Collections Care and Conservation Policy

1. Aim of the Policy

The intention and the purpose of the Archives Centre is to collect and preserve archival material (meeting the criteria of our Collections Development Policy), as far as possible in perpetuity for the use of present and future generations.

The aim of this policy is to state and communicate the principles that guide the preservation activities of the Archives Centre.

This policy is subordinate to the Churchill Archives Centre Mission Statement.

2. Definitions

Conservation (also known as interventive conservation) involves the protection of archives by minimal physical and chemical treatments designed to resist further deterioration and to make material available for use.

Preservation (also known as preventive conservation) is the passive protection of archives in which no physical or chemical treatment is used.

3. Roles and Responsibilities

The senior conservator takes responsibility for co-ordinating preservation and conservation activities.

All staff of the Archives Centre assist in implementing the preservation policy as appropriate to their roles and responsibilities. It is the responsibility of all staff to contact the conservator when they require advice, guidance or assistance with a preservation issue.

4. Policy Principles, general

Preservation is a fundamental responsibility through which the Archives Centre ensures the continued availability and authenticity of the archival records that it holds in trust for present and future generations. The Archives Centre recognises that preservation is a pervasive function and works to ensure that it remains an integral part of all archive activities from acquisition through to access.

Without preservation there can be no access.

5.  Policy Principles, digital

Different preservation paradigms apply to digital records, where a distinction must be made between the intellectual content of the record, its digital/technical format and any carrier.

Many carrier formats degrade quickly over time, even in best storage (eg magnetic media such as floppy disks). Additionally, older formats no longer in common use will have unavoidable dependencies on specific technologies and hardware to access, upkeep of which can take significant time and effort. We do not seek to make original carriers accessible long-term, and will instead preserve a copy of the data on the carrier on our systems.

Long-term access to a particular file format also cannot be guaranteed due to its unavoidable dependence on specific technologies which will become obsolete over time; for example, proprietary software designed for operating systems that are no longer in common use. We aim to preserve these original files, but recognise that we may not be able to provide access directly, including internally for functions such as verifying catalogue information. We acknowledge that even when the original file can be accessed, the way the content is displayed may differ from the original view and context seen by the record creator.

The Archives Centre’s policy on preserving digital records is therefore predicated on preserving the means of access to the underlying intellectual content and its associated evidential value.

6. Preservation Management

The senior management team at the Archives Centre consists of the director, senior archivist and the senior conservator. This group will, at least annually, review its policies and the Strategic Plan which will include actions/plans having an impact on the preservation of the collections as a whole. A Collections Care Risk Assessment (reviewed twice each year) informs preservation decisions.

All new members of staff will be given preservation training, including specific sessions on handling, packaging and copying, and appropriate refresher training will be provided for existing staff. Handling training will be given to all volunteers and contractors with access to documents.

The Archives Centre will conform to relevant standards and best practice guidelines including:

  • BS 4971:2017 – Conservation and Care of Archive and Library Collections
  • EN 16893:2018 – Conservation of Cultural Heritage. New sites and buildings intended for the storage and use of collections
  • PAS 197:2009 – Code of practice for cultural collections management
  • BS 1153:1992 – Recommendations for processing and storage of silver-gelatine type microfilm

7. Acquisition

Archival material is acquired in accordance with the Archives Centre Collections Development Policy.

Archive material can be paper, books, photographic, audio-visual and digital.

Digital material may be received either via portable carrier or electronic transfer. Digital material will be ingested into our digital preservation system as soon after sorting/box listing as possible.

Any accessions that are suspected of being damp/mouldy, very dirty or insect infested will be inspected by the conservator in the reception area, and dealt with before being moved to storage areas

The conservator will survey incoming collections (usually at the cataloguing stage) to identify the photographic, audiovisual and digital material in order to provide appropriate storage, where possible.

8. Accommodation, Security and Environment

The Archives Centre will seek to ensure appropriate and secure accommodation for all its holdings, at all times.

Appropriate accommodation includes environmentally controlled, monitored and cleaned storage and reception areas. Storage areas are temperature, humidity and dust controlled through air conditioning systems when required. Lights are controlled and all archive material is boxed or within some type of enclosure. Enclosures and packaging meet archival standards and integrated pest management is in operation in all storage and reception areas. These areas are also secured with CCTV, door and movement detectors and alarms. In this, the Archives Centre adheres as far as possible to BS 4971:2017 and EN 16893:2018. Routine servicing and checks are carried out on all mechanical and electrical systems.

Collections Care Risk Assessments are carried out and environmental specifications are drawn up on the basis of this and the relevant British Standards.

The Archives Centre also seeks to reduce the College’s carbon emissions in line with the broader College objectives.

9. Disaster and Emergency Preparedness

The Archives Centre maintains a sophisticated fire detection and gas fire suppression system in its two main storage areas, as well as minimising the risk from flood through its maintenance programme.

