A stitch in time saves nine: an apt phrase that sums up one of the major projects going on in our Collection Care department. It is called ‘Concept’ – CONservation Customer Enquiries Project Team – and consists of a number of conservators and conservation technicians responding to reports of damage, sent by readers or staff members to the Collection Care Enquiries inbox. The team meets every two weeks to discuss reported items and decide on a course of action.
The primary goal of the project is to stabilise damaged collection items where possible so they can be viewed in the reading rooms. We are never likely to be short of damaged documents but our resources are finite, so doing only what is necessary to make an item safe to be used is often the most economical use of our time. Conservation professionals call this approach ‘minimal intervention’, and it can have benefits other than saving time and resources. When taking such a cautious approach to intervening with the materials that make up an item, we are less likely to change or remove original material that could have historic value. It has become a guiding principle for the profession, changing the way we think about conservation in the long term.
As one of the conservators on the Concept team, I have worked on a wide range of items each requiring their own, tailored treatment. Over three blogs, I will share some of these with you, describing the treatments and some of the decision processes that led to them.
I will begin with my repair of a parchment roll. This particular roll is a Close roll from the Chancery and Supreme Court of Judicature and dates from 1611-1612.