Western Libraries

Photographing the HDM

Photographing the HDM

by Michael-John Idzerda

I was first introduced to Western's Archives and Research Collections Centre (ARCC) while shooting a photographic series on The D.B. Weldon Library and it's 40th anniversary (2012). Upon entering the ARCC's reading room, I was drawn immediately to the large windows over-looking the High Density Module (HDM) where over 1 million records are housed.

The HDM is a massive temperature and humidity controlled storage room that houses part of the Archives vast collection. Paper ephemera, books and other sensitive materials are kept in archival, acid-free bar-coded boxes that are retrieved by technicians on an 'order picker' - a mobile elevator with a platform for large objects. To conserve energy, each aisle of metal shelving is lit with motion-sensors so that it is lit only when occupied by the technicians.

It is a stunning space to behold. The view from the reading room gives a hint of the size, yet standing in the room itself, looking up at the stacks and their near dizzying height - it is a remarkable experience. One is acutely aware of the amount of knowledge and history contained within one large space.

Photographically, the HDM is a gem of a subject. An almost endless variety of shapes, colours, textures and forms are to be found.  While composing a shot in the viewfinder, other angles and views were begging to be photographed. Deciding what to shoot next was not an issue - every vantage point was worth exploring.

I feel very privileged to have been allowed access to this singular space on Western's Campus. I hope that my images will inspire not only those who work in the ARCC, but also the patrons who use its marvelous resources.

Staff member on the order-picker Boxes in the High Density Module Order picker pulling patron requests
Consulting achitectural drawings High density racking Order picker in action
Low use library books High Density Storage Inside the HDM