Consolidating trials for flaking media

Conservation treatment involves technical examination and analysis, documentation, interventive treatment and preventive care, with the aim of long-term preservation.

The National Archives holds 180 kilometres of records, in a range of formats. We use collection management tools to manage risks, identify documents in need of conservation treatment and allocate resources.

Our research projects in managing material change help us predict the long-term stability of the collection. Research into sustainable preservation environments helps us to keep temperature and humidity stable in the repositories.

Selecting projects for conservation treatment

Although we take measures to slow the rate of degradation, the collection includes inherently unstable material, which will deteriorate rapidly even if it is never handled. Unstable documents are given priority for conservation treatment.

Selecting documents for treatment depends on thoroughly understanding the condition of all our records. We are currently mapping the collection, providing a basis for prioritising as well as identifying specific storage and handling problems.

Project team working

Conservators and conservation technicians work with preservation specialists and conservation scientists to decide on the most appropriate conservation treatments.

Once a class of records has been identified for treatment, a small team works to ensure that they can be accessed safely and are suitably re-housed. We co-operate closely with other departments on the usage of the records and any retrieval issues.

Current projects and initiatives

18th century wool sample books

Second World War artworks

Photographs in Copyright Office records

17th century stationery bindings

Sharing our knowledge

Collection Care staff now share the results of technical examination with a wider community, for example on Your Archives. This adds value to the collection by engaging readers with the history of a document as well as its content.

Further information

J Vervoorst, New conservation opportunities in a world of digitisation and access (Conservation and access: Contributions to the IIC London Congress 2008)

D Saunders, J Townsend, S Woodcock (eds), The International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (London 2008)