|AN UNDERGROUND REPOSITORY
An underground repository for the rich cultural heritage During the preparations of the restoration, it became increasingly clear that it will be impossible to keep the books in the tower because of the risk of damage. Moreover, the June 2007 water damage once more proved how vulnerable and irreplaceable a book collection really is . And even though we had an idea, it was Google Books' digitization project that revealed how extraordinary the University's historical collection really is, as was recently illustrated yet again during the research project that was at the basis of the exhibition Piranesi, the Ghent University's print collection.
From meticulous and repeated counting and measuring, we now know that no less than 48 km of books, periodicals and special collections are stored in the tower. And these will have to be taken elsewhere during the restoration. Various options were scrutinized, but the most daring also turned out to be the most feasible: an underground repository beneath the courtyard, where heritage material can be stored safely and in optimal conditions, not only during, but also after the restoration. Three air-conditioned floors below ground level, the lowest of which will have a sprung floor and doubly high shelves, will offer room to 40km of compact book shelves. The underground repository will be constructed during the first phase of the restoration, presumably early 2011. It should be tested and ready for use by the summer of 2013. All the precious material will be accommodated in the repository, whereas the lending collection and books that do not require strict climate conditions will remain in the tower. A specialized team are presently preparing the entire move. Past decades' luxury of an excess of space allowed dust to settle everywhere, and now that the tower is full to the brim, we would like to seize the opportunity to set things right. The unique heritage material will be given special attention, including special treatment and packaging. The grey tower is a hive of industry...