Training Day at Berkshire Records Office
Last September as part of the CAS biannual Study Visit based at Douai Abbey, we visited the Berkshire Records Office. During the tour we went through the Conservation Room and were intrigued by the care that was being given in the renovation of documents, books and photos – I could have stayed there a lot longer. Sue Hourigan was the senior Conservator and offered to put on a Training Session to show us in detail and in a very practical, hands-on way what we can do to conserve documents, books and photos.
The Training Session was on 29 February 2016 at Berkshire Records Office and was excellent. Ten of us participated, the number being limited so we could each get individual help from Sue during the practical session and she very willingly gave us plenty of attention and support.
Sue started with a Power point presentation on the ‘Eight threats’ to life in the archives. We saw the damage caused by high temperature, humidity and too much light and how we can prevent and reverse the damage as much as possible. We were introduced to many pests who love to eat paper – and learnt that the species of beetle or ‘bug’ can be diagnosed by where it starts to eat on a sheet of paper! I found it all quite fascinating! … and very useful.
Most of the afternoon was spent in practical work. We covered a very wide range of subjects; good and bad packaging, cleaning documents, replacing staples, first aid for damaged bindings of books and photograph handling, cleaning and preservation. The last one I was very pleased to learn about as I have 1,000s of photos in my archives and didn’t really know what to do with them – now I have a practical plan to deal with them.
Sue was very knowledgeable and happy to share her skills with us. She set us several practical tasks, one was to make packaging to a book’s specific size. Between us we made some very good packages, though some were a little ‘unique’! Replacing staples in a magazine with sewing cotton was another task, very simple to do but so essential if the paper is to be preserved well. Sue also gave each of us books and documents covered with mould and dirt and showed us how to clean them with ‘smoke sponge’ among other things. It was so simple and easy to do yet cleaned them amazingly well. Another most useful task was how to repair the daily wear-and-tear damage to old books. Sue showed us the weak points in a book’s binding where the damage was likely to occur and how to deal with frayed corner, broken spines, damaged end-caps, etc, it smartened up the books no end. We finished by making archival folders and using them to take home the copious explanatory notes Sue had given us during the session.
Altogether this was one of the most practical and useful training sessions I’ve been to. Sue’s next Workshop will include how to deal with paper affected by water damage – since I’ve had a few such papers to deal with I’m certainly looking forward to that one.
Sister Teresa Mitchell FMDM, February 2016