Looking after the archives

Preservation and conservation staff at the Borthwick Institute are responsible for the care of our collections, both physical and digital.

There has been a conservator at the Borthwick since the recruitment of the first document repairer in 1964. Currently in the conservation workshop there are two qualified conservators and a conservation technician.

A digital archivist was employed in 2012 to look after the increasing quantity of digital material in our care.

Conservation

Conservation

Conservation involves active treatments that are used to chemically or physically stabilise vulnerable originals.

These items could be damaged and at risk of further deterioration, or perhaps cannot be safely accessed as they are.

Examples of conservation treatments include:

  • Supporting a tear or a loss in a paper document with a repair
  • Consolidating flaking ink on a parchment document
  • Treating a map with a deacidifying agent to chemically stabilise the paper
  • Reattaching the boards on a book

Obsolete media formats from the Marks and Gran archive

Digital preservation

We protect our digital holdings from the threat of corruption and obsolescence to ensure they remain readable over time.

Digital preservation includes:

  • Checking files for viruses
  • Checking files to ensure that corruptions have not occurred
  • Migrating files into more modern or more open formats to guard against obsolescence
  • Creating metadata or technical documentation about files so we can trace how a file has been curated over time

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Preservation

Preservation

Preservation involves passive measures of care, which prevent damage or deterioration within the archive.

If the archives are stored in the right environment, well-packaged and handled carefully, we can considerably increase their lifespan.

Preservation includes activities such as:

  • Providing advice and training on the handling and care of archives
  • Preparing archives for access, such as reprographics or use in the searchroom
  • Environmental monitoring of areas used to store and access archives
  • Packaging archives with appropriate materials

Preservation policy

Preservation policy

The Borthwick Institute is committed to preservation for access.

We preserve documents so that they can be used by present and future generations.

We preserve and provide access to the unique and irreplaceable archives in our care, supporting research at the University of York and the rights and requirements of the public.

Our preservation policy describes the main principles that guide us in looking after the archives.