We had a great time working with the students listing and packaging material in the Melvyn Bragg and Tony Harrison collections. We hope that some of those students will do follow-on work in the coming months.
Repackaging the material is an essential part of making collections usable and aiding preservation. The work involved removing steel fastenings to stop rust from damaging papers, removing elastic bands (always in the hope that they have not already started to disintegrate and fix themselves to the paper), and finally rehousing the material in acid-free stationery (folders and boxes).
When performing this work, the main thing that really hits you is how much room archives need. When they are rehoused they grow substantially. A collection like Bragg's arrives in a rather compacted fashion and space is allocated based on its state at that time. When it is all reboxed its volume increases to at least one-and-a-half times the original size.
In Special Collections space is at a premium, and we move and rehouse material to make best use of what is available. Where Bragg will end up is still unclear - but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.