A sneak peek at some conservation work undertaken by the Medical Collections Project Assistant.

Over the past year, there has been a lot of activity centred on the Leeds General Cemetery Company Archive. After completing the mammoth task of digitally capturing the Burial Registers, work continues to preserve the physical materials within the archive.

There are myriad things that go on within the project and it has been a great experience in multi-tasking; cataloguing, digitisation and conservation. Since we are over half-way through the project, what better time to share a glimpse into the inner workings of the Medical Collections Project.

One aspect of my role on this project is to preserve and/or conserve at risk materials. After digitisation, carrying out preservation treatments would be the next big task I am responsible for. I really enjoy my time at the conservation studio working alongside the Conservation Team who have a wealth of knowledge I can consult and learn from.

So what exactly do I work on in the conservation studio?  Paper repairs, surface cleaning, box making, repackaging to list a few as well as a fair amount of surveying.

As with all materials that make their way through the conservation department, the first job is to do a full assessment of each material. There are a variety of remedial practices and conservation treatments available however the right option most often will be influenced by the fragility, value and use of the materials.

Here is an example of some manuscripts that I have created dust jackets for. These volumes have deteriorating leather bindings (red rot) and unfortunately, once damage has taken place, the only thing we can do is try to limit the damage caused by handling.

Bespoke archival box

Another preventative method to protect fragile materials is creating bespoke boxes. Here, I have made a little coffer to hold a receipt book that has collapsed on itself due to a lack of back board. To compensate this, I created a ‘dummy’ to lift and support the remaining text block, which is then housed into the archival box.

The remaining 8 months of the project are sure to present yet more challenges and I look forward to these opportunities to deepen my preservation skills and knowledge.

I’ll be blogging more about my work, so keep an eye out for more updates on this project.