Local and Community History Month

Conserving an Early 16th Century Clergyman's Notebook

This Local and Community History Month discover how careful conservation work on treasured documents at the Surrey History Centre helps preserve Surrey's history for future generations.

As a conservator at Surrey History Centre, Rachel March has the privilege of working on some amazing treasures held within the archive. There is a lengthy list of items in need of conservation, but every now and then an item of particular interest will be prioritised for treatment, especially if there is a risk of further damage or loss of information.

An early 16th Century collection of manuscript and printed notes recently came into Conservation in need of attention. Surrey History Centre's Senior Archivist had noticed that several pages had become damaged and there was a risk of losing parts of the text. Researchers had requested the item, so there was a need to stabilise the pages so the contents could be carefully viewed.

The conserving process

When deciding treatment, Rachel first assess the condition of the item and starts a detailed report documenting the approach with before and after photos and the results of any tests on materials and pigments.

As the original sewing was intact, a decision was made in agreement with the County Archivist to approach repair using minimal intervention to stabilise the document while retaining the character of the binding and the original sewing and materials.

Rachel decided to repair the damaged paper sections using remoistenable Japanese tissue. This technique reduces the amount of moisture applied to the paper to prevent distortion and tide marks by dampening adhesive backed Japanese tissue to reactivate the adhesive without the need to wash the paper. The repairs are dried and flattened in a supported position using release paper, blotting paper, Perspex and small weights.

To find out more about the conserving process, visit the Surrey Heritage web page.

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