Caring for records

Caring for archivesWe aim to preserve all the records in our care for ever and keep their contents accessible.

Put together, all our records would nearly fill two Olympic sized swimming pools!

We care for our records by:

  • Assessing new collections
  • Monitoring the records in all our secure facilities
  • Providing packaging to protect the records
  • Providing advice on handling the records

We also carry out specific treatments on records that need it. We may clean and repair fragile records or protect stable records if they are part of a popular or significant collection that is likely to be handled a lot.

We are trained to understand the needs of all our records from medieval bindings to blue prints. Some treatments involve technical and painstaking work whereas other treatments provide simple, quick and practical solutions to problems.

How to care for your records

We all create, inherit and pass on records. The records you value most can be looked after carefully to preserve them for the next generation.

You can do this by:

  • Protecting records which are already damaged
  • Handing your records carefully
  • Using archival packaging
  • Storing your records in a suitable place
  • Planning for an emergency

Handy hints and tips:

  • Careful handling of documents and suitable packaging prevents most damage getting worse
  • Take copies of records you intend to use a lot
  • Check your storage area – clean, cool, dry and dark is always the best environment!
  • If you have concerns a document is getting worse contact conservation
  • Plan for the worst don’t hope for the best – check your records, list them and keep copies of them in a separate location if they are valuable to you

Handling and packaging

Caring for archive bindings

We can’t avoid handling documents, but we can take steps to make sure damage to them is reduced as much as possible.

Hints and tips:

  • Think! Do you need to handle the document?
  • Use a book rest (or an old pillow) to support books
  • Don’t lean on documents, use weights to help keep them flat or open
  • Can a copy of the document be used instead of the original?

Myth busting:

Gloves are not always the best option! Gloves can make your hands clumsy, just make sure your hands are clean and dry. However do use gloves (such as vinyl or nitrile) when handling photographs or documents which are very dirty.


Documents survive much longer if they are wrapped and then placed inside archive boxes. We use recommended standards when choosing archival packaging for our records, please ask us for advice on packaging different types of documents

Caring for photographs

Photography can provide us with a window into the past as far back as the 1830s. A photograph can be made onto metal, glass, plastic or paper. The image surface is particularly fragile and may fade, crack or be scratched. A photograph may also become meaningless if it is not labelled or no-one knows who or what is in it.  

Special care can be given to photographs by:

  • Labelling on the back in soft pencil
  • Using copies for display
  • Packaging using “silver safe” or “photo safe” materials
  • Handling carefully at the edges with gloves
  • Identifying the photographic process
  • Storing in a cool, dark and dry place

Conservation Courses

To help others look after collections, our specialist conservation team run a number of conservation workshops during the course of the year. To view the latest workshops, visit our dedicated events page by clicking here.