Archive storage plans delayed

The government announced in October that construction on a new vault would begin in spring 2013. But that plan turned out to be too expensive, so other options are now being considered, said Mike Nixon, minister of tourism and culture.

UPDATED

Plans to build more storage space at the Yukon Archives have been put on hold.

 

The government announced in October that construction on a new vault would begin in spring 2013. But that plan turned out to be too expensive, so other options are now being considered, said Mike Nixon, minister of tourism and culture.

The government has been looking at options for more space for at least six years.

“In 2007, Yukon Archives and the property management division explored options for expanding the Yukon Archives facility,” according to a 2012 document commemorating the archive’s 40th anniversary. “The existing vaults are nearly full and more storage space is needed.”

Inside one of the archives’ existing vaults, shelves are full but not overflowing. It looks like a well-organized basement storage space, with some, but not lots, of room to spare.

The room is carefully climate-controlled. Red pipes overhead contain a fire suppressant liquid. It turns to a gas when released and suffocates the fire without damaging the records. Amazingly, it is also non-toxic to humans.

The shelves are about 83 per cent full, said David Schlosser, the acting territorial archivist.

“We are getting full. We’re in a business that continually grows – we continue to acquire new material every year.”

There’s room for approximately 4,200 additional banker’s boxes worth of material, he said. While it is impossible to say how long it will take to fill that space, the archive forecasts that it will receive around 1,500 banker’s boxes of material over the next three years, said Schlosser.

The staff now spend more time sorting and processing materials in order to maximize the existing space, he said.

On October 16, 2012, the government announced that Kobayashi + Zedda Architects had been awarded a $270,000 contract “to create design and construction specifications for the expanded storage.”

But the project started to look more expensive than the government had planned.

“We’ve kind of put the project on hold a little bit,” said Nixon. “We want to look at how we can move forward with this project in the most fiscally responsible way.”

Now the government is looking at partnerships with paleontology and archeology programs, as well as the permanent art collection, to find storage solutions, said Nixon.

“They’re all facing the same issue as Archives,” he said.

The NDP Opposition questioned the government on the delayed plans in the legislature last week.

“My biggest concern is that they made it sound last week like it’s going to be hodgepodge,” said MLA Kate White in an interview. “You know, there’s some closet space up at this office, they’re going to get some documents in there. But that’s not document management, or care.

“Breaking promises isn’t fiscally responsible. I’m taking a poll and figuring out how many times they’re going to respond to something they said they’d do and they changed their mind with the term ‘fiscal responsibility.’”

Archives are more than pretty pictures, said White.

“When there’s a civil war or something erupting in the country, they blow up archives and libraries. And part of the reason for archives, is it keeps governments honest. It has all the information of how they got to these decisions, within archives.”

The government is currently working on a functional space analysis, which should be completed this summer, said Nixon.

“By late summer, early fall, we should have a better sense of how we can proceed with this.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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