Care of collections
Preserving our unique collections for the use of current and future generations is a key aspect of the work of Archives and Local Studies. Documents vary widely, from old paper and parchment to modern photographic materials and electronic data.
Preservation of archives embraces all aspects of physical care to ensure their survival including
- long-term secure storage in a suitable environment
- use of acid-free materials and other appropriate packaging
- use of good handling techniques
- practical conservation work undertaken as necessary
- protection against fire, flood, theft
Many archives arrive in poor condition, often the result of previous storage in unsuitable locations such as damp cellars and hot attics where documents may be exposed to fluctuating climates, dust, dirt and pests such as rodents and insects. Poor handling methods may further damage already weakened materials.
Archives may also be damaged by
- unsuitable repairs in the past, typically tears repaired with adhesive tape
- storage in acidic envelopes and wallets, poor quality scrapbooks and adhesive photograph albums
- storage in plastic materials which can degrade
- fastenings such as paperclips which may rust
If necessary, documents are cleaned and dried before being packaged for protection in acid-free materials. We also provide optimum secure storage in our environmentally-controlled strongrooms. Specialist detection equipment and appropriate security measures are in place as safeguards.
Documents may be damaged by careless handling. In the search room, appropriate support equipment is provided and advice on good handling techniques is given to limit the likelihood of any further damage.
If items are considered too fragile for public use they are included in our conservation programme where documents undergo practical repair procedures to enable them to be consulted. If a document is identified in our online catalogue as being too fragile for use and you need to consult it, please contact us. It may be brought forward in the conservation programme or we will look into alternative ways of providing access.