The Chief Secretary’s Office Registered Papers form part of the Irish state papers and consist of a series of incoming letters, reports, memoranda, petitions as well as architectural drawings dating from 1818 to 1924. These documents provide a valuable insight into the administration of Ireland during this period.

The correspondence materials, the paper and the inks used at the turn of the 19th century were of an extremely high quality.

Physical damage to the documents has occurred from natural ageing, and previous poor quality storage has resulted in surface dirt and dust on the papers. The letters and documents were originally folded and often the paper fibres are weakened along the folds, causing the paper to split or be easily torn.

Following the completion of archival processing, the conservation work begins. The project shares the characteristics of any archival conservation project, there is a lot to do! In view of the quantity of material involved, approximately 1.25 million documents, a simple, efficient treatment that could be repeated daily was developed.

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.

Between 2008 and 2016, conservation interns conserved 54,438 individual documents.

For further information see How we conserve Chief Secretary’s Office Register papers