Just like that, our big move is over. There’s a sort of inevitable letdown after the completion of a project that you’ve been working towards for years. Of course in the middle of a large project it never feels like the end is in sight, whether it’s building a new warehouse to store materials, or moving thousands of boxes, or even processing a large collection. But the end arrives eventually and now I’m stuck with the question: “Now what?”
All in all, our move was fantastic from start to finish. It took us 6.5 weeks to move our collections from one building to another, in addition to our months of preparation. How many things moved is up for debate. I can tell you that over 9,000 archival items and supplies moved, but even that number doesn’t capture the scope of the Pixar archives. Within that figure, an item could be a single piece, like a decorated car hood, or a box for a small group of maquettes, or a box full of hundreds of pieces of art.
I’ve already written about the minuscule details involved in preparing and executing this move, so I won’t bore you with more tales of shelf labels and move signage. As I reflect on the process, here’s a little of what I’ve learned.
- Sometimes moves are anticlimactic.
In the months leading up to the move, our entire department was fairly stressed. We knew how much we had to do and we were scared of forgetting small details or losing important information along the way. We were sure that each move day would be hectic and full of last minute questions. In the end, the move was smooth, our process was straightforward, and everything was on schedule. You might call that an archives miracle, but I know it was due to everyone’s hard work to make sure that we had every detail nailed down before day one. The stress was strong, but in the end it was worth it. Our actual move days felt low-key and breezy as our movers worked to enact our vision and transport our carefully packed items.
- There’s always something.
Similarly to how moving to a new house highlights everything you forgot you had at your old one, moving from an archives facility we had occupied for ten years unearthed a few things we’d overlooked. Despite our generally smooth move, there were areas of the collection that were challenging because items were hiding in plain sight. Despite all of our preparation, we still forgot to shelf-read a group of soft-packed maquettes, create records for a few oversize reproductions, and plan for miscellaneous old boxes that we stored for transport of archival material. This oversight required some quick scrambling on a few move days to give our movers the information they needed. In the end it all worked out, but I still beat myself up for not recognizing these issues during our months of prep.
While the construction of our new space finished ahead of schedule (a construction miracle!), some of our shelf parts were late due to backorder or change order. Unfortunately this delay meant a few items had to live temporarily on pallets until the shelves arrived and were installed post-move. It was an unsatisfying feeling to have items lying on pallets instead of beautifully shelved at the official end of our move, but the situation was unavoidable and ultimately did not greatly impact our workflow.
- Build as much into the process as possible.
I‘ve written in past posts about the detailed preparation we did for moving once we had properly housed all of our items. At the time it felt like overkill to print multiple copies of photos of our shelves and attach signs to every oversize item, but in the end it was completely worth it. Our extensive move signage gave our movers quick cues so that they could quickly shelve boxes and items without constantly asking us questions about where something belonged.
One of the most important decisions we made early in our move planning was to bring our vendor into the archives two weeks before the move began. This allowed them to get a head start on packing our more fragile or unusual objects and learn the collection. By the time we officially started our move, our movers were very familiar with our team, our space, and our materials and we were able to start transporting items to the new location immediately.
- The world never stops, and neither do requests.
Though we gave our clients ample notice that we would be moving the archives and might be slower to respond to requests, requests still poured in during the move. As a corporate support department, we are never really closed or unavailable. Whereas a public institution could close the reading room for the summer or reschedule visiting scholars, we can’t turn away our internal clients. Many of our requests were time-sensitive, especially as the studio was ramping up for the release of Finding Dory and associated press activities. Having up-to-date information (e.g. “where is the artwork for Finding Nemo at this very moment and how much longer will we have access to it”) was crucial for filling these requests during the move. Our department responded to 21 formal requests during our 6.5-week move, roughly 3 per week, not counting offline exchanges or questions. These requests varied from simple handoffs of material to more complex research questions. Thankfully our archivists who were not supervising the move were able to tackle all of them so that our move team was not severely impacted by the requests other than fielding queries about the location of items in transit.
- Good collaborators are key.
I can’t say enough glowing things about the people I worked with during this process, both inside and outside of Pixar. On the Pixar side I worked especially closely with our department head/project manager, our digital assets and infrastructure archivist (AKA database guru), and our temporary archives technicians to coordinate the move. One of the best parts of working in archives is working alongside others who are just as enthusiastic about details and workflow. Together our move team talked through the entire process of moving, ensured that our data was as accurate as possible, and guaranteed that our movers had everything they needed to do their job. Having the help of temporary archives technicians meant that I could focus on higher-lever workflow questions and make decisions that they could quickly implement, including taping up signs, shelf reading collections, and photographing shelf arrangements.
I was especially impressed with our move vendor, a local fine art handling company. We knew that a good vendor-client relationship was crucial to the project’s success. Our team of movers transformed our process with their thoughtfulness, attention to detail, and fun attitude, and we quickly learned to trust their expertise and judgment in fine art packing and handling. While we were the client and they were the vendor, in the end our relationship felt more like a partnership with each group bringing different competencies to the move.
- You’re never really done.
Although the official move of our materials has ended, we’re still settling in to the new space and dealing with the ramifications of moving. Just like when you move into a new house, moving into a new facility has a learning curve as you adjust to the new space and figure out where exactly everything goes. Our office supplies are still a mess waiting to be organized. Hanging files are being loaded into lateral files and collections are being shifted now that we have the room to do so. We’re slowly turning our attention to future projects and non-move related objectives, but much of the move still permeates our daily work.