As the end of this Wellcome Trust funded project draws to a close, over 12,500 items have been cleaned, stabilised and rehoused. I have really enjoyed working with the wide range of material which this project has provided. Here I look back on some of the work which was carried out during conservation.
The project aimed to carry out a condition survey to prioritise ‘at-risk’ material. This was used to inform how the material was to be conserved using a variety of interventions and treatments dependant on the needs of the collection. This ranged from minimal intervention such as repackaging to full aqueous treatments in some cases.
The plan was to ensure that all of the material is in a stable condition so that it can be produced for researchers with full conservation documentation of all treatment completed for future reference.
As noted in previous blogs, Iron gall ink (IGI) was very prevalent in the early correspondence and this led to increased testing and assessment prior to interventive treatments being carried out.
The dangers of IGI corrosion and the loss of textual information is widely recognised and it was felt to be a priority to ensure the long term preservation of this part of the collection through judicious use of current methods in interventive treatments and when to exercise minimal intervention by improved housing, environmental conditions and careful handling. Therefore no documents were subject to humidification to assist with flattening unless they passed the criteria set for full interventive treatment as this would have unnecessarily speeded up the deterioration process.
The overall condition of the collection in general has, I am pleased to say, been raised to within fair – good condition levels. Sensible preservation measures were taken where time was limited such as in the use of alternative housing materials and storage methods to ensure safe handling with additional labelling of folders and boxes to notify researchers to take extra care when handling photographs or fragile papers.
It has been a privilege to work with and view this material and to be part of the Special Collection team working towards improving our cultural heritage and increasing access as a whole.
(Blog post by Louise A Robertson ACR)
18th century botanical drawings on the mend