Hampshire Archives and Local Studies

Preservation Policy

1. Introduction

1.1 Preservation issues underpin every aspect of the work of Hampshire Record Office and Wessex Film and Sound Archive (WFSA). The need to preserve our unique archival heritage for use not only today but into the future informs decisions about storage, packaging and handling, customer services, staff training and emergency planning as well as conservation and preservation copying programmes and budget management. A separate digital preservation policy governs our custody of digital media and a collecting policy lays down our principles of acquisition and retention. Our customer service policy also has preservation at its heart as the users, owners and custodians of records both in the Record Office and elsewhere are advised about how to care for their archives to ensure their survival.

1.2 We aim to conform to BS5454:2000 Recommendations for the storage and exhibition of archival documents and to BS4971:2002 Repair and allied processes for the conservation of documents – recommendations. We also aspire to achieve best practice as defined in Benchmarks in Collections Care published by Re:Source (2002) and endorsed by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. In 2009 we undertook a preservation assessment according to the methodology of the Preservation Advisory Service and the recommendations in the resulting report will inform our future preservation and conservation programmes

1.3 Preservation issues are included within the terms of our deposit agreement with owners of records. The agreement underlines our commitment to store all our archives in appropriate environmental conditions with protection against fire and intruders and to take all reasonable precautions to preserve the records from damage, loss or theft. It also declares that we will copy them, reference them and conserve them as necessary and withhold access to them if they are fragile until suitable measures can be undertaken to make them available; and it notes that  we may make a charge for the withdrawal of records which have been subject to conservation work.

1.4 This document outlines the main areas of our preservation policy. It is supported by detailed guidelines which are published in our staff manual, in leaflets and flyers and on our web-site as appropriate.

2. Storage

2.1 All documents (including those in the newer media) which are accepted for permanent retention will be assessed as to their physical condition before they are located in the strongroom. This may involve drying, cleaning, removing metal clips, repackaging and general stabilisation. Particularly volatile materials (such as nitrate film) or seriously degraded materials, such as mouldy papers, will be isolated on premises away from the Record Office until appropriate action can be taken. If active conservation is required,  this will be recorded on our archive management system, CALM 2000.

2.2 The Record Office was designed to conform to the British Standard on the storage and exhibition of archives (BS 5454). All archives we receive will be kept in clean, tidy, secure storage in an atmosphere whose temperature and humidity is controlled and regularly monitored. The air conditioning, climate monitoring equipment, security, shelving and fire detection systems will be regularly maintained. Access to the secure areas will only  be given to staff who require this. Contractors and others not on the staff (including those in the Facilities Management team) but who may need to go into the secure areas will always be accompanied by a member of staff.

2.3 Staff will be trained in appropriate document packaging techniques and kept up-to-  date with the most recent developments. Documents will be packaged according to their physical needs. The storage area will be monitored to ensure that documents are safely  located on shelves or in cabinets appropriate to their physical format.

2.4 Items which are particularly flammable (eg nitrate film) will not be stored in the strongroom. Copies of such items will be made and the originals stored in controlled conditions elsewhere.

2.5 Electronic accessions will be stored separately in the strongroom. Data will be reviewed regularly and migrated as necessary and as appropriate to their format. The digital preservation policy specifically addresses their needs.

3. Conservation

3.1 Since a large number of documents arrive at the Record Office in a poor physical condition, treatment priorities have to be assessed within the general conservation programme. This assessment is made jointly by a conservator and an archivist who  base their judgment upon the physical condition and stability,  the expected frequency of use, the existence of copies and the intrinsic historical value of the documents. Budgetary considerations will also determine the extent and nature of the programme.

3.2 All active conservation work undertaken by the Record Office will be carried out  by  staff competent in the appropriate techniques and in compliance with the British Standard for archive conservation (BS4971). Conservation treatments will be sympathetic with and not detrimental to documents and no treatment will be undertaken if it is likely to remove, diminish, falsify or obscure the evidential value of the document. Detailed records of all treatments will be maintained and all treatments will be reversible. Invasive treatments will not always be undertaken if other means of stabilising the item and making it available can be found.

3.3 Excessive use can cause permanent damage to documents, so our preservation programme will  include the copying of certain documents or series of documents to avoid wear and tear on the originals. The most appropriate copying procedure will be used and our catalogue will provide details of available surrogates.

4. Document handling and transportation

4.1 Proper document handling and transportation within or outside the record office is an integral part of our preservation policy. Overhandling can produce unnecessary wear and tear and bad handling can hasten the deterioration of archives.

4.2 All new staff  will be trained in appropriate handling techniques as part of their induction programme and this will be reinforced by guidance notes in manuals available to all staff. Guidelines on the physical care of archives will be issued to those wishing to withdraw documents for display or other purposes.

4.3 Our staff will actively promote awareness of proper document handling at all times by making our users aware of the issues, by vigilance in the public search rooms, by occasional talks and exhibitions, by laying emphasis on this to younger users through the education service, and by example generally. Written guidelines will be available to all users and these will be reinforced by notices displayed in the searchroom. Appropriate equipment will be provided in the searchroom for the support of documents during their use. Only copies of audio-visual materials will be available for public research in the WFSA searchroom.

5. Public use

5.1 The physical condition of  a document may occasionally affect the service which can be offered to the public. In some cases it may not be possible for a document to be studied, though we will make every effort to make it available, by supporting it, by arranging for its more active conservation, or by providing a copy of it.

5.2 Where copies exist, we expect users  to consult these in place of an original document unless there is a positive reason for not doing so (eg visual impairment of the user, need to see original colour of document, need to study matter only visible on the original such as watermarks etc).

5.3 We regard it as a priority to enable our users to obtain inexpensive copies of documents in the Record Office appropriate to the physical condition of the originals.  Where photocopying is likely to cause damage to a document, we will provide or suggest an alternative copying method. A print-out machine enables hard copies of  filmed items to be provided. A digital photographic service is available for copying smaller documents or sections of some larger documents.

5.4 In all cases where the physical condition of a document affects the service which can be offered to our users, we will notify them and explain the reasons for this without delay.

5.5 We will encourage our users to make effective use of our finding aids, thereby saving their time and preventing unnecessary use and removal from environmentally-controlled storage  of documents irrelevant to their study.

6.Emergency plan

6.1 We will maintain an emergency plan which will be regularly updated . All our staff will be trained in the appropriate actions to be taken in the event of a major disaster. We will take all reasonable measures to ensure that no such disaster occurs. We will make a full report of any accident or disaster affecting our archives. We will inform the owners of records not belonging to Hampshire County Council of any accident or disaster which may befall their archives.

7. Preservation of Hampshire County Council records

7.1 We will ensure that our own key records are made with materials suitable for long-term preservation.  We will also advise other departments of the County Council on appropriate materials for the creation and preservation of  their records.

7.2 Every effort will also be made to secure the long-term preservation of County Council records in non-traditional formats including digital media and audio and video tapes.

8.Preservation of  records held elsewhere in the county/region

8.1 We will encourage good practice and provide advice to owners of archives on the physical care of their documents, whether or not they form part of the holdings of the Record Office or WFSA.

8.2 The promotion of effective preservation policies forms a major part of the work of Hampshire Archives Trust but all our staff share this concern and it is an intrinsic part of all our policies.

Revised, May 2001; further revision agreed by ROMT, Aug 2004; further amendments Nov 2005; reviewed and minor amendments 2007, 2009 and July 2010