Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) - Constructor Group Archive Reference

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Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) - Constructor Group Archive Reference

The new Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is now fully equipped with a comprehensive storage infrastructure from Bruynzeel Storage Systems, enabling optimised archive space and BS5454:2000 storage conditions for its vast collection of historical, social and cultural records.

The project is part of a major development to rejuvenate the identity of the official archive deposit for Northern Ireland. Located in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast’s docklands, and opened to the public in March 2011, PRONI’s impressive new building replaced its outdated Balmoral facility. PRONI has the legal responsibility for retaining and preserving millions of historical records in perpetuity, whilst ensuring all ‘open’ documents can be accessed efficiently and utilised for the education and enjoyment of the public.

Pivotal to PRONI's rejuvenation, and testimony to its mission statement of 'Protecting and Providing Archives for All’, is the new building's interior: a modern, lean and sustainable archive that creates a welcoming and spacious environment for the general public. The four storey, secure Archive forms the central core of the structure, and contains over 3 million documents on over 25 miles of shelving. The new building, with its high-density storage system, has allowed previously dispersed collections to be sequenced together in one accessible repository.

Bruynzeel Storage Systems was appointed in April 2009 to provide the storage systems. The selection criteria included Product quality that needed to be in keeping with the planned design; conformity to BS5454:2000; sustainable whole life costs and, most importantly, a high level of design and implementation expertise to optimise the storage capacity and enhance the interior design aesthetics.

“Because we were involved at a very early stage, we were able to suggest certain changes in time for them to be incorporated into the Repository. These ensured that the space-plans achieved maximum capacity of the 30m x 30m areas,” says Alan Percy, Bruynzeel’s General Sales Manager.

Construction began in 2008, and was completed in 2010. The initial phase of the Bruynzeel installation, in September 2009, was to fix the floor rails for the mobile storage systems to the repository’s four concrete floors during construction of the building’s central core. The finishing screed was then poured level with the floor rails in preparation for Bruynzeel returning to install the shelving systems. After Bruynzeel delivered the storage equipment into the repositories, the temporary access portal was sealed and the remainder of the building was constructed around the core. Meanwhile Bruynzeel installed the mobile and static shelving systems on the flush rails. The shelving  was completed ahead of schedule and handed over in late July 2010 for PRONI to commence the transfer of documents from the start of September 2010. 

With the public search room located on the first floor, the most popular records were stored at this level. Safe, low-voltage Electronic shelving was specified throughout this level to ensure speedy access to every document. Electronic mobile shelving was also installed on part of the second floor repository for sensitive and restricted-access documents. The advanced security of the electronic system on the second floor allows access only to those with correctly coded transponder keys. The system records and provides traceability of access.

Commenting on the choice of storage systems, Lawrence Stanford, Project and Accommodation Manager at PRONI said, “The project was part of a huge transformation for PRONI. Bruynzeel lived up to our vision and expectations of high quality in keeping with the rest of the building’s fittings.”

“Bruynzeel were extremely professional and responsive in accordance with the overall development, helping to ensure the successful completion of each stage of the project,” added Lawrence Stanford.

Bruynzeel also installed its Sysco shelving on space-saving Compactus turn-handle and electronic mobile carriages. Using open frames to comply fully with BS5454:2000, the shelving configuration was tailored to the building, and the shelves sized to provide maximum capacity for the various PRONI box sizes. Extra-deep shelving was installed for outsize items and cantilevered shelving was integrated above the Plan chests to make best use of space. Bruynzeel also provided different coloured End Panels to each of the four repositories to help staff with way-finding. Even the sets of bespoke mobile steps were powder-coated to match the Red, Blue, Green and Yellow panels on each floor. And to provide storage for the framed artwork and pictures stored at PRONI, Bruynzeel mounted its Artestor mesh frame system onto Compactus carriages and integrated them into the main repository system.

Mobile shelving provides high-density storage within a compact area, while maintaining 100% accessibility to every document. The flexibility of Sysco shelving means it can be tailored to any room; even fitted around building constraints, such as pillars or pipes to maximize capacity. Bruynzeel’s positive-drive Compactus system, allows easy access to the content, whether turn-handle or Electronic drive, regardless of the number of racks that have to be moved.