of the role of Local History Recorders is to
ensure that interesting archives and objects relating to the past of
communities, are retained and looked after. In 2004 the association had
extremely useful workshop on this subject, organised by Lynn Morrison,
Conservator at Saffron Walden Museum.
All Recorders have since then been given the following worksheet, a
check list for others wanting to know how to care for precious
documents of the
OF DOCUMENTS & OBJECTS
is an ongoing process of learning, you need to know when to leave
and when to ask colleagues for advice.Emphasis is on preventive care, storing things properly
can do a lot to
save material from destruction. Protect objects till you can examine
decide if you can deal with it or if it needs someone more experienced.
yourself space to work. Be aware some objects are harmful, e.g. there
asbestos, or chemicals could have been applied in the past. If in doubt
things to Museum to be tested to see if they are harmful to health, and
with gloves and mask. Inhaling mould is bad for health. Buy dust
handling gloves or gloves with a grip from pet shops. A box
of 100 disposable
plastic gloves costs only a few pounds from dental suppliers.
advice and help is available from your local museum.
aim of conservation is to protect against damp, heat, mould, insects = light,
temperature, humidity and pests + to
minimise the tendency of some
materials to self-destruct over time. Conservation focuses on what
and how to preserve it, e.g. metal is complex – each metal is
needs different treatment.
LIGHT: You need low light
levels to avoid fading. You can put a film over
the windows to keep
ultra violet out, or use blinds, or store in cupboards, boxes and
TEMPERATURE: Temperatures should be
low. Cool storage slows down the rate of decay of most objects.
buildings act as a buffer to harmful fluctuations of temperature.
HUMIDITY: Objects react to
moisture, expanding and contracting all the time which is why
cause warping and cracking. Objects can be stable in most conditions
grows at high humidity (above 68%), which should be avoided. Relative
should be lower for metals, say 40% whereas organics prefer higher
about50-60%.You can never completely
get rid of mould and
cannot totally exclude air and moisture from affecting your objects.
spaces are bad places to keep things due to roof leaks. Cellars are
damp. You can use a home dehumidifier, but remember
to empty the bucket
regularly. Museums use a thermo-hydrograph to give a picture of
humidity in storage space over time. Meters cost
several hundred pounds,
but hygrometers are cheaper. A whirling hydrometer only costs
PESTS: Vigilance and good
housekeeping are the best defence against pests, which are a big
left undisturbed – moths, silverfish, invisible book lice.
When you get a new
object quarantine it and examine carefully. If in doubt, or it is
affected, put it in a polythene bag in the freezer – minus 30 degrees
for 3 days, or -18 degrees for a week, or -10 degrees for 2 weeks: this
all stages of the pests and is better than chemicals. Freezing does not
paper, photos, or even framed pictures.
– watch out for mice. Moths attack textiles. Woodworm can be
seen by piles of
powder under undisturbed wood objects, as well as flight holes
– the answer is
to freeze the objects. Woodlice and spiders don't eat things but they
indicator of damp, so dry out the environment. Pests like it warm and
conditions to avoid.Booklice
silverfish are very bad for paper. Make the stores dry and cool and
pests thrive in dark, undisturbed conditions, so keep cleaning!
Scanning and photocopying produce
lots of light on your object so only do it once. Write on the back of
object in soft pencil that it has been scanned, or keep a written
Cleaning: Dry cleaning is best,
using a brush. Dust objects with a soft brush directing dust into the
a vacuum cleaner or use a soft brush attachment with muslin, netting or
over it to stop bits being vacuumed up. Brush off mould, preferably
necessary to use moistened cloths, use distilled water – a
produces distilled water which can be used to wash things.
Photographs: Silvery tinge on
photographs indicates deterioration of the silver nitrate in the
there is no cure, so just photograph or scan it once and
don’t exhibit it in
the light. Curled up photos should be stored flat which might improve
handling by storing photographs in a Melinex sleeve.
Documents: Paper can be flattened
by relaxing first in a damp place for a short while, then weighted,
in an archival grade Melinex sleeve –
don’t iron it and don’t use
sellotape. Copies of documents should be treated with the same care as
original. To repair the broken spine of a book, you need a book binder,
just protect and conserve to prevent further damage. Try enclosing
in a Melinex sleeve or tying with soft linen tape.Maps: A brittle map is
damaged when you open it, which is why relaxing it first in higher
a good idea. Tears get bigger when it is used, this needs professional
conservation using archival grade materials. Rolled maps need
protection with a
central roll of Jiffy foam or acid free tissue, and foam, tissue paper
cotton around the roll on the outside.
Cataloguing: To avoid going through
your documents all the time, catalogue them. Put a location number as
well as a
document number on the record, since hunting through archives damages
Card indexes are perfectly good. Store things logically. For
simple names and classify under: Personal, Domestic/Household,
(includes shops etc) or Agriculture.
Marking: It is no good just
marking packaging as it may get lost. Mark documents on the back with a soft
B pencil. On pottery use a push-nib pen, nail
varnish first, then
write number, then varnish on top. Tie on a shop label to objects or to
enclosing objects e.g. map rolls. For records and packaging use a
archival quality pen, or pencil, but not biro.
Furniture: Use formica or metal shelves and low-acid archive boxes. Avoid chipboard and MDF
due to acidic
vapours. Hang big things from the ceiling or walls, using soft linen
you don't mark the objects
Boxes: Ordinary cardboard is
very acidic – don't use supermarket boxes. Use acid-free
archival boxes -
shallow boxes are the most useful, not too big. For odd shapes, make grey
card containers or boxes cut to the size needed. Big things
need acid free
folders too. Correx (used on estate agents' boards)
is good to make flat
supports or boxes and reasonably inert. Valuable volumes can go in
slip cases cut to shape.
only use polythene and cut a hole on each of the
lower corners or punch
holes to let the object breathe. Mark outside of bag – look
for pens which write
on plastic, the nib comes in various thicknesses.Don't use ordinary envelopes – brown ones are
acidic, and white are no better. For tubes use jiffy foam rolled up as
made of polythene.
Photographs: Photo albums –
no good as the plastic is pvc. The sticky page ones in particular
as the adhesive is poor quality.Loose
leaf albums with archival acid-free sheets cost are expensive. Each
should go in its own Melinex envelope which contain
chlorides, like pvc does. All these are transparent which aids viewing
and negatives should be kept in archival quality slide packets which
see through. They have hanging rails for a filing cabinet.
Packaging: wrap larger objects in acid-free
tissue which costs a few pounds per ream. For small objects,
foam and cut out shapes for the objects to buffer them, then
and put in polythene box. Use linen tape to tie.
Don't use ordinary
paperclips, they rust and mark paper. Never use rubber foam as it
products can be a
Notes copyright: Lynn Morrison, Conservator, Saffron