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Conservation and preservation
At the National Archives of Scotland (NAS), the Conservation
Services Branch (CSB) aims to preserve and conserve our collections for the future.
While preservation concentrates on slowing down degradation and preventing damage
to collections by passive methods, interventive conservation treatments are required
to prolong the life of documents and make them accessible.|
Conservators are guided by an international code of ethics and working procedures
which emphasise altering the item as little as possible. This approach, known
as minimal intervention, aims to retain and record the historical integrity of
the document or volume and the way it originally functioned, ensuring that conservation
treatments do not cover or obliterate any bibliographical or palaeographical evidence.
Pre-conservation treatment assessment always includes visual inspection but
may also involve testing of the pH levels, the solubility of inks and pigments,
basic spot tests, inspection under UV and infra-red light and examination using
the microscope. Non-destructive testing is always preferred. Results of these
tests are summarised in reports which may also include drawings of sewing structure,
tracings of watermarks and photographs. These will be available to assist and
inform researchers and conservators in the future. These modern scientific techniques
combine with highly developed craft skills, experience and a knowledge of historic
structures and formats to inform all practical work.
strives to support access and ensure that the records can be made available to
the public. To ensure preservation, the environment is carefully monitored and
controlled within the NAS storage rooms. Organic materials expand and contract
as ambient moisture levels rise and fall. Controlled relative humidity levels
can help materials retain flexibility and ensure that mould growth does not occur.
Rapid fluctuations of temperature and relative humidity affects the dimensions
and mechanical properties of material and can cause warping, flaking pigment and
cracked emulsion on photographic media.
To complement the environmental
care all materials used in the conservation and storage of the records must meet
high standards. Handling directly affects the life expectancy of the collections
and increases this ageing process. Damage through poor handling is cumulative
but is often not immediately apparent to the user. Care in handling reduces the
need for interventive conservation work and facilitates access.
copying of documents, particularly photocopying, raises important preservation
issues. To ensure the preservation of material considered to be particularly vulnerable
or which is being copied repeatedly, we may ask you to accept surrogates in the
form of facsimiles, microfilm, digital or electronic copies.