The Conservation and Collection Care Department plays a vital role in safeguarding the Library’s collections, ensuring their continued care, preservation and accessibility for future generations.
The conservation team specialise in carrying out conservation treatments to the Library’s Special Collections, which consist of a wide range of material including manuscripts, early printed books, photographs, art on paper, papyrus, parchment and archives.
Conservators carefully assess, document and research materials and provenance in order to formulate sympathetic treatments that both preserve the historical integrity of an object and stabilise it for continued access. We collaborate with curators, affiliated departments and external partners to determine the most appropriate treatment for holdings ranging from individual items to large-scale collections.
Further responsibilities include the assessment and conservation of Library collections for digitisation and preparing items for exhibition and loans. We work alongside the Exhibitions and Loans Conservator on two major exhibitions a year assisting with designing the case layout and bespoke supports for display items.
Three members of our team work on externally funded projects:
- Conservation for digitisation of the World War Two Changi Archives from the Royal Commonwealth Society Collections, which includes a conservation research project
- Conservation of the Cambridge University Press Archives
- Conservation for digitisation of Charles Darwin's Library
We are responsible for the preventative work that goes into keeping the collections safe and the preservation methods used to prolong the lifespan of the objects in our care. Preventative measures include environmental monitoring, integrated pest management, disaster management and providing bespoke housing for vulnerable objects. We collect data on the temperature, relative humidity and any pests in the collections in order to identify potential risks, allowing the team to mitigate hazards before they arise and to address them effectively if they do.
In addition to preventative work, we carry out targeted repair of certain collections and make archival boxes for safer storage of the most vulnerable books. We work in conjunction with the conservation team to assist on large-scale projects and make custom display mounts for events and exhibitions.
The Department as a whole works to promote safe practices in object handling to enable as much accessibility to our collections as possible. We also create outreach events to promote the Library and its collections, our profession and the importance of protecting cultural heritage.
Our highly skilled team are trained to work within the parameters of ethical standards set out by their professional body, the Institute of Conservation (Icon). We are committed to ongoing professional development and endeavour to remain up to date with current conservation and collection care practice. We contribute to the profession through presenting at conferences, leading training courses and publishing our work in journals and online. Members of the Department sit on committees for Icon and the Archives and Records Association (ARA).