A thank-you letter from Mr and Mrs Dunn: conservation update

As Mark promised, he asked me to take a look at that lovely letter in the trustees’ minute book from Bethel Methodist Chapel. It has been pasted in on two hinges – very delicately done compared to a lot of other documents we see.

The letter pasted in on two hinges

The letter pasted in on two hinges

Although the hinges and adhesive are definitely not archival, they haven’t caused any damage so far and as it’s the only added document in the volume, its presence isn’t causing any structural problems. We could still take the letter out and either hinge it back in using archival quality materials or store it separately, but at the moment I think the risk of damaging both letter and volume is greater if we remove the letter than if we simply leave it alone. I say ‘at the moment’ because techniques in conservation are constantly developing and there may well come a time when the risk is reversed and we decide to remove those old hinges.

As far as minute books go, we have hundreds, if not thousands with far greater problems than this one. People used to paste, stick or staple many documents, booklets and letters into a volume, causing the binding to collapse completely.

An over-full minute book

An over-full minute book

Multiple pages stapled in

Multiple pages stapled in

Staples rust over time

Staples rust over time

Self-adhesive tape

Self-adhesive tape degrading

Even now we sometimes get quite modern minutes, where the pages have been printed out and then stuck into a book, to make a ‘minute book’. So what should you do if you’re creating minutes for an organisation? You might be tempted to forget about paper altogether and simply keep everything on a hard drive or memory stick to hand over to us in thirty years’ time. But just think, if you’d done that twenty years ago on a floppy disk with the then most up to date word-processing software, we would find it very difficult to access that information now. So, print out a copy on archival quality paper and store it in an archival quality folder keeping it out of light and away from moisture. Your minutes will then still look exactly the same in thirty years when we will gratefully receive them and in 200 years when a researcher’s day will be made because of the wonderful piece of information they’ve just found. Perhaps they’ll even blog about it…

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