Preserving records for the future

 Document with water and mould damageBehind the scenes, our conservation team works wonders in treating and repairing unique and fragile historical documents. One such example is a Godalming Hundred Court book, 1636-1640 (SHC ref LM/S/8/15) from the extensive collection of records from Loseley House held at Surrey History Centre. This is a paper document containing seventy folios which, unusually, were sewn as one through the spine of the cover as a single gathering, using twisted strips of parchment as thread at three sewing stations. The badly-damaged cover was actually a re-used piece of vellum (an early example of recycling) with very wide sewn fore-edge turn-ins. On to these, front and back, were six parchment strips held in place by octagon shaped parchment. These were tied to secure the volume.

With extensive water damage both to the vellum cover and the paper text block, as well as insect bore holes right through the book, it was necessary to unbind the volume, as all the paper and the cover required treatment.

 Twisted parchment thong tieAt Surrey History Centre, documents selected for treatment are carefully assessed to decide the appropriate conservation method. All processes must maintain the integrity of the document wherever possible; this means preserving the physical and visual character of the document. In this case, the cover and pages were cleaned of any surface mould and dirt deposits and the inks were tested before repair began. Any water-soluble stains and acids inherent in the papers were removed by washing in water baths.

Following this treatment, the paper was repaired with Japanese tissues. The damaged area of the cover and the missing ties and octagons were replaced with new parchment. A new twisted parchment strip was also made for the centre sewing station.

 Repaired vellum coverThe conservation team always ensures that any repair is clearly visible, so that there is no doubt as to which parts of a document are original and which are new. We only do what is strictly necessary to repair and stabilise records and use carefully selected materials. A key area of our work is keeping track of developments in the science of archive conservation and new repair methods.

These important records are stored, along with the other archives at Surrey History Centre, in climatic controlled strong rooms to ensure they are protected and accessible. In this way we ensure the permanent preservation of records in our care so that the information they contain can be made available to the public both now and in the future.

More information about the work of our Conservation Team.


  1. Document with water and mould damage
  2. Twisted parchment thong tie3
  3. Repaired vellum cover

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