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The new BBC Archive Centre at Perivale

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Sarah Hayes | 11:20 UK time, Thursday, 13 October 2011

The outside of the new BBC archive facility in Perivale

The BBC Archive Centre at Perivale

The BBC archive was for some years housed in a building within an industrial estate in Brentford. Eventually this building became unfit for purpose and to ensure the protection of the history within it my team and I drew up a plan to re-house the collections in a new purpose built facility in Perivale.

The BBC archive is a rich historical resource that can track the evolution of broadcasting in documents, radio programmes, television programmes, photos, sheet music and vinyl collections. It really is one of the largest broadcast archives in the world (well over 12 million items in total). It is held on multiple tape/film/sound formats and it needs to be housed in appropriate climate controlled vaults in order to prevent the tape and film stock degrading over time. The new BBC archive centre has 9 climate controlled vaults which can be individually adjusted for temperature and relative humidity. If all the racking in the vaults in Perivale was laid in a straight line it would extend for over 60 miles.

The climate controlled vaults in BBC Archive Centre at Perivale

The climate controlled vaults in BBC Archive Centre at Perivale

The archive is not just a rich record of our broadcast history. It is also a working resource that is in great demand across the BBC everyday. In fact, the service we operate delivers over 4,000 items every week around the UK for transmission, for reuse in new programmes, for research and for business use. The content continues to grow at the rate of over 6000 hours of Radio and over 1500 hours of TV each month. It is a living breathing collection that is in constant demand and is incredibly precious.

As you may have heard in a recent Guardian Technology Podcast and may also have read in posts by my colleagues across the BBC's blog network this week, we are intent on making as much of our archive content available to our audiences as possible in the coming years.

Sarah Hayes is the Controller of Information & Archives.

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