Discovering objects

Our crowdfunding campaign for packaging the objects from our Franklin collection has reached its £1000 target! A huge thank you to everyone who has donated – your support is much appreciated.

The Franklin objects have made us realise that we have other fabulous, exciting – and sometimes downright strange – objects in some of our other collections, which should also be properly packaged in museum quality boxes. So we’ve decided that any extra money we receive through our crowdfunding campaign will be spent on looking after those items.  We’re sure to discover more of them as we start hunting through our collections, but to give you an idea of the kind of objects we have:

An Ashbourne Shrovetide football from the 1930’s:

football

A beautiful piece of embroidery from 1937, showing Bakewell Market Place:

embroidery

And a collection of textile samples, including this elephant pattern:

elephant

If you’d like to help us look after these and other objects (we’ll blog about more of them as we uncover and re-package them), then you have until 3.00 pm on Friday 19 July to donate on our crowdfunding page.

Packaging the packaging

When I carry out preservation training sessions, I always emphasize the importance of archival packaging: it protects our (and your) records from over-handling, keeps them out of light, provides a barrier for rodents, insects, mould and water, and stops them getting covered in layers of dust. The ‘archival’ bit matters, as that means the quality of the packaging is such that it won’t in itself cause damage to the documents through any chemicals that may have been used in the production process. Invariably this means that when we take in new records we discard the old, often damaging, packaging – I’m sure you’ll agree there’s no reason to keep these:

 

Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule, and sometimes the packaging is such an integral part of the history of the document, that we keep it as well. A prime example of this is D22/1, a large rolled document from 1764, which is still in its original leather-covered, wooden box:

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Beautiful, isn’t it? Both the parchment document and wax seal have survived in perfect condition in that box for the past 255 years, so I see no need to remove them.  However, the box itself is also made of organic material and therefore needs protection from light, insects, etc. This time it’s the original packaging that needs the archival kind.

We make our own archival packaging from various types of archival card and board; the first step in the process is measuring the length, width and height of the item as this determines the size of card we need. We then transfer our measurements on to the board and check whether the item will fit. The checking before cutting away the flaps is essential, as it’s very easy to end up with a box that’s just that little bit too tight or too loose. 

In order to make our new box a bit sturdier, I stuck a sheet of archival fluted board on the base – fluted (corrugated) board is very strong while also being lightweight, making it ideal to use if you want a stronger box that isn’t too heavy.

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Now we just need to fold over all the flaps and tie it all together with some unbleached cotton tape and our original box with contents is safe for the next 255 years!

D22 1 finished closed

 

Sir John Franklin’s signature

After the disappearance of Sir John Franklin in 1845 his wife, Lady Jane Franklin, was inundated with requests for copies of his signature. She responded by cutting out his signatures from letters he’d sent and posting these to the grateful collectors.  The damage this did is immediately obvious in this example, a letter Sir John wrote to his sister, Hannah Booth, in 1833:

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The severity of the damage however only becomes apparent when you view the letter on a light box:

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All the sharp cuts show where a knife went through the paper – we can’t be sure these slashes were made when the signature was removed, but as they don’t occur on any of the other letters it’s reasonable to assume the two are linked.

The letter has now been repaired and is ready for one of our volunteers to read.

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An unusual incunable

An incunable is a book that was printed before the year 1500, when the printing press was still a new invention.  Most surviving ones are now in specialist libraries or private collections, but we’re fortunate to have one example here at the Record Office: Lives of the Saints volume II, by Plutarch (D5424/1).  It was printed by Nicolas Jenson in Venice on the second of January 1478 and still looks fantastic. As you can see on the photographs, early printed books tried to look like illuminated manuscripts, with the printers leaving room for hand-drawn capital letters and other illustrations.

 

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What makes this particular copy unique, is that it was rebound in 1902 by Douglas Cockerell, a well-known bookbinder from the arts and crafts era.  He used wooden boards, just as they would have used in the fifteenth century, with a beautifully decorated piece of leather along the spine. The boards themselves he left bare – it was generally assumed at that time that that is how a medieval binding would have looked.

whole book

Unfortunately though, this has caused a problem: chemicals within the wood have migrated into the new endleaves (first and last pages of a book), causing severe discolouration and weakening of the paper.

Fortunately no damage has been done to the original pages. Removing the binding would destroy part of the book’s history and cause a lot of stress to the fifteenth century paper, so we protect the text with sheets of inert archival quality polyester, loosely placed in between the binding and the pages. We now know that they usually covered the boards completely  with parchment in the Middle Ages, perhaps at least partly to avoid this problem.

D5424 1 polyester in situ

Shiny archival polyester sheet in place

This book is a great example of how conservators and bookbinders can cause damage, despite following the procedures and using the techniques that are accepted as ‘best practice’ in their time.  Knowledge about materials such as wood, leather, paper and inks constantly increases, bringing new ideas and new techniques for every new generation of conservators.  All we can do is try and keep up to date with the latest developments, regularly think about the materials and techniques we’re using and whether they are still appropriate, and hope that our future colleagues will understand that they too will make ‘mistakes’.

If any bibliophiles out there would like to help us continue to look after this marvellous book, you can adopt it via our Adopt a Piece of History scheme.

 

 

Ingenious book design

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.

D2375 A S 1 1 1 volume

D2375/A/S/1/1/1

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.

D2375 A S 1 1 1 back pocket

Parchment cover with pocket

 

D2375 A S 1 1 1 back documents

Documents revealed

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.

Thank You Matlock Ladies Luncheon Club!

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.

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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:

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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.

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Arch I’ve Conserved

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.

Arch poster

 

Digitising History

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.

Digitising history image

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
  • photographs
  • 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.

 

Mother’s Day Surprise!

Still looking for that perfect gift for Mother’s Day?  How about the parish register that shows the baptism or wedding of her ancestors?  Or a map of the area she grew up in, or the admission register of the school she went to? Perhaps she loves dancing, walking, trains, cooking, gardening, sport or art? Why not have a look at our Adopt A Piece Of History scheme and give her the chance to help protect her own and Derbyshire’s history.

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And because it’s such a special occasion, we’ll waive our usual delivery times – just send through your order for any type of certificate and pay for it by noon on Friday 24th March, and your personalised certificate will be in your inbox by noon on Saturday 25th March.

 

That special Christmas present

If you’re planning to surprise someone this Christmas by letting them adopt a piece of history from our collections, don’t wait too long to place your order through our Adopt a Piece of History page.  We guarantee delivery by 23 December for any order placed by Friday 16 December and for all orders from our list of Favourites placed by Thursday 22 December.

aph-certificate

Our Favourites include our oldest document dating from 1115, a notebook with a recipe for Bakewell Pudding from 1837, the plan of the railway line to Mapperley Colliery, a letter written by Florence Nightingale, a Victorian shirt printed by Edmund Potter and many others – see the full list here.  Or choose any item from our catalogue with our Unique option to give them something more personal, such as the parish register that includes their ancestors or a logbook of the school they went to.

And of course there’s our Become a Part of Derbyshire’s History scheme, whereby you don’t only choose any item from our collections for your loved one to adopt, you also tell us the reason why.  Their name and yours, as well as the reason for the adoption, will be added to our Register of Adopters, an official Derbyshire Record Office document which will be kept as part of our archive for future generations to see.

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aph-letter-100

Find out all the details and how to order on the Support Us pages of our blog.