Conservation Project and Staff

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

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

The work consists of the conservation treatment of manuscript correspondence, from the Chief Secretary’s Office Registered Papers for 1818-1852, by conservation interns, under the supervision of our Conservator, Zöe Reid.

  • Condition assessment, defining conservation work required;
  • Dry cleaning, flattening, repairing and washing as necessary;
  • Liaison with the Crowley Bequest Archivists;
  • Management of work and tracking of documents.

After the reorganisation and renumbering of the documents by the archivists, the conservation work begins.  Each document is treated as described 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 has 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 poor 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.


As part of the five-year Crowley Bequest Project applications are invited in May each year seeking recent graduates with  a recognised degree in the field of paper conservation who are interested in gaining experience in the discipline of archive conservation.

The opportunity of working on the Crowley Bequest Project provides the interns with a unique opportunity to work on a vast range of early 19th Century manuscript material and to develop both their conservation and organisational skills. The interns are also encouraged to do a small research project during the year on some aspect of the collection, with the aim of  publishing a short article in a peer-reviewed journal.

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

Crowley Bequest Interns

2008-2009       Marie Carré Hok

2009-2010       Eileen Walsh

2010-2011       Audrey Ancé