Conservators look after the physical wellbeing of historic documents and objects. In particular, archival conservators work with the various formats of historic documents in the form of books, parchment, paper, maps and plans.
We care for the ERA archive by monitoring the condition of the collection and providing a secure and stable storage environment. We assess any new items that come into the building and provide safe archival packaging. We also advise on handling and display.
In addition, we also carry out repairs to damaged documents. These can include
- Cleaning away surface dirt (and even washing paper using specialist techniques, to remove decay by-products and pollutants).
- Neutralising unstable inks.
- Removing unstable historic repairs.
- Flattening creased, distorted or rolled items so that they can be handled or photographed.
- Repairing and re-binding books.
- Repairing torn or weakened paper and parchment.
Conservators are specially trained in the craft and science of materials and repair techniques. They follow a code of professional ethics.
While science and modern technology certainly has a place in conservation practice, many of the techniques and tools we use are traditional and would be recognised by the craftspeople who originally created the books and documents we work on.
Conservation is not the same as restoration. We aim for minimal intervention and our job is to preserve documents and the information they contain, not return them to a 'good as new' condition.