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Conservation Treatments

When State archives that are damaged are requested by a reader they are assessed and treated by State Records conservators.

The State archives most commonly in this category are:

  • Insolvency records
  • Probate records
  • Divorce records
  • Equity records
  • State Rail rolled plans
  • Parchment documents

Conservation treatments can take a long time to complete. They often require processes that take hours if not days – for example the simple act of pressing a paper document to safely flatten it may take a week or more. Removing old sticky tape with solvents can be both hazardous and time consuming. Treating mould damaged documents is also hazardous and must be done in a fume hood.

When you request a damaged archive it is placed in a queue awaiting treatment. We make every attempt to get through requests quickly, and try to fit simple treatments into lulls in other treatment cycles, however due to the length of many treatments and the number in the queue ahead of you, it may take some time to get to your archive.

Repairing damaged paper documents

Rough handling and poor storage often results in documents being torn. It is common for these documents to have then been repaired with unsuitable materials such as sticky tape or tar-backed paper tape.

Torn document before treatment. Click for larger image

Conservators remove the old repairs, clean the document and then repair the tears with suitable materials such as Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste.

Removing old tape. Click for larger image Removing adhesive residue. Click for larger image

Torn document after treatment. Click for larger image Laying down repair tissue. Click for larger image

Flattening parchment documents

Parchment is made from chemically treated and stretched animal skin and when it comes into contact with water it shrinks, blocks together and becomes discoloured. Conservators use techniques similar to how the parchment was created to flatten and repair it.

This Primary Application Packet is severely desiccated and shrunken. It was softened with solutions of alcohol and water and then softened in a humidity chamber so that it could be unstuck and stretched flat.

Primary Application Packet before treatment. Click for larger image Stretching parchment. Click for larger image

Divorce records often have paper and parchment documents interleaved together. When they are damaged by water the parchment sticks to all the other documents and makes a rigid block. Conservators brush on alcohol and water solutions to separate the bundles and then stretch the parchment and repair the paper documents.

Divorce case paper before treatment. Click for larger image Divorce case paper undergoing conservation. Click for larger image

Divorce case paper after conservation. Click for larger image