I’ve been working away on the conservation of documents as part of the Mining the Archives Project, and have so far repaired over 50 individual pages of D248: Barmaster’s Lot and Cope account books, 1831-1870.
Each page is extremely fragile – the book has been badly damaged by damp and mould, which has caused the paper to lose all of it’s strength and it is literally falling to pieces. The book had been dismantled years ago, so the pages are in no particular order with fragments muddled up and all over the place. Before I can begin the treatment process the first task is to puzzle all the pieces back together so that all the bits are in the right place. This can be very tricky due to the extent of the damage, a bit like a very complicated mouldy jigsaw puzzle!
Once I am sure everything is in the correct place I can begin the repairs. I have to be certain about this, because otherwise the information may not appear accurate, particularly as these are account books, so contain a lot of complicated numbers and arithmetic. After painstaking attempts, if I can’t find where a piece definitely goes, it will be saved in case researchers (or jigsaw enthusiasts) want to try and attempt to find where it fits in the future.
As you can see it requires a lot of patience, but it is very satisfying when you manage to match one up successfully!