Behind the public face of the Hull History Centre is the Conservation Unit. It is important that our collections are looked after carefully to ensure that they remain accessible and usable for future generations. So how do we do this?
We store our collections in a dedicated archive storage area on the first floor of the building, and our conservator undertakes repairs to damaged documents. Repairs stabilise documents chemically and physically to allow them to be accessed and used. We also implement policies and procedures for their safe handling and copying.
Storing the collections
The entire first floor of the building is dedicated to storing material in optimum conditions, which are monitored 24 hours a day. To avoid any damage from heat and light there are no windows or heating systems. The temperature and humidity are controlled by a building management system which maintains a stable environment.
To make efficient use of space the archives are stored on mobile racks, and we have over twelve kilometres of shelving. The majority of the collections are stored in archive-standard boxes or folders, and we have a continuous programme of providing and making protective packaging to ensure that everything is protected.
All the materials we use are acid-free, chemically inert, and pH neutral. Regular checks are made for any signs of pest infestation or any damage to the building structure, and any problems found are rectified as soon as possible.
The collections come to us in varying conditions. Most are clean and relatively undamaged, but some can be very dirty, damaged by water or fire, or damp from being stored in unsuitable conditions. These items are checked and treated before they can be allowed into the storage areas.
One of the first things we look for is any signs of insects or mould. The documents are put in an isolation room for the checks and if any infestations are found we can control and isolate them.
Treatments include placing items in a blast freezer (-18º C) for six weeks to ensure that anything live and active is killed off. Any mould affected documents are left in the air-conditioned isolation room to allow them to dry out in the open air, to kill off any active mould spores.
The conservator will clean items using a soft haired brush to remove surface debris. They also use a baissaire cleaning machine which extracts any loose particles and debris, in a similar way to a vacuum cleaner.
We have procedures and controls in place for the safe copying of documents. We will not photocopy items where this places the item at risk of damage. We have an overhead camera scanner that allows us to copy large items like maps up to A0 size. We also have a book cradle to allow us to safely digitise tightly bound volumes safely. See further details about our copying service and the supply of images.