Until 2009, the Sydney Diocesan Archives had an annual budget for the conservation of documents and volumes. Due to the budget restrictions caused by the Global Financical Crisis, the Sydney Diocesan Archives budget for paper conservation was withdrawn in early 2009. The renewal of this budget will depend upon an improved financial climate.
The priority of this programme was to repair and conserve the earliest and most significant records in the collection. In many cases, the item cannot be handled or used safely until conservation works have been undertaken.
Conservation can bring an unusable document or volume ‘back to life’ so that it can be handled safely, and can resume its role as part of the research collection.
The causes of damage to documents and volumes include:
* The edges of pages have become torn and frayed through overuse
* Pages have become torn and loose in the volume
* Pages have become stained and degraded due to the acids from human hands
* The paper has become stained by liquids such as coffee
* Metal clips have rusted and damaged the paper
* The pages have been repaired with adhesive tape which has adversely affected the paper
* Folios have become loose due to broken stitching
* The binding and spine has become loose or broken
* Previous rebinding by amateurs has damaged the volume
* The paper has become dry and brittle, or conversely damp and mouldy, due to storage in an unsuitable climate
* The paper is acidic and has discoloured
* The non-acidic paper has been adversely affected by acid migration from a lesser quality paper
* Iron gall ink has ‘eaten’ through the paper
* The exterior leather has dried out and become flaky
* Insects have eaten the paper, board and leather and left holes in the volume
* The item has been damaged by fire or water
Paper conservation is a specialised field, which requires a high level of training and expertise.
There are many levels of preservation and conservation of documents and volumes, from simple stabilisation and protection of the item to prevent further deterioration, up to complete repair and rebinding. All conservation work undertaken is reversible and applied with minimum intervention.
Due to the detailed and delicate nature of conservation work, it tends to be expensive.
The Sydney Diocesan Archives has for many years used the services of a professional paper conservator, Heather McPherson, of Heather McPherson Pty Ltd.
Heather McPherson is a paper conservator in private practice, and she works from her conservation studio in Goulburn.
Heather also provides paper conservation services for institutions such as the Australian Museum Archives and the NSW Parliamentary Archives.
Heather McPherson can be contacted at:
25 Hurst Street, Goulburn, NSW, 2580
Telephone: 02 / 4822 4365
Facsimile: 02 / 4822 4470