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Collections care & conservation statement

LSHTM Archives are collected and preserved to safeguard and disseminate knowledge about the history and development of the organisation, its work and staff.

The LSHTM Archives Service enables a range of audiences to access this information in a variety of ways.

Document purpose

The Collections Care and Conservation Statement is the top-level document that sets out the principles by which the LSHTM Archives Service preserves the collections to professional standards to ensure their availability for use now and in the future. The Collections Care and Conservation Plan is a working document (Excel) which details work plans and practically implements the Statement, and the Collections Care Procedures give detailed and specific help and instruction for staff and users.  The LAS Collection Management policy sets out the overall context for collection management across the Library & Archives Service.

Document scope

This document discusses the care of the analogue collections, and outlines developments to manage hybrid and born-digital material.

Size and nature of the collections

As of August 2017, the Archives consists of 39 cubic metres of material.

The collection is mainly paper based and consists of correspondence, reports, registers, notebooks, research data and publications. This collection also includes over 700 posters and 463 maps.

Printed photographs are held both within collections and also in separate series or within photograph albums. There are also 35mm negatives and a small number of glass lantern slides. Digitised archival images are held on Assetbank, the School’s Digital Asset Management system.

There is a small amount of reel to reel audio tape, film which has been digitised and a small number of VHS video tapes. Audio cassettes. 16mm film.

There a few objects and ephemera including microscopes, a mosquito box, a box of microscope slides, a cape, badges and condoms.

Definitions

Collections Care includes the physical care and protection of our collections, including:

Preservation, Preventative Conservation: processes undertaken by in-house staff to best preserve the collections, including re-packaging, good handling of collections by staff and researchers, knowledge of standards in order to carry out preservation duties, access to advice and training in order to carry out preservation duties.

Remedial Conservation: processes undertaken offsite by qualified, experienced paper and artefact conservators to conserve vulnerable items in order to stabilise them and make them available long term for researchers and for display. Conservation includes the construction of appropriate customised housing for vulnerable items to improve their longevity and make their transport safer.

History of collections care

The LSHTM Archives Service was established in 2002 when the first professional archivist was employed. One of the first activities for the archivist was to survey and appraise the collections, none of which were catalogued and stored to archival standards.

In 2005, ALM London funded a Preservation Assessment Audit, and a benchmarking survey and action plan were developed as a result of this audit.   In 2015, the Library & Archives Service (LAS) joined the National Conservation Service (NCS), which provides advice and guidance on all aspects of Collections Care.

With guidance from the NCS, staff from the Library & Archives Service (LAS) have developed a new Benchmarks Survey and as part of Accreditation have developed a rolling Collections Care and Conservation Plan.

Since 2002, the Archives Service has been awarded five grants and two scoping studies from the Wellcome Trust’s Research Resources in Medical History Scheme. These grants include funding for preservation and conservation where necessary.

Continuity and forward planning

The Library & Archives Service (LAS) produces an annual operational plan that outlines work for the year ahead. Collections Care forms part of this process. The Archives Service also has a more detailed annual operational plan which is based on collections care priorities identified from the Collections Care and Conservation plan, Collections Information plan (stocktake spreadsheet), Collections Development plan and the objectives of team members.

Standards and guidelines

The LSHTM Archives Service is aware of and uses professional best practise standards and guidance as the benchmark standards to aim for. The following guidance and standards are used:

  • Archive Accreditation standard
  • Benchmarks in Collections Care
  • PAS 198:2012
  • PD5454 2012 now updated with BS 4971:2017
  • BL Preservation Advisory Service guides
  • Harwell Document Restoration Services
  • National Conservation Service

Building security and storage

The LSHTM Archives Service balances the needs of security with the need to encourage access, and explain the purpose of security procedures to users.

Location

The Archives Service offices and search room are on the 1st floor within the Library and are wheelchair accessible. Secure store rooms are located on the mezzanine and basement floors. There is lift access to both stores: a goods lift is available to access the basement and a general lift, which accommodates a large trolley, gives access to the mezzanine level.

Building security

All School visitors sign in with Security on the ground floor on arrival. CCTV is in operation and Security Staff patrol the building. The majority of doors operate on a restricted swipe card system.

The Archives Service follows PD545 2012 Security advice [5.2]. Access to the repository stores and search room are by key and swipe access only.

Search room security

Archive visitors register with the Archives Service on their first visit, showing ID. Personal belongings are stored separately from the researcher. Archives staff actively invigilate researchers. A member of the Archives staff is a member of ARA Security & Access Group to increase knowledge of risks and its mitigation.  There are staff procedures for supervising researchers and new staff receive guidance in this as part of their induction.

Handling & use

Handling and moving archival material

All Archives staff and volunteers receive guidance on moving and handling collections as part of their induction. Professional guidance from "Good handling principles and practice for library and archive materials" from the Preservation Advisory Service and advice from NCS is used. Large items such as maps, posters and objects are moved using a suitable trolley. Any material taken out of the building is boxed and appropriate transportation is used. Items are accompanied by appropriate staff.  

