The National Archives puts a lot of emphasis on digitisation – both of our own collections as well as external ones – as a vital tool to preserve materials for future generations and widen access to historical documents.
In this context I was given the opportunity to prepare and conserve the Adamah Family Collection prior to it being digitised by our in-house team of digitisation experts. This was a challenging project, which required a larger scope of treatments than is usually necessary in pre-digitisation.
This collection came as an external digitization project from the Black Cultural Archives (BCA), located in Brixton, London. It had been donated to the BCA by a family of chiefs in Ghana, the Adamah family, and reflects their daily life and their own migratory history. It contains a varied collection of documents dating from 1885 to the 1950s, including letters, newspaper articles, photographs and a poster from the Second World War.
Many of the documents were a poor quality wood pulp paper, which had suffered in the humid tropical climate of Ghana. Non-archival storage, which is not unusual for family papers, had caused additional problems for the collection; the paper suffered deterioration by mould growth, degradation of the iron gall ink, rust from metal fasteners and insect damage. The result was brittle discoloured pages that were incredibly fragile and difficult to handle. Evidently much of the collection could not be handled without causing additional damage to the documents and could not therefore be catalogued or scanned, which made the conservation treatment indispensable. Continue reading »