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Thursday 23 March 2017

Conservation services

The National Archives of Scotland (NAS) advises Scottish government departments, institutions, businesses and private individuals on the preservation and conservation of their records. In addition to giving advice, the Conservation Services Branch (CSB), based at Thomas Thomson House, is responsible for the physical care of the records by carrying out treatments or ensuring their storage environment is correct.

The history of conservation at the NAS goes back to the early days of Register House and for many years the conservation unit was situated in the basement there. In 1995, CSB moved to a purpose-built conservation laboratory at Thomas Thomson House. The conservators' work involves a combination of techniques some of which are centuries old and others which conform to the latest scientific practices. Only researched and accepted methods and techniques are applied using materials known to be chemically and physically stable and all treatments undertaken are documented in detail.

The NAS houses over 70 km of archives containing a wide range of organic materials including textiles, paper, wax and animal skins. These undergo a continual and inevitable natural ageing process. More chemically complex and often more unstable media such as photographs present particular preservation problems and require specialised storage, handling and care.

The conservation unit 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.

CSB staff support the NAS exhibitions programme and assist with the preparation and mounting of in-house exhibitions and support requests from other organisations wishing to borrow records for exhibition support.

Staff in CSB will not undertake private conservation work. Advice to owners on conservation and preservation of historical papers can be obtained by e-mailing Information on conservators working privately can be found through the Conservation Register.

The NAS does not offer training in conservation although there may be opportunities for students on work-placements from time to time.
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