Recently the Conservation and Digital Content Teams in Special Collections were involved in a unique project that spanned a year of effort and coordination.  Each team had a specific and very important part to play in repatriating the material either physically or digitally.

The Conservation Team ensured that three New Zealand war diaries and associated archives from the Liddle Collection were safely rehomed in the Alexander Turnbull Library, which is part of the National Library of New Zealand.  The Digital Content Team created digital surrogates of all the original material in the Anzac section of the Liddle Collection.

The Digitisation Studio produced approximately 17,000 digital images which took almost a year.  We captured the material in as close a manner as possible to the original to enable families and researchers to read the content.  The images are high resolution TIFFs which ensures their long term re-usability.  We loaded these images onto a 4TB hard-drive to be returned to the Turnbull Library with the physical material.

Prisoner of war postcard sent to Clifford James Walsh from Germany. Image credit Alexander Turnbull Library.

Part of the job of the Conservation Team is dealing with loans and we send our objects all over the UK and occasionally beyond.  We believed that approaching the repatriation as we would a loan item was the best method.  The priority was to find a transport agent who could facilitate this.

We needed to consider the route.  Stella Butler, the University Librarian, was couriering the objects and chose to ‘hand carry’ them, i.e. personally take them as hand luggage.  This necessitated the shippers finding an airline that would reserve an empty seat as the object has to be next to the courier.  This often leads to awkward questions as you must not disclose what you are carrying.

Once we had agreed an acceptable route without lengthy or complicated stopovers, we identified the best way of packing the objects.  The shipping team made a purpose built case with inert foam packing and board to separate the different items.  This had room for a hard drive containing images of the material being repatriated.  I was delighted and relieved that on the day of packing everything slipped in perfectly, although watching the security seals go on was nerve wracking despite having triple checked everything.

Stella was supplied with detailed condition reports to hand to the Conservators at the Turnbull Library once she arrived.  Condition reports describe the state that an object is in when it leaves our building giving details of characteristics such as tears and stains.  Special Collections’ Digitisation Studio provides images for the reports.

Cyril James Claridge’s 1915 diary.  Image credit Alexander Turnbull Library.

As World War One diaries, these were old and fragile objects and one in particular had page perforations that exacerbated its delicate condition.  Volunteer, Avril Pedley made beautiful bespoke enclosures for each of them which ensured their protection and I hope will continue to be used for housing the diaries in their new home in Wellington.