The Archives Centre will update and maintain a Disaster Contingency Plan to protect its holdings by responding to emergencies. Through the College it will provide fire safety training and periodic fire drills to test evacuation procedures

In a disaster or emergency, the first priority will be the safety of people followed by immediate action to rescue or prevent further damage to the records. Emergency response and recovery actions will take precedence over all other Archives Centre activities.

10. Copying

All copies (surrogates) that are kept by the Archives Centre have preservation value because they:

  • reduce the movement and exposure of archival records
  • may be designated the archival record if an archival record is lost or damaged
  • may constitute proof of condition and legal ownership

Staff at the Archives Centre will always check that a surrogate does not already exist before taking copies.

For human-readable (traditional) records, the first priority is to ensure preservation of the archival records themselves. The process of making copies should not endanger the original.

Preservation copying will produce copies of a very high standard and archive materials that have been copied to this standard should not need to be copied again for the foreseeable future. Preservation copies will be made to standards set out in separate procedure documents and stored on backed-up servers (and imminently on a digital preservation system).

For traditional, human-readable records, preservation copying will be digital copying using scanners or cameras and producing images that conform to our agreed standards

Digital copying below this standard cannot be considered preservation copying, but primarily for access. However, there are still likely to be preservation benefits through decreased use and copying of originals.

Microfilms conforming to BS 1153:1992 are considered a preservation copy and the masters are stored offsite.

Where there is a demand for access, machine-readable (audio-visual) records will be copied to create preservation and access copies (where funds allow). . The Archives Centre is committed to a small, continuous project to copy audiovisual materials in its holdings, on the basis of priority.

The concept of originals and copies does not apply in the same manner in a digital environment. Digital records are not limited to a single physical instance and may be copied in a manner which is indistinguishable from, and fundamentally identical to, the original at bit level. We make initial copies from portable media or via direct transfer from the depositor, and will then create multiple copies of that data in different locations. At all stages, copies will be verified against the source to ensure that the copy is complete.

Because of the risk of obsolescence of digital media, initial copying from portable media to our systems is essential and is part of collection processing. While this may present risk of damage or deterioration to the portable media, this is unavoidable, similar risks would be associated with any access to the media, and the risks will only increase over time. For further details see the digital preservation policy.

Copying for or by researchers must not endanger the archival record. For that reason, certain restrictions are in place. Digitisation is carried out by trained staff in-house or by digitisation companies working on site. Self-service photography is allowed in the reading room under strict controls.

Filming by media companies etc will only be allowed when supervised by the Archives Centre staff (see the media policy) .

Copies can only be made in accordance with copyright procedures

11. Interventive Conservation

The Archives Centre is committed to having a fully equipped conservation studio and adequate professional conservation staff

The emphasis will always be on preventive conservation where possible.

Conservation treatments undertaken in the Archives Centre will be in accordance with nationally recognised and agreed ethical and technical standards including:

Priorities for conservation are determined using the following criteria:

  • Public demand, both expressed and anticipated
  • Historical significance
  • Degree of existing damage and potential future deterioration and degradation
  • Suitability for substitution by surrogates
  • Status of deposit (whether owned by the Archives Centre)
  • Resources tied to certain collections

All conservation treatment will be undertaken with the intention of preserving the maximum degree of evidential value and with the minimum impact on the authenticity of the record.

All conservation examinations and treatments will be recorded on a databaseand the records kept for the long-term.

Conservation staff will keep abreast of new developments in preservation and conservation practise through continuing professional development (training courses etc).

12. Exhibition and Loan

Exhibition and loan of original documents must be approved by the Director and the Conservator of the Archives Centre.

Exhibition and Loan will only be approved if the host body can show that the standards of care in the temporary location are similar to those of the Archives Centre and meet the requirements of BS 4971:2017. The Archives Centre reserves the right to undertake a site visit.

Whether an item can be loaned will depend mainly on its light sensitivity and previous light exposure, measured in lux-hours.

The Archives Centre will encourage the use of facsimiles for both in-house and external displays. Levels of use of documents during in-house displays will be monitored yearly by the Conservator and restrictions put in place as required, in consultation with the Director.

13. Access

Public access to original documents will be in the controlled conditions of an invigilated reading room.

Readers must handle archival material with great care and agree to abide by our rules as part of the process of registering for a reader’s ticket. All readers are asked to watch a short video on safe handling. Book supports, gloves etc will be used as appropriate to the material.

Badly damaged or vulnerable material may be restricted. Reader demand for such material will increase its priority for conservation treatment.

Certain collections or part of collections will be made accessible only as digital surrogates where a preservation copy has been made and the material has been assessed as vulnerable by the Director and the Conservator.

Reviewed by: Sarah Lewery
Date: 12/10/21
Approved by Senior Management Team for October 2021 Archives Committee meeting
Date of next review: Oct 2022