Conservation of Archives

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Conservation of Historic Drogheda Archives, 2019

With the kind assistance of funding from the Heritage Council, Louth County Archives and Louth Heritage Office worked together to arrange for professional conservation treatment on a selection of important Drogheda Corporation archives.

A group of the Corporation’s archives in poor condition was surveyed and assessed by a professional conservator before conservation work took place. The archives that then received treatment dated from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. They include two very important maps: the map of the Town and County of Drogheda by Taylor & Skinner (1778) and the map of the Town and County of Drogheda by Robert Newcomen (1657).

Other items that received treatment include a group of certificates of entry of freemen admitted into the Corporation (1793, 1811-1842), a grant of relief of arrears to Drogheda Corporation (18th Century), dockets of the pontage and gate customs (1772-1802, 1812), maps of the Corporation estate holdings (1883 – 1923), a map showing the proposed extension of the Borough boundary (1896), a notice relating to the Borough Funds (Ireland) Act 1888 and an indenture between the Corporation and Francis Graves regarding parks and watercourse (1676).

The items were made from either parchment or paper and some of the maps had a linen backing that in many cases was detaching in places. Many of the items were in a very poor and weak condition and parts of some items, such as the certificates of entry of freemen, are unfortunately illegible due to the damage already imposed, so it was important that these received treatment. Damage on items varied and generally consisted of surface dirt, mould, tears, losses and creases.

The Newcomen map in particular presented its own challenges, namely an old backing layer and a layer of varnish on the surface of the map both of which were probably put on the map sometime in the mid-twentieth century and had to be removed as much as possible. The heavy backing layer turned out to be part of the problem of the map as it was attached with a heavy application of animal glue that added to the rigidity of the map. When it was eventually removed, repairs were made to give the map stability and then the varnish was removed – this amounted to a total of 1.4 litres. A brown discolouration from soot deposits on the map also had to be removed. It is probable that the map had been hanging in a room with an open fire and this resulted in a gradual darkening of the map. The Newcomen map took a total of sixty-eight hours to complete while the Taylor and Skinner map took thirty-five hours.

Prior to treatment, the majority of the items could not be produced for consultation or handled in their existing state as this weakened the items further. Types of treatment provided included washing, dry-cleaning, removing old repair backings and varnish, repairing tears, humidification, reinforcing folds, and de-acidification. Treatment stabilises the items, preventing them from