All items sent off-site are handled and housed to standards required in our own building.

Preservation

The Archives Service follows PD5454:2012 standards for packaging. It has a continuing programme to replace non-archival quality folders and boxes with archival-quality enclosures. Depending on vulnerability as assessed by Archives staff, this process takes place as part of the accession process, during cataloguing, and as part of an ongoing re-packaging programme. For externally funded projects (Wellcome funded cataloguing), a conservation and preservation scoping study is completed as part of the funding application. Visual material (photographs, posters) are enclosed in polyester sleeves. There are staff procedures on repackaging archival material.  

The stocktake exercise identifies catalogued material suitable for in-house digitisation. A digitisation staff procedure gives details of the steps needed for the digitisation process.

Labelling & marking

PD545-2012 4.8 is used as the standard for labelling and marking. Archival boxes containing catalogued material are clearly labelled with an archival standard adhesive label which can be easily read from a shelf. Staff are trained in the house style for labelling.

Paper based items removed from their packaging (eg for a temporary display) are marked with their reference number using pencil for ease of return. If necessary a slip of archival quality paper is inserted in the file to denote its position.

Conservation quality permanent markers are used to label polyester sleeves containing archival material.

User access

All new users receive written and verbal guidance from archive staff on handling collections and search-room practice. This is also available on the Archives Service web pages. Policies and procedures relating to research visits are also available online (See Access policy for further information). Staff actively monitor users’ handling of collections and intervene if necessary, offering advice on best handling and use. Appropriate weights and supports are supplied for fragile material. Access can be refused if a member of Archives staff considers an item to be too fragile for use but every effort is made to give access where possible.

A supply of cotton gloves is available for use where recommended by a conservator (eg for metal objects where tarnishing can occur) Gloves are not usually offered for use with documents.

Researchers can access the online catalogue via the website.

Visits are by appointment during weekday working hours. A range of visitors are welcomed to the search room including internal staff and students, alumni, international academics and members of the public.

Retrievals

Material is retrieved for research visits (in advance where possible) by Archives staff using a trolley or by hand if a small quantity. During a visit, further material can be requested and retrieved.  The quantity of material ordered is unlimited but a maximum of 10 items can be viewed at a time.

Material used is recorded daily into a productions database, linked to the researcher’s registration details.

Copying & digitisation

The Archives Service has written photocopying and scanning procedures and digital camera procedures available on the Archives Service web pages.  Small quantities of photocopying and scanning is undertaken by Archives staff in accordance with the guidance. Digitised material is added to the School’s new image management system, Assetbank.  

Large scale digitisation of valuable and vulnerable material is undertaken by NCS supported digitisation services. The images produced are held in Assetbank.

The archive holds some audio visual material such as cassette and reel to reel tape and 16 mm film. Film is stored flat in appropriate tight fitting plastic or metal canisters, and is checked for vinegar syndrome (by smell). Any original footage (‘home movies’) has been transferred to DVD. Most of the other film is commercially available. AV material which is part of Wellcome funded projects have been digitised as part of the conservation scoping plans for the projects. Other cassettes are stored in archival boxes.

Slides are housed in archival quality slides boxes. Appraisal and possible digitisation of AV material is included in Collections Care and Conservation Plan.

Exhibitions & outreach

Outreach and exhibitions, both in-house and external, plays a significant role in raising the Archives’ profile and opportunities to display the archives for high profile promotional purposes is highly valued by the School.

To safeguard material requested for both in-house and external display and loan, a programme of re-housing artefacts in custom made carrying/display boxes has been undertaken. Material in high demand for display use is a priority factor when selecting material for remedial and preventative conservation. Vulnerable items for use in in-house exhibitions are examined if necessary by a professional conservator and advice is given on correct display. If necessary a custom made display stand is made and conservation of the display material is undertaken. Material on display is visually checked weekly for any issues (eg movement, stress). No archive material is on permanent display.

A check spreadsheet is completed for all items going on internal display. Checks include condition of item, type of mount used, any conservation work undertaken and dates. A condition report is made if the item is deemed vulnerable.

Display cases meet professional standards and are invigilated by Security staff.

All items used in displays are listed per event, and numbers viewing and interacting with the displays are also captured.

Loans & loan procedures

Loan procedures have been developed based on UK Registrars Group (UKRG) Facilities templates. These include condition report, documentation for off and on site display and for borrowing items from other institutions.

A staff procedure has been developed to explain the steps needed for an item to exit the home site, whether for exhibition or other reason (eg remedial conservation).

For internal use, spreadsheets detailing each archival item that is being used on display are held.

Conservation

The Archives Service has developed a prioritised programme of conservation using a matrix of in-house evidence, including condition, intellectual and monetary values, research demand, display demand, and uniqueness. Information on conservation needs is also being recorded in our Collections Information plan (stocktake).

As mentioned in 3.7 Exhibitions and Outreach, custom housing has been made for high profile artefacts.

Material prioritised as needing conservation is sent offsite to NCS approved and experienced paper and artefact conservators.

An exit form is completed and signed for exit and return of materials. A conservator’s report with photographs detailing work to be completed is kept. Images of the item before conservation are also made.

Conservation work is recorded in the catalogue record.

Externally funded cataloguing and access projects include funding for remedial conservation.

A plan of conservation work to be undertaken is sent by external conservators, and photographs of the work being undertaken on artefacts is sent.

Housekeeping

There are staff procedures for housekeeping including cleaning, a cleaning rota, pest monitoring, preservation and conservation. Staff induction emphasises the need for storage areas and the search room to remain clean and tidy.

Pest monitoring

The benchmark for pest management is PD5454-2012 4.43 and now BS 4971:2017 [5.2]

New locations for pest traps have been designated with advice from NCS, and new pest traps are in place. These are checked monthly and results are added to a spreadsheet. Food and drink are not allowed in storage area

Display cases are checked visually for pests with environmental monitoring, but the result is not recorded.

Cleaning of stores & display areas

There is a regular rota for stores cleaning which is undertaken by archive staff. NCS have advised on best cleaning products and equipment which is adhered to by Archives staff. Display areas are cleaned by School staff.

Plan chest drawers are cleaned when needed using a book hoover to remove ingest of dust.

Quarantine area

A quarantine area is available adjacent to but separate from the secure room. Accessions are checked for pests, mould and damp on accession.

Environment: monitoring and control

The service works towards current standards including PD 5454:2012 (and the replacement standard BS 4971:2017) and PAS 198:2012.

The archives are housed in stores that have issues of humidity and temperature fluctuation. As it is not currently possible to relocate the archives to alternative storage, since 2015 archive staff have worked with NCS to mitigate the issues. 

Monitoring

Regular temperature and relative humidity has been monitored and recorded since the service was established in 2002 and there has always been an awareness of the issue of fluctuation. There is 5 years of environmental logging available in Excel.

In 2016, NCS provided 4 digital data loggers which are placed in different locations in the stores (e.g. inside an archive box, and on open shelf), 2 in each store.  Data from these is being collected for 12 months of monitoring by NCS. The loggers are replaced every quarter, and the analysed readings are contributing evidence for a future stores strategy.

Archive staff record temperature and relative humidity readings for exhibition cases where archive material is on display weekly on a spreadsheet. Five years of data is held for the display cabinets.

Control

NCS have worked with LAS to help us improve environmental store control. The air-conditioning unit in one store has been turned off which has reduced the temperature and relative humidity fluctuation.

A continual programme of boxing archive collections in archival quality boxes protects material from the effects of fluctuation.

Posters, artworks and maps are protected by polyester sleeves and kept in plan chests or in custom made boxes.

Senior LAS staff regularly meet with NCS and representatives from the School’s Estates Department to discuss forward strategy on environmental issues.

Airborne pollution

Due to our Central London location, there is an awareness of the risk from pollution. This is not currently monitored.

Light

Collections are stored in windowless stores. Blinds are available in the search room.

Blue prints have been conserved and advice received from the conservator on best storage conditions.

Light levels are not currently monitored but staff are aware of information available in PAS 198:2012

Vibration

Vibration is not currently monitored.

Digital preservation

The LSHTM Archives Service is developing a Digital Preservation Strategy which will include a policy, procedures and plan.

The Library & Archives Service is a member of the Digital Preservation Coalition and uses their revised handbook as a benchmark.

Disaster recovery

LAS maintain and annually review an up to date Disaster Plan. The Plan is implemented and maintained by several members of staff with defined roles and responsibilities. A disaster emergency kit is kept adjacent to both archive stores. The Plan has been practically implemented and tested when leak situations have arisen. The kits were fully stocked and available (eg plastic sheeting, water absorbing rolls, mops) when called upon.

LAS are members of Harwell Document Recovery Services Priority User service. Some members of Archives staff have attended Harwell disaster training including scenario role-playing.

Approach to Risk Assessment & Management

Risk assessment and management is guided through our membership of NCS, by taking actions from the results of two Benchmarking surveys (2006 and 2016) and by assessing results of the Stocktake exercise (2017). The Archives Service creates priorities and plans from evidence of these exercises.

The Archives Service refers to and aims towards recognised standards (see 1.8)

Finances

The Archives Service maintains its own budget, which includes an annual allowance for conservation and preservation materials.

Implementation & review

This Collections Care and Conservation Statement will be communicated to LAS staff, to interested parties within LSHTM, and to external agencies and others with an interest in its context on demand. It will be made available to the public via the Archives web pages.

The Collections Care and Conservation Statement will be reviewed annually by the LAS Management Team. This does not preclude earlier review should internal or external development warrant it.

Assistant Archivist
August 2017