For the past six months I have been working on a challenging yet fascinating one-year conservation research fellowship at The National Archives on transparent papers. Today I’d like to tell you how readers at The National Archives are providing valuable information for this project via the Readers’ Transparent Paper Survey.
For the purposes of my project, transparent papers are defined as those papers for which transparency was vital for its intended role. For example, maps, overlays, copies of artistic designs, and engineering or architectural plans are relevant while pages of text on thin, and consequently transparent, paper are not.
The majority of transparent papers within The National Archives’ collection are likely to be fragile, torn, and creased. This situation is not limited to The National Archives because it arises from the production method as well as the often heavy handling and poor storage experienced if the records were working documents. It is an aim of The National Archives that the accessibility of its records is maintained without causing damage to the records. To prevent further damage to fragile transparent papers during access-related handling, conservation is frequently required.
In order to make well-informed decisions regarding the preservation of transparent papers it is critical to know about the location, quantity, type, popularity, and condition of the transparent papers at The National Archives. Little of this information is currently recorded so the Readers’ Transparent Paper Survey was developed to gather evidence.
A short questionnaire is available in the reading rooms for readers to complete when transparent paper is among their requested documents. Completed questionnaires are placed in the yellow survey collection boxes that are also in the reading rooms. I collect these questionnaires fortnightly and input the data into a spreadsheet. The data will be evaluated in July before the end of the fellowship.
The Readers’ Transparent Paper Survey is providing vital information about the collection. Consequently, every completed questionnaire is important. I thank all who have taken part so far and look forward to receiving many more questionnaires during the course of the survey.