Moving is all in the details. And the past two months have been chock-full of them. While I’ve been taking the last six months to ready our collection for moving, as the date of our move drew nearer it was time to focus on the tasks that would actually facilitate that move. These details included shifting the collection, shelf reading, space planning, delivering data, photographing box arrangement, putting signage up, and labeling shelves.
Because we had the time and additional help in the form of full-time archives technicians, we decided to shift our entire collection so that we could move it in exactly the way we wanted to. This meant formalizing the intellectual arrangement for productions and then physically moving our boxes until each production conformed to our guidelines. Over the course of the seventeen-year history of the archives we’ve had many different ideas about how materials from a film should be organized and how the series should relate to each other. We were eager to bring some consistency into our arrangement and the move provided the perfect excuse to get it right before we transitioned into a new kind of shelving in which collection shifting would be much more difficult. In the end we shifted almost every box in the collection and realized just how heavy our boxes can be.
Once we had everything in the order that we wanted, we shelf read every box and item, confirming location and box type. This process helped us identify missing boxes, boxes that had been deaccessioned, and other records that required cleanup. Handing off accurate data to our professional movers was critical for our process to be smooth and shelf reading helped us achieve that goal.
Part of the data we delivered to our move registrar included the future location of every box. Space planning for over 8,000 items was a daunting task from the outset, so we made a few decisions to facilitate and simplify the process. For instance, though we are moving from shelving units that are six-shelves high to ones that are eight-shelves high, we chose not to fill the top two shelves of every unit so that we could plan more easily. Though we will need to grow into that space eventually, for the purpose of moving it was too complicated to jigsaw our way into filling every shelf. This decision allowed us first to map each unit at our old location to a unit at our new location and from there to plan shelf-by-shelf where materials would land. We used a script to populate our database with this information (old shelf to new shelf) so that every box that was confirmed to be on a particular shelf was given a new destination based on its old one. From there we were able to deliver a spreadsheet to our move company that listed every box they would be responsible for moving, its current location, and its projected location.
Though our data listed the shelf destination for a box, it was still important to us that boxes on a single shelf were arranged in a particular order. In consultation with our movers we decided to photograph every shelf in our old archives space and print these photos to aid in the unpacking process. While this process meant battling our copier for a few days, thus far it’s been very helpful in the unpacking process as our movers place boxes on our new shelves. With clear directions about how boxes should look on every shelf they can easily enact our vision without micromanagement or handholding.
Another tool we used to guide our movers was taping up color-coded signs at both our old and new locations. Depending on the collection these signs could be for a unit, a shelf, or a single item. Since our space planning decisions meant a single unit of boxes would become a single unit in the new space, we attached a sign above each unit of our boxed collections listing the future unit the materials would go to. For our item-level collections of maquettes and molds we taped a sign on each shelf listing the production, project code, and future range of shelves that were designated for the materials. Individual signs were used for oversize objects, which were destined for particular future shelves.
Perhaps the most mundane of the details we dealt with was designing, printing, and affixing our shelf labels. In a brand new space with brand new shelving we realized that each of our shelves needed a label stating its specific number. After some trial-and-error we landed on a design and then set to work printing over 4,000 shelf labels. We were able to use our existing label maker and a CSV file for the task, but in the end it took approximately twelve hours of work as the label maker churned out labels and we organized them to keep track of all of our numbers. Then over the course of two and a half days, an army of archivists, temps, and interns applied all of the labels to our new shelves so that they would be ready for the first day of the move.
It’s been a busy few months juggling these details, but as we start our move they’ve proven to be exactly what we needed to ensure a smooth process. We’ve had a chance to see the move in action and elements like the photographs and color-coded signs have contributed to a fairly stress-free move (so far). I can’t believe we’re finally here, but it feels good to know that all of our prep was worth it.