Every Thursday afternoon our preservation volunteers diligently clean items from collection D2375, the archive from Calke Abbey. There was a surprise in store while cleaning D2375/A/S/1/1/1 though, a fifteenth century Alstonefield Manor Court book.
Re-using an older piece of Medieval parchment as the cover of a paper text block was standard practice – both parchment and paper were expensive and never wasted. But in this case the bookbinder hit upon an original solution to store some extra loose sheets of paper: they sewed pockets in the parchment cover.
Parchment cover with pocket
Often in archives we need to find the balance between the long term preservation of documents and showing their historic context. Standard practice would be to remove the loose sheets, unfold them and then store them in an archival folder alongside the book. However, as the documents are in great condition and haven’t suffered from their unusual storage, we’ve decided to leave them exactly where the fifteenth century clerk placed them. If we ever find the documents or volume are getting damaged then of course we will remove them, but for now our researchers can have the pleasure of using the parchment cover in the way it was designed to be used all those centuries ago.
When you work with archive collections, sometimes you come across something that makes you stop in your tracks – a document that takes your hand and transports you through time to its author, making them so tangible, so real, that the intervening centuries vanish and you’d swear they were standing right next to you. That happened to me yesterday with a letter I came across, a perfectly ordinary letter from William Porden, the 18th century architect, to his daughter Eleanor Anne Porden.
The content is of course sweet, written by a caring father to his loving daughter, and the reference to smallpox inoculation only two years after it became available is certainly interesting. But what really got me was the handwriting: it is completely different to his normal joined-up style. Then I realised Eleanor would only have been five at the time, still learning to read and needing clear letters to decipher her father’s words. I write notes to my daughter in block capitals to spare her the agony of trying to decipher my atrocious handwriting – that two hundred and eighteen year gap suddenly feels very small indeed.
A big thank you to Matlock Ladies Luncheon Club who have given us a £70.00 donation for our Junction Arts photographs project. The charity Junction Arts celebrated its fortieth anniversary last year and deposited its archive here at the Record Office so future generations would be able to marvel at the wonderful work they do. Although all the paperwork is undoubtedly fascinating, the nearly three thousand photographs and two thousand negatives are what makes this collection so special: seeing the smiles, the joy, the happiness of children, adults and the elderly, as communities come together to create art.
To make sure these wonderful people will continue to make everyone smile for centuries to come, we need to package the photographs in archival quality polyester sleeves so they’re save to handle and can’t get damaged by rubbing against each other or sticking together, as some are already doing. The total cost for packaging all the photographs and negatives is £853.82 – rather too big an amount for us to conjure up, which is why we’re fundraising:
So next time you’re in Matlock, do have a look at our donations box and display in reception – every pound saves five images. And if you’re feeling especially generous, of course we accept donations over the phone as well: just call us on 01629 538 347 and be sure to leave your name if you’d like your own personal thank you on our display.
There are still a few places available for our free ArchI’ve Conserved event tomorrow, where you can find out how our conservators repair paper and parchment documents. Book a place by calling us on 01629 538347 and join us from 10.30 to 12.00.
Join us here at the Record Office on Thursday 23 November from 10.30 to 12.00 to celebrate Explore Your Archives week with a talk and demonstration on how we repair paper and parchment documents. It’s a free event, but with limited places, so booking is essential. The easiest way to book a place is via our Eventbrite page, or call us on 01629 538347.
Please be aware that although the talk will be delivered in a room accessible via a lift, the conservation studio – where the practical demonstration will be held – is on the second floor and can only be reached via stairs.
Have you ever worried that your old letters, certificates, photographs, maps and diaries are getting damaged whenever you handle them? You want to share them with the family, give everyone the opportunity to connect with long-gone relatives, but you can see creases gradually turning into tears. And what about those framed photographs hanging on the walls? They are fading in the light, changing gradually, getting irrevocably damaged. The best way to keep all these treasures safe, is to make copies: this allows you to store the originals out of harm’s way, while the copies can be handled and displayed. With a digital copy you can even print off as many duplicates as you like, as often as you need them.
We have been copying our records in order to protect them for a long time, and I’m pleased to say that we’ve opened up our copying service to everyone, from individuals to heritage organisations: we can now digitise your history for you.
Our experienced staff, using the same equipment they use for all the historic records we hold, are able to digitise:
- diaries, journals and other bound volumes
- letters, certificates and other documents
- maps and plans
- drawings, watercolours and prints
What are the advantages of trusting Derbyshire Record Office with your family’s history?
- We have a state of the art digitisation system, including a book cradle for safely copying bound volumes.
- Our staff are highly trained in handling delicate historic records.
- Whilst in our care, you records will be kept safe in one of our secure archive stores.
- We provide high quality images of at least 300 pixels per inch (ppi).
- We give you the choice between TIFF files, which have a very high resolution but take up a lot of space and can be slow to open, or Jpegs, which have a smaller resolution, but take up a lot less space.
- We put the images on a CD for you for free, or for a small charge on a USB stick
To ask for a quote, simply fill in a Digitising History quote request form on our website.
You may recall a previous blog post about Osmaston Manor, describing the accidental rediscovery of some building plans. They had not been listed (perhaps because of their poor condition) but nor had they been repaired, and their existence had been more or less forgotten.
They have now been cleaned and packaged and, in some cases, repaired. They have also been described in clearer terms in the D1849 catalogue. If you would like to have a look at these records, you can order them out for use in the search room or you can log on to one of our Netloan computers and look for CD number 397, which contains good quality copies.
As part of the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site Discovery Days festival, I will be holding a talk at the Record Office tomorrow to explain how you can protect your family’s photographs, letters, diaries, etc. so they will survive to be enjoyed by generations to come. You’re welcome to stay on after the talk for individual advice.
Place: Derbyshire Record Office, Matlock
Date: Tuesday 25 October
Time: 2pm to 3.30pm
There are still a few places available; the event is free, but booking is essential – call the Discovery Days booking number, 01629 536831.
Come along and prevent your precious memories being destroyed by insects or mould:
Our Mining the Archives project won the Behind the scenes at the museum category of the 2016 Derbyshire Heritage Awards! A big thank you to the judges for appreciating the quality of the work, to the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust for their funding and to Clare Mosley, Madeleine Marshall and Ian Maver for their hard work and expertise.
Lien Gyles and Sarah Chubb receiving the award
Congratulations also to our colleagues at Buxton Museum, who won the Young people in heritage category, and to all organisations who entered projects. The evening highlighted the imagination, creativity, determination and enthusiasm that thrives throughout the heritage sector in Derbyshire – a full list of winners and highly commended projects is on the Facebook page of the Derbyshire Museums and Heritage Forum.
All the winners and Highly Recommended projects
If you’re in Chesterfield tomorrow (Thursday 11 August), why not pop in to Chesterfield Museum and find out how to look after your old family letters and photographs? My Preserving your Past talk starts at 1.00pm and explains how our treasured possessions can get damaged and what you can do to ensure they’ll survive for future generations to enjoy. Feel free to bring along letters, books and photographs if you would like some specific advice after the talk – I’ll be there till the museum closes at 4.00pm.