Reading Borough Council

Reading Borough Council: Berkshire Records Office/Reading Museum

Government and Council

The Berkshire Record Office holds the archives of the Royal County of Berkshire, and is a repository for nearly nine hundred years of the County's history. The Reading Museum Store holds various local historical collections which are fragile and hundreds of years old.

Client Requirements

Reading Borough Council had a requirement to relocate Berkshire Records Office, and the Reading Museum’s Store, from Darwin Close to its refurbished areas in Bennet Road.

The collections are an important record of the Borough’s history and heritage, and it was imperative that the collection’s objects were treated with the utmost care.

Berkshire Records Office would require the relocation of approximately 33,000 archive boxes from shelving and cabinets while maintaining the sequence of the records.

The relocation of Reading Museum’s Store would involve many different collections, including ceramics, archaeology, rolled materials, costumes, art, stone store, and even human remains.


Pickfords’ project management team spent the first four months of the project planning the relocation, determining the packing methodologies and establishing formal lines of communication.

The project was carried out in two parts. The first was to move Berkshire Records Office’s 33,000 archive boxes from its static racking on various floors at Darwin Close, to its new building on the same site. The packing team offloaded and placed the boxes in mobile racking on the ground floor, and the boxes were positioned in sequence.

One challenge was that some boxes in the existing building did not run in sequence because they had been allocated space elsewhere within the building. To overcome this we posted signposts advising our crew as to where a sequence ended and directing them to the shelving where the sequence continued.

Another problem was that the collection needed to be accessible by Record staff, so some boxes would need to be taken and returned during the move. To counteract this, space was allocated at the existing site and the new site for boxes in motion. The packing team placed a labelled dummy box in each space detailing the number of the missing box so that the unpacking team could leave space in the mobile shelving for the client and therefore space needed to be left in the new facility to allow for the box to be brought back.

The second part of the project was to pack, move and unpack the Authorities’ Museum warehouse. This involved everything from delicate porcelain, and bird eggs, to large pieces of stonework from the ruins of Reading Abbey. The material was moved to the new building on the same site and unpacked onto a mixture of mobile and static racking.

Planning for the project took place over several months before the move, with Museum Warehouse Manager.

Before commencing the packing, each item was labelled with the new location. Our team, using a mixture of specialist packing material carefully packed the items and relocated them using a variety of moving equipment and specialist air ride tail-lift vehicles.

Due to varying weight limits on the mobile shelving each item had to have a specific location to ensure weight limits on the shelving were not exceeded.

An additional challenge was that a fragile and unstable wooden barrel dating back several hundred years needed to be moved. To provide protection and stability for it, our crew constructed a bespoke crate, before moving it.

Also, a horse-drawn fire engine had to be tracked 35 yards down a narrow hallway and then rotated 90 decrees before being carefully slid through the museum warehouse’s doors, which only offered 2cm on either side of the fire engine.


The project was a success due to the four months of detailed planning before the two stages of the move.

Pickfords’ flexibility to the client’s changing timeline was highlighted when on two occasions the client delayed the project. Firstly the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the project by 15 months. A second delay of two months was caused when additional changes needed to be made to the new building.

The Pickfords project management team made the necessary adjustment to the phasing and allocation of staff to meet these changing needs.

The Berkshire Records Office move was completed within the 36 days we were allocated, and the Reading Museum Store move was completed within its 42-day scheduled period.

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