Wartime caverns converted into a modern archive repository in Karlstad

Imagine if your workday began by entering a mountain. For archivists at the Värmlandsakiv (Varmland regional archive) in Karlstad, this is their reality. A few times every week, the staff go underground at Zakrisdal to carry out their work.

Buried deep in the bedrock 30 metres below the surface, in a former munitions factory dating from the 1940s, you will discover the equivalent of an archivist’s gold mine. With space at a premium above ground, it was difficult to find enough floor space for large archives in existing buildings, while the cost of constructing new repositories was prohibitively expensive. Zakrisdal offered a unique and cost-effective opportunity to solve Varmland Archive’s capacity issues, by creating an underground archive in converted caverns at the disused factory. Specially adapted ‘capsules’ fitted with Bruynzeel’s Double Decker mobile shelving have been built in the caverns as storage rooms for archiving, artefacts and files.

30 metres below the surface

Once inside the light-filled storage areas, it’s hard to image you’re 30m below the surface. The material stored in caverns at Zakrisdal is varied – everything from old church books and court records to company archives and confidential government documents. More often than not it is older materials, documents that are infrequently requested, that are stored in the cavern archives. Items that are requested more than two times a week are removed from the cavern and returned to Varmland Archives in central Karlstad.

The cavern is also home to glass plate negatives and microfilm stored in carefully monitored temperature-controlled spaces set at optimum humidity. Varmland Archives’ main stores in Karlstad has subsequently invested in research labs that are a popular destination for university researchers and genealogists, utilising the space freed up by moving their archive to the deep store at Zakrisdal.

Walkway links Double Decker shelving in separate caverns

To optimize storage space in the cavern, Bruynzeel installed Double Decker mobile shelving with an interconnected walkway linking the caverns, which makes navigating the space easier for staff. The mezzanine floor in the Double Decker allows the storage of a much larger amount of material at an accessible height, providing over 28,000 linear metres of archival storage in total. The need for more storage is constantly increasing, and plans are already in place to expand.

Bruynzeel Storage Systems is the proud partner and supplier for Varmland Archive. It has been a great challenge to work together with Varmland archivists to find the most optimal solution.

When it comes to storage, thinking outside the box creates exciting results, such as the underground solution for Varmland Archive. With a greater openness to the public, a growing need for storage and ongoing expansion plans, the future of the formerly dark caverns now looks very bright.

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