Behind the scenes: the conservation studio

Have you ever wondered what happens behind the scenes at Surrey History Centre?

If you've had the opportunity to join a tour of the centre, the highlight may well have been a visit to our conservation department. Here our conservator works wonders in treating and repairing fragile historical documents, damaged by the ravages of damp, mould, fire, poor handling and storage, and misguided amateur repairs.

The conservation studioThis first photograph provides a view of our state-of-the-art conservation studio, containing the equipment and materials essential to our work. The room is light, spotlessly clean and well-ventilated, and its temperature and humidity are carefully controlled. We stock an extensive selection of specialist papers, parchment, leather and other materials which are used to match the requirements of the records being conserved. Damaged documents can be carefully positioned and infilled using lightboxes built into the desks, and the large light wall to the right of the photograph is used to reline large maps and plans.

Specialist equipment in the conservation studioIn the background you can see some of our specialist equipment, including a board chopper, presses, a fume cupboard for chemical use and large heated sinks for washing and deacidification.

The second photograph shows our vacuum table, used for processes that include parchment repair and stain removal. We also use this to wash documents with water-sensitive inks as water can be quickly pulled through the paper. It includes a humidification chamber used to relax badly creased or tightly rolled documents.

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