Conservation, repair and storage of the papers

The Crowley Bequest project focuses on the early part Chief Solicitors Office Registered Papers from  1818-1853, and represents around 834 boxes before treatment containing approximately 1 ¼ million documents.

With such a quantity of documents, it is impossible to deal with the treatment of each letter individually.

The collection is made up primarily of letters, but it also contains reports, maps, memorials, petitions and architectural drawings.

Following the completion of archival processing, the conservation work begins.  Each document is treated in the same process as described below, with exceptions given more attention.  The Chief Secretary's Office Registered Papers Project shares the characteristics of any archival conservation project. Considering the quantity of material, the treatment of the documents had to be simple, efficient and easy to repeat daily.

Overall condition of the collection
The correspondence materials and paper used for printing and publishing at the turn of the 19th century were of an extremely high quality. The paper during this period was hand-made, usually from pulped cotton or linen rags. Cotton rags are known to produce the purest form of cellulose, and have been used traditionally for hundreds of years to make the finest quality paper.  

The overall condition of the manuscripts within the CSO/RP collection can be classified as stable. Physical damage to the documents can occur from natural ageing and storage of the paper can result in surface dirt. Careless handling can cause a surprising amount of destruction, paper can be easily ripped or torn and it is often folded, weakening the paper fibres in that area.

 Conservation summary
Subsequent to the checking and counting of sheets, work concentrates on the dry-cleaning of every document with a combination of Smoke sponge® latex eraser, Mars plastics® eraser and Wishab® eraser. Only when necessary are the documents flattened and repaired with wheat starch paste and Spider Wet Strength Tarantula Tissue®. Finally the documents are replaced in order in their folders and boxes and returned to the archivist. This minimal treatment allows flexibility when required; for example, when additional intervention is needed with outsized documents, mouldy papers or documents with seals.

To date the conservation interns have conserved nearly 18,000 individual documents.