Warning of ‘empty husk’ as record office temporarily stops accepting donations

PUBLISHED: 10:06 09 May 2019

Lowestoft library and record office. Picture: Nick Butcher

Lowestoft library and record office. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

A record office has temporarily stopped accepting donated items ahead of proposed changes to the service.

Almost 16 months on from Suffolk County Council (SCC) announcing changes to the future of the Suffolk Record Office service in Lowestoft, a campaign group has slammed the plans for the facility - claiming it will become an "empty husk."

With historic archives from the record office - currently housed in Lowestoft Library - to be transferred to a £20m heritage centre in Ipswich, called The Hold, campaigners from the Save Our Record Office (SORO) hit out out at the proposed transformation of the service.

Despite widespread opposition the council is continuing to press ahead with the move, citing National Archives advice, falling visitor numbers and flooding risks at the Lowestoft site - all which have been contested by the SORO group.

The current plan will see the site become a so-called 'Archive hub' containing some local studies material on open shelving and staffed by volunteers.

But members of the SORO group claimed the facility will become an "empty husk," void of any real archives.

However, a council spokesman said that Lowestoft Record Office - like the other branches of SRO - will begin accepting items again from June 1, 2020.

The spokesman said: "This is only temporary. In order to prepare collections for the move to The Hold in Spring 2020 all branches of Suffolk Record Office will stop accepting new archives and local studies material (accessions) between May 1, 2019 and June 1, 2020."

Andy Pearce, SORO group secretary said: "The Suffolk Record Office has produced a 52-page list of collections that are scheduled to be removed from Lowestoft to The Hold.

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"In the digitisation column, most are blank, and in those cases where there is an entry it is generally just 'proposed future digitisation' at some indeterminate future date.

"In other words, it might never happen."

Group chairman and historian, Bob Collis, added: "If this move goes ahead, nobody in north east Suffolk will ever entrust the Suffolk Record Office with their archives again.

"It shows the contempt they have for Lowestoft and Waveney residents."

Paul West, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member with responsibility for Heritage, said: "A staffed record office service will continue to operate from the library building in Lowestoft and we have worked closely with senior archivists to keep many of the most well-used collections in Lowestoft.

"From the results of the recent consultation, along with what we already know about what customers order from our searchrooms, we have a good indication of what people would like us to digitise going forward.

"To this end, work is already progressing on digitising popular collections such as fishing boat agreements, Brooke Marine order books and glass plate negatives.

"The Beccles House of Correction/Gaol Books and some of the North East Suffolk Photographs and Illustrations Collection are now digitised, catalogued and indexed and the images are available online for viewing.

"The Lowestoft branch will be a thriving centre of resources, digital facilities, activities and new displays to encourage more people than ever to learn about the heritage of north east Suffolk."

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