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Black Cultural Archives

Black Cultural Archives was founded in 1981 to collect, preserve and celebrate the contributions black people have made to the culture, society and heritage of the UK.

From its home in Kennington, South London, the Black Cultural Archives recently moved into the UK’s first black heritage archive centre, located in Brixton. The collection, which is dedicated to the history and culture of people of African and Caribbean descent in Britain, is housed in the renovated 18th century Raleigh Hall on Windrush Square.

Designed by architects Pringle Richards Sharratt, the building provides facilities for Black Cultural Archives core activities of education, research and community engagement. The building houses an archive store, together with a library. There is also a dedicated, flexible exhibition space on the ground floor. The building also contains a learning centre, cafe and shop as well as office and administration spaces. The Black Cultural Archives new home features space for education, research and community engagement work as well as conferences, seminars and community use. Digital interactive pods enable visitors to digitally access key collections.

The Brief

Alongside artefact collections, the Black Cultural Archives contain over 10,000 historical archive documents, spanning some five centuries, from letters and personal papers to periodicals, ephemera, photographs and an AV collection, including both cassette and VHS tapes. The bulk of the collection is drawn from the twentieth century to the present day, while some materials date as far back as the second century.

The Black Cultural Archives storage requirement consisted of an integrated solution to house their archival collection to PD5454 standards, and shelving for the heritage centre’s library area.

Tenders were invited for the heritage centre’s storage requirements and Link 51 was successful.

The Solution

Following initial plans and drawings for a mobile storage solution for the archival collection, new regulations were released that updated existing guidance on archival storage. This combination of changes necessitated amendments to the plans provided by Link 51. Such changes included the relocation of shelving away from external walls to prevent the possibility of moisture ingress and ensuring that the archival store lighting did not have a detrimental effect on those items being stored, as light accelerates the deterioration of library and archival materials.

Both the Black Cultural Archives and Link 51 worked closely to create the best possible solution within the space available.

Archival Store

Link 51 installed 8 x Stormor trackless mobile units with each running on a single guide track at the rear, thereby removing the need for fixed tracks in the floor. Out of a total of 24 cubic metres of archival material held by the Black Cultural Archives in storage at Kennington, 28 cubic metres has currently been decanted into the mobile units.

In addition to the mobile storage, Link 51 installed one run of 4 x 1000mm and one run of 3 x 1000mm static shelving units for outsized and irregular items.

All shelving is finished in BioCote® anti-microbial protection against mould.

Library

The Black Cultural Archives library consists of 7000 catalogued books, which include the Runnymede Collection (the Runnymede Collection is unique, reflecting on the development of multiculturalism and British race relations since Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech).

For the library, Link 51 installed 180 linear metres of Stormor static shelving. To complement the library’s contemporary decor, each shelving bay features MFC timber effect cladding on the ends of each run.

Shelves within each floor fixed bay are fully adjustable and are pierced to accept dividers if required.

Providing a platform to encourage enquiry and dialogue

Founded in 1981, the Black Cultural Archives’ mission is to collect, preserve and celebrate the heritage and history of Black people in Britain.

The UK’s first dedicated Black heritage centre in Brixton, London opened in July 2014. The new location enables visitors greater access to the archive collection, dedicated learning spaces and an exciting programme of exhibitions and events that explore British history from a unique perspective.

The unparalleled and growing archive collection offers insight into the history of people of African and Caribbean descent in Britain. The bulk of the collection is drawn from the twentieth century to the present day, while some materials date as far back as the second century. The collection includes personal papers, organisational records, rare books, ephemera, photographs, and a collection of small objects.

The work at the Black Cultural Archives recognises the importance of untold stories and providing a platform to encourage enquiry and dialogue. People and their historical accounts are placed at the heart of everything we do.

“Link 51 provided a highly efficient service throughout this project. They effortlessly put our revised archival storage plans into motion and installed a solution that fully meets our requirements. And with the space we have available, they were able to provide extra capacity for our growing collection which is ideal. In the library the shelving is fantastic – we can adjust the shelves very easily. It all works very well.”

Victoria Northridge, Collections Manager, Black Cultural Archives

By using Link 51, the Black Cultural Archives benefited from:

  • UK based in-house manufacturing capability
  • Fully managed market-leading mass storage solutions
  • Extensive knowledge and experience
  • High quality product range combining strength, durability and operational reliability
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