If you write about local history, or have any interest in what happened in the past in your own locality, you will be familiar with the Pembrokeshire Archives...or perhaps you think that you are. It’s not that easy to look after up to a one million documents and there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes. I was privileged to be part of a group given a guided tour of the facility recently. 
As an organised and dedicated department, the County Records Office started in Foley House in Goat Street, Haverfordwest before that building became the Magistrates Courts Office. By the mid 1960s the old prison at the castle had been radically altered so that the ground floor could be used as an archive repository, with the County Museum being created on the upper floor. In March 2013, a much needed new Archive building was opened in Prendergast on the site of the, once beautiful, old school. The reason for the move was partly for a bigger storage area and partly because the old prison building was not the ideal environment for keeping very old documents.   
The aim of any archive facility is to preserve written heritage that was written on paper or parchment as well as audio and visual records. In preserving it, the main duty is to protect the records against damage by fire, flood, pollution, damp and also wear and tear. The documents are kept in acid free boxes at a humidity level of between 45-65% and a fire suppressant gas is triggered to be released in the event of a fire. The boxes, as well as being acid free, are sufficiently robust to withstand a considerable soaking if water were to be used in dealing with any fire. (A fire which broke out in the National Library of Wales in April 2013, threatening millions of invaluable documents and records, caused five million pounds of damage but only damaged three boxes of material).  
Although some of the items in the Archive have been donated, most is on either permanent or temporary loan. Much is on loan from the offices of solicitors and provides fascinating reading into past centuries. The older the legal documents are, the smaller they are, but then three or four hundred years ago, lawyers realised that they had a remarkable opportunity to improve their lot and began charging by the word. All of a sudden, documents that had previously been written on a half sheet of parchment, became sheaves of thirty pages or more, to basically say the same thing.  Still older documents, old charters that awarded certain rights or privileges to the town, are difficult to read but are much like onions in that there is layer after layer which is largely repeating and confirming past privileges that have been granted before describing the latest award.
As new material comes into the archive, it has be isolated. Quite often, ancient documents that have not had the benefit of prime storage conditions, are found to be infested with insects that thrive on documents; Silverfish and Book Lice are perhaps the most common. Insects traps are used during the quarantine period. Then, the documents have to be cleaned and a decision made as to the conditions in which they will be stored; paper prefers a very dry climate; parchment prefers moisture but then it becomes necessary to watch out for mould. The design of the new building allowed for expansion, and space for the deposits of the next twenty five years was factored into the build. 
Much of the information in this piece...well to be truthful, all of the information in this piece...has come from Archive staff Nikki and Angela and Margaret and Mary, who are the experts in all parts of the knowledge and storage and preservation of our heritage. Due to government budget cuts it seems that there are going to be staff reductions in the Archive building. Neither the staff nor regular users of the facility are looking forward to such an uncertain future.