collections and microfiche sources alongside the local studies collection within the Library.

Consultation on the proposals continues until January 31 and includes a survey and online portal at www.staffordshire.gov.uk and an additional drop in session Monday January 27 January between 1pm and 5pm at Staffordshire Record Office.

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