At Gloucestershire Archives, we do the best we can to ensure that the collections in our care are preserved securely and permanently. But some parts of our collections have suffered damage in the past because they have been well used or because they have been kept in poor conditions before reaching us. For example, documents might be damaged by mould, heavily soiled by smoke and coal dust, badly torn, eaten by mice or broken into pieces!
Although we try to provide the widest possible access to our collections, we may need to restrict access to documents in order to protect them from further damage. Of course we will let you know if the information you are looking for can be gleaned from other sources.
Our conservators assess damaged documents and decide which of three condition categories they fall into: either “Handle with Care”, “Assistance Required” or “Unfit for Production”.
Handle with care means a fragile or slightly damaged item that may be viewed if handled carefully. Staff will show customers how to use proper supports such as foam wedges if these are required.
Assistance required means the item can only be produced and handled safely if a member of staff is available to help.
Unfit for production means that the item is so damaged that it cannot be produced safely in the research room.
What do we do about items that are so damaged they are unfit for production? We do not throw away archival material solely on the basis of poor condition. We very much hope that we might be able to repair them one day!