(Above) The North Elevation Repository at Liverpool's new Central Library. The first steps in the development will begin on Friday August 23 2010
Handwritten letters by Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Florence Nightingale, the charter for the world’s first passenger railway service, a schoolboy essay by Paul McCartney and 14 kilometres of archives held by the Liverpool Record Office will begin their journey to a new home when the project to build the city’s £50 million Central Library gets underway this week.
Planners completed four years of negotiations by agreeing the final contract for the development today, and will start the three-month task of shifting centuries of items from the existing Grade II-listed building on Friday.
The Picton Hall Discovery Zone at
the new-look site
Initiating a scheme to restore the 150-year-old centre to its original 19th century appearance by the end of 2012, the designs include ambitious repair works to the library's post-war architectural skeleton, which has suffered from extensive damp and leakage.
Technologically-driven visitor facilities and a new base for the huge Records Office are the most prominent features of the rebuild, providing space for chronicles spanning 800 years.
Architectural additions begin with a new "literary pavement" leading to the library, five new floors, a conservation studio for repairs to "masterpieces" held in Liverpool venues, an archive expected to offer 20 years of additional book storage capacity and a new rooftop atrium and terrace overlooking the nearby St John's Gardens.
Swish reading and games zones feature in the £50 million masterplan
"Liverpool Central Library is one of the UK's most celebrated public libraries but it desperately needs this renovation," said City Council leader Joe Anderson, who called the agreement "one of the best bits of news the city will hear this year."
"The scale of this project is immense and it will take some time to complete, but I'm sure the wait will be well worth it."
Amber Infrastructure and Austin-Smith:Lord, who were involved in building projects for the city's Foundation for Art and Creative Technology and Bluecoat venues, will lead the commission.
A "literary pavement" will decorate the entrance forecourt
"We are delighted to have reached financial close having worked so hard to reach this point," said Project Director Mike Leto.
"We can now concentrate on finalising the construction programme and look forward to work starting in November. The development will deliver a fantastic new library and archive in partnership with the city of Liverpool."
A temporary service will operate from the second floor of the World Museum Liverpool from August 9 2010, making the "most popular" items and books available to the public alongside computer access, newspapers and a variety of other facilities.
The entrance atrium at the library, which is expected to be ready for opening in 2012
The Records Office archives will be made available by appointment from October 2010 at Wellington Employment Park South.
Temporary service will open 10am – 5pm. Records Office will be based at the Employment Park South, Dunes Way, off Sandhills Lane. Visit Liverpool libraries online for up-to-date information.