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.