Graduate intern update: Beth

Graduate intern Beth Hall updates us on what she’s been up to in the last month or so…

Hello, it’s Beth! Back again with another update from my Archives and Special Collections internship.

I promised an update on my time with conservation in my last post, and what a fascinating couple of weeks it has been.

We kicked off with a tour of the building, with a view to look at the conservation measures that we have in place to keep the collections safe. We have pest traps around the building (not necessarily to catch all the insects we might have here as you might think, but to monitor their levels and where they are likely to be found), which are mostly by the strong rooms where the collections are kept. We also have temperature and humidity monitors that make sure the environment for the collections are stable. These are regularly checked, and radiators come on if humidity levels get too high to make sure everything balances out!

After looking over the building-level conservation efforts, the conservators let me clean up some documents myself. I started with surface cleaning, which gently removes dirt and soot from the document with grated eraser or a smoke sponge. This makes the document look better, of course, but also keeps it safe from acidic dirt that can accelerate any wear and decomposition of the item. I also performed some repairs on the small tears of the documents with small pieces of thin Japanese paper with a starch solution to make it sticky (all that conservation do is reversible, so moisture will lift anything I’ve added to the item right off again). This prevents further damage and tearing to the document.

Satisfying ‘before’ and ‘after’ images of a Palatinate document
Tear repairs with Japanese tissue – this will be trimmed!

My second week in conservation was a physical one! We began the task of moving the books back into one of our historic libraries – Cosin’s library. We began with some shelf checks to make sure the shelves were suitable to house the books we were moving on to them. Some were fine, but we found that a fair amount had nails sticking out of them, which might damage and scratch the covers of any books at the ends of the shelves. To remedy this, the conservation team prepared shelf liners made of thick card to help ease any abrasion and risk to the books on the shelves.

The next few mornings consisted of loading up the books onto the book carriers and trolleys and carrying them down into the library. You can see in the photos how there are measures to protect the flooring of the library: there are covers for the items that will touch the floor and tennis balls on the feet of the tables (Conservation is nothing if not ingenious with what they use!). After the books were safely in the library, they were carefully re-shelved according to a layout map to ensure that the books are put back in the correct order and where possible, on the shelves they lived previously.

Spot the tennis balls!

My next update will be about my time spent this month with Visitor Services – if you have visited Palace Green Library at any point in August or September you might have been lucky enough to catch my clipboard-bearing self greeting you at the door!

Before I sign off, I just wanted to give a huge shout out to everyone who works here at Palace Green, from Front-of-House staff to the archivists in the depths below. The time and effort these hard-working people put in to make the operation run smoothly and keep the items safe is fantastic and not often noticed (which makes it all the more impressive when they’re willing to spare some time to show me the ropes!).

I’ll be back next month for an update on my time at the front desk! Stay safe, and I hope you’re enjoying the dregs of summer!

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