Friday, 29 June 2018

Humber Conservancy: Cataloguing Charts and Technical Drawings

It has been awhile since we last provided an update on the Docks Board Project [C DPD], but not to worry…we’ve been busy working away behind the scenes. The last month saw the start of the arrangement and description of large maps and plans from the Humber Conservancy; these items are so large that they have to be stored away from the rest of the collection in a separate room, designed to cope with large format items.

These items have been a challenge for History Centre staff for some time. Many plans were combined together in massive rolls, which when coupled with an incomplete catalogue made finding and retrieval difficult…if not impossible.
Arrangement of Humber Conservancy Sounding Charts

Their arrangement and description has also been a challenge for the same reason. The enormous size of the plans, combined with the need to unroll them all individually to examine them, has meant that a large amount of space has been needed to undertake this work. Thus the reason we lost no time taking advantage of an opening to use the lecture theatre here at the History Centre for almost three weeks for cataloguing this material. If you’ve visited us recently you may have seen me at work.

Sounding Chart showing the Navigable Channel
between the Middle and Upper Whitton Lightships
The highlights of this work include series of charts showing soundings taken by the Humber Conservancy Board during annual surveys of the Upper, Middle, and Lower Humber from the early to mid-twentieth century. Unlike today, this work was extremely time consuming and it could take months to survey a single section of the Estuary. 

The annual charts in particular allow changes in the sand banks and navigable channels in the Humber to be tracked over time, along with changes made by the Conservancy Board to the positioning of seamarks (buoys, floats, and lightships) to alert mariners to the new conditions.

Spurn Lightship HCB LV. 12

In addition to charts of the Humber, the collection also includes a fair number of technical drawings of ships and launches in service with the Humber Conservancy Board. This includes the famous Spurn Lightship HCB LV. 12, and its successor HCB LV. 14. It also includes plans of buoy servicing vessels used to add, remove, re-position, or repair seamarks on the Humber, and plans of various buoys and floats.

We also have a small number of plans of lightships in service with London Trinity House, which provide a broader overview of lightship design around the mid-twentieth century and show the influences at work on lightships based on the Humber.

Custom boxes for Humber Conservancy Sounding Charts

In addition to arrangement and description, we have also been taking measures to improve the storage conditions of these plans to better conserve them for future generations, and to ease retrieval when requested by readers. 

To this end Pete has been busy with our box making machine, producing custom boxes which can accommodate these large items. His handy work can be seen in the photograph (right).

Cataloguing work is still ongoing, and while much work remains we are expecting the final catalogue to go live within the next few months.

Robert Astin, Project Archivist

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