ArchI’ve Preserved – the Palfrey Collection

  • 22nd November 2017

Our Conservator, Rhonda, has received fantastic support from a group of dedicated volunteers to help preserve our collections. Here, Rhonda tells us about one of their recent projects:

With all those boxes of archives and the ever-growing list of items that need to be conserved, I am always thankful for my group of stunning volunteers that help out with some of the more mundane, but just as important preservation tasks that contribute to the long-term survival of the archives.  Tasks range from cleaning to make handling the documents less of a messy business, protect the documents from the harmful effects of dirt and discourage insect pests from causing further damage, to preparing made-to-measure boxes for over-sized volumes that are currently wrapped in acidic brown paper making them difficult to access, and subject to further damage.

One of the projects currently running involves preservation of volumes within the Palfrey Library.  The Palfrey Library is a special collection which forms a part of our Local Studies library. This extensive collection was bequeathed to the County Council by Alderman H.E. Palfrey, Chairman of the Records Committee. Compiled over many years, the collection boasts a rare selection of antiquarian studies, first edition volumes and books useful to the study of Worcestershire and is stored in the locked glass cabinets within the Self Service Area on level two at The Hive.   However, due to their age and the previous lives these volumes have lived, many are now in an ‘Unusable’ condition and are at risk of further damage if handled.


David, one of our Conservation volunteers, preparing archival card wrappers to secure our Palfrey volumes


The project involves constructing wrappers from archival card. This has the double benefit of providing protection to the damaged and fragile volumes, and gives an indication ‘at a glance’ of the extent of damage across the collection, as eventually all the damaged volumes will be wrapped.  Volunteers are working to measure each damaged volume and following a series of (reasonably) simple calculations, cut, fold and glue the card to construct a wrapper that will hold the volume safely together until it can undergo further conservation work.  As each volume is wrapped, a ‘Condition Assessment’ form is completed which details the damage suffered and conservation needs for future reference.

Without the commitment and generosity of volunteers, this and other important preservation activities across the archive would not be possible – it would take me many days to construct wrappers and survey the collection myself, and with such a long list of priorities requiring my time and attention, this project would not be happening.

But it’s not just the archives (and me) that benefit.  Most of my willing volunteers have been with me for a number of years, with some working on more than one project. It seems they enjoy being involved in preserving the archives too – it can’t just be the coffee and biscuits that keep them coming back!  For most projects I have a pool of volunteers that work in pairs for a three-hour morning session and dates are scheduled a few months in advance, allowing people to work around other commitments – it works out to roughly one morning per month.  I can always find other projects in need, so if you fancy getting involved, do get in touch here.

Archi’ve Preserved – and not a jar of jam in sight!

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