Judging by successive letters in The Scotsman, the mould in the basements of the Scottish Catholic Archives has been a recurring phenomenon, of which the Church administrators were aware for more than 30 years but were able to treat successfully whenever it raised its head.
I have heard this is a problem which may afflict even the biggest, most modern and best-equipped libraries and archives.
The reason for the abrupt closure of Columba House has been given as a sudden and unexpected increase in mould contamination, which is currently being treated and will require the complete contents of the building to be decanted.
How much the departure of two full-time archivists last autumn contributed to the rapid virulence of the mould can only be guessed at.
What is clear is that going from five-day opening up to last autumn to a one-day opening after Christmas 2012 may well have been a significant factor, along with a somewhat capricious central heating system and lack of ventilation and cleaning.
Presumably, the pre-1878 historic archives (with the exception of material such as the papers of the Western and Easter Districts in the period 1827 to 1878, which will go to the Glasgow Archdiocesan Archives and to an as yet unidentified St Andrews and Edinburgh Archdiocesan Archive) will be transferred on a 30-year loan to the University of Aberdeen.
The post-1878 papers are either to be divided between the eight Scottish dioceses or centralised at the bishops’ new facility at Pollokshields in Glasgow.
Perhaps after Columba House is decontaminated and its fabric stabilised, it may re-open as a repository for the post-1878 Scottish Catholic Archives.
Michael TRB Turnbull
Longniddry, East Lothian