The Savoy Hotel

The Savoy, London

Gary Baker, 29.08.2012
The hotel's £220m restoration included new storage for its unique archive
The release of the new BSI PD 5454:2012 standards for the storage and exhibition of archival materials earlier this year highlight the complexity and special requirements of archivists, particularly those working in historic buildings.

Although not governed by the need to comply directly with new standards for the storage and exhibition of archival materials, the Savoy hotel in London decided to follow best practice in order to bring its archives up to current standards as part of its £220m restoration project.

Preserving the UK’s first luxury hotel is is not just about looking after the building but also its archives, records and artefacts, all of which play an important role in recording social history.  

Alongside guest records, stationery, publications and promotional materials dating back to the turn of the 20th century, the Savoy’s archives also house china, memorabilia from Queen Elizabeth’s coronation and a huge wooden pulley believed to have been used in the original construction of the building in 1889.

When the Savoy closed in 2007 for restoration work, the archives were moved to a temporary storage facility about 10 miles away in Hackbridge. Once the restoration project was well underway, a storeroom on the lower-ground floor of the hotel was identified as a suitable location for the archive.

Five specialist storage companies were shortlisted in late 2009. The specific requirements included open shelving and racking to allow for items to be easily accessible, as well as diverse-sized shelving to accommodate material of various shapes and sizes.

The space itself also presented particular challenges as it consisted of two connected rooms and included utility pipes and an uneven floor, typical of a building of its age and location.

The Savoy choose Bruynzeel’s compactus mobile shelving for the specialist storage of its archives, records and artefacts. In March 2012, almost 18 months after the restoration project completed, work began on the new archives.

Working around access points and allowing clearance for gas pipes, Bruynzeel installed new flooring to accommodate a manually-operated mobile shelving solution.

The new shelving consisted of three independent Compactus blocks, 2.4m high fitted with, on average, seven 390mm deep shelves per bay. Deeper bays were also provided to accommodate plan chest media and large volumes of newspaper press cuttings.

The result has transformed the way that archivist Susan Scott is able to access and manage The Savoy’s records and artefacts. As well as easily being able to locate and access items for display in the Savoy Museum or when researching materials for private requests, film and TV projects, the shelving can be quickly re-configured to fit new items.

The additional space also means Scott can display items that may have been forgotten, cataloguing and access is faster and more efficient and there is the space to accommodate new materials as they are accumulated.

Gary Baker is project sales at Bruynzeel