Report on workshop day at ICA Congress, Seoul 2016

Expert Group on Archive Buildings and Environments - EGABE | 14 February 2017

On the first day of the Congress the Expert Group on Archive Buildings & Environments (EGABE) ran a workshop on  "Archival buildings; Standards and Developments". The workshop was held in one of the seminar rooms within the huge and impressive COEX complex, which hosted the Congress. The workshop was attended by a total of 25 participants, from a wide range of countries; even though translation could not be provided, the participants all helped and assisted each other.

The morning part of the workshop was structured into three sections; short papers were delivered by three EGABE members on Standards, Environmental Monitoring and Security. After each paper the participants were presented with three different written scenarios to discuss and work on (in groups). At the conclusion of each work activity, participants elected a raporteur to report back to the whole workshop on their findings and conclusions; this information was discussed and debated with the participants. Each participant was given a hard copy of the three slide presentations and there were relevant publications and standards available for consultation.

This morning session was a great success and the overall feedback from the participants was very positive; some had even contacted the seminar leader with questions in advance of the congress about building plans and projects. It is hoped that this theme can be further developed and integrated into the programme for Mexico 2017.

EGABE Workshop Congress 2016

Workshop Standards of Archival Buildings: Environment, COEX, Monday 5 September 2016

In addition, the workshop was extended into the afternoon, and 15 participants were taken to the National Archives of Korea (NAK) building on the outskirts of Seoul for a specialist tour of the facility. This visit was organised by the NAK who generously provided transport to and from the venue and also an English translation. The staff and management at the NAK had agreed a specific timetable in advance, with particular emphasis on the building and the specialised activities undertaken to provide access and long-term preservation for the collections. The programme included a visit to the audio-visual and digital suite, the conservation section, the storage areas and even the plant room – at each site staff were available to present an outline of their work and highlight professional standards.

The visit started with a very comprehensive opening lecture by Mr. Yihyung Jo, the Director of the Archival Preservation and Restoration Centre on the construction of the building, opened in 2007. The Seoul Archives stores 242km of records, which includes over 34 million volumes. The facility is constructed to a very high standard and careful consideration has been taken of the risks to collections with a number of innovative solutions put in place; the most impressive is the Hydro Wall system that produces a screen of water down the outside walls of the building in the event of a forest fire, so enabling a first response in advance of the arrival of the fire service. In addition, the lower levels of the building contain the car parks and a specialised drainage system to ensure that no collections are at risk from rainstorms or floods.

The building also has high levels of security with CCTV across the building (and in the strongrooms). This is enhanced by a programme of RFID tags for each produceable item and includes alarm gates throughout the facility, including main arterial corridors. Fire protection is provided by a high-level detection system and fire extinguishing by an inert gas (Inergen) that is released in the event of fire and starves the flames of oxygen.

The participants then received a thorough tour of the building and preservation services, including the audio-visual, digitisation and microfilming sections all of which were very well resourced with state-of-the-art equipment and knowledgeable staff.

This was followed by a visit to the Restoration studios and the participants were able to see staff working on Memory of the World documents from the collections; the facilities, equipment and staff skills were very impressive and the participants were able to ask a range of questions about techniques and materials.

The tour continued into the storage areas; the strongrooms are finished to a very high standard with the majority of the collections stored in tailor-made archival quality boxes, on metal mobile shelving, within an unfussy and very clean storage space. Each of the strongrooms is supplied by air-conditioning and the environmental conditions are monitored by dataloggers. The paper records are maintained within the following ranges:

  • Temperature            18-22°C
  • Relative Humidity    40-55%


The tour was concluded by a visit to the building's plant room; a vast space that was most impressive, especially in the extent of the machinery and the cleanliness of the environment. The final stop on the tour was the public search rooms so that the participants could ask questions and discuss the provision for access to the collections.

This workshop was a great success and this was wholly underpinned by the both the time and the commitment of the NAK's staff who did everything to ensure that this specialist visit was a success. The EGABE would like to thank the NAK for the generous provision of staff time. The feedback from the participants was very positive as many were attending because they were involved in a building project in their respective countries. The NAK managers and staff seemed to value the visit, both as an opportunity to exchange ideas, and also as an acknowledgement of the standards and provision in evidence at the Seoul branch of the National Archives of Korea.

Jonathan Rhys-Lewis

Chair; EGABE