As regular readers will know, work on our archive collections has been ongoing for some time. Following the closure of Archives and Heritage in December, we have started the lengthy task of wrapping and securing our local studies collections, making sure these often unique reference works are protected during the move.
There are many items throughout the collections which will need specialist Conservation treatment and repair once we are in the new library. For the time being, we are taking some basic steps to preserve the items in their current state and ensure that no further damage occurs until then.
Conservation have been working tirelessly on collections all throughout Central Library. To assist them as much as we can, staff from Archives and Heritage were trained on the basic techniques needed to identify when a book needs attention, how to make a chemise cover and how to wrap items correctly.
A small team began by working through our series of newspaper cuttings. We were pleasantly surprised to find they were in a much better condition than previously thought – considering their heavy use – as only a few volumes needed attention.
Following on, the ‘SA’ and ‘SE’ (special collections) items were assessed and these needed a lot more work, particularly the Cotton Collection of manuscripts, which a number of regular users of these volumes can attest to!
Our attention then moved to the Birmingham Collection, a designated collection of local significance. A survey had already been completed to identify the future conservation needs of the collection, and this has been used as a guide to prioritise those items which require extra protection to prevent them from coming to harm during the move process.
The type of damage varies from book to book. Some books have torn spines, others are detached completely. A number of items have loose pages and others have detached cover boards. Depending on the level of damage, these items may simply be tied up with cotton tape, given a ‘chemise’ paper jacket or wrapped like a present for protection. Warped books will also be given extra padding to prevent damage to their spines when they are packed into crates for transfer to the new building.
There is still a long way to go with preparing these collections. Once the first part of the Birmingham Collection has been completed, we will then move onto the Birmingham Pamphlets which are our series of bound pamphlets grouped in series such as Birmingham Printed and Birmingham History.
Following this will be the daunting task of assessing the folio series of the Birmingham Collection (LF sequence) which, after a cursory walk-through, has shown some items which are in very poor condition, needing much care and attention.
Although we are not able to repair these documents, what we are ensuring is that these valuable and fascinating items are protected so that the move does not cause any further damage. With only a couple of months to go until the actual move begins, our searchroom has been taken over by supplies of conservation materials as we work our way through the shelves. It is a hive of activity and there is certainly plenty to keep us busy!
Rachel Clare, Nicola Crews, Alison Smith.