If you’ve seen historians roaming the streets of Wellington in the last two weeks, looking depressed and despondent, this is why. In the last two weeks, since the earthquake:
- the National Library and Alexander Turnbull Library have been shut. They have finally re-opened today, but crucially, the Alexander Turnbull Library is not retrieving any new material from their stacks in the basement, as the stacks are under the ground near the building that is currently being demolished on Molesworth Street. They also have some safety concerns about some of the stacks, which they want to overcome before the staff go into to retrieve archives.
- Archives New Zealand briefly reopened after the EQ, but rapidly shut again, and remain closed. They are not saying much, but apparently the main frame of the building is fine, but there is one isolated area that is of concern (I think the facade?) and they are evidently reassessing it after every aftershock. It is not due to open until January 2017.
- The Wellington City Library finally reopened today, BUT the top floor, where all the NZ history books are, is still closed!
- The Rankin Brown building, which houses the enormous Victoria University library, is also still shut.
I was at a meeting of historians the other day, and there was a pretty long list of final facts that everyone in the room needed to check at one of these institutions, before they could finish some project or other, that will still remained unchecked.
Thank goodness for digitisation, particularly Papers Past and the fabulous DigitialNZ sites (both of which are run out of the National Library), to keep us occupied, but in truth there are millions of pieces of paper in these institutions that will never be digitised, so we – and all New Zealanders – need those buildings to stay strong.