Curious discovery from the time of Jane Austen

Sometimes it’s an unexpected glimpse of times past that I really enjoy about my job here at Gloucestershire Archives.  I had such a moment recently, with a discovery that came my way.

Part of my role as Collections Care Conservator is to protect the collection against damage from insect pests.  Our eagle-eyed staff and volunteers are super-vigilant about spotting any possible signs of infestation.  One of our volunteers was emptying out an old box when she spotted what she thought was frass (i.e. insect poop) and so brought the box to my attention.

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Sub-zero storage solution for snaps

As Collections Care Conservator at Gloucestershire Archives, I recently attended a training course on the Conservation of Photographs. It was taught by Susie Clark, one of the UK’s leading experts in this field, who stressed that certain types of photographs and photographic negatives benefit from being stored at freezing temperatures, as this slows down the rate of deterioration.

So we decided it would be good to provide this enhanced level of care for some of the Archives’ valuable yet vulnerable photographic collections. And, knowing walk-in freezer rooms are expensive to create and maintain, we decided to opt for a more cost-effective and practical solution – two free-standing commercial freezers, one small and one large, sourced from a Gloucester firm.  These arrived on Thursday 23 February.

Our new freezers feature strong adjustable metal shelves, an auto defrost function, a digital temperature display so we can monitor the temperature inside each freezer, big castor feet so they can be moved around, and lockable doors.

As well as being an effective means of preservation, freezing is also a proven and chemical-free way of killing off insect pests like wool moths and “bookworms” (the larvae of various species of wood boring beetles). There’s always the possibility of us needing to do this as some of the unique material that comes our way can be infested with pests, as you can see from the image below. Thankfully, we now we have a better way of dealing with them!

pest damaged book board 1

This photo shows the cover of a book that was recently given to Gloucestershire Archives. Because it had been stored previously in a damp environment, it was severely damaged by mould and by the larvae of one species of wood-boring insect, possibly the common furniture beetle.

 

 

 

Providing access to fragile or damaged items in our collections

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! Continue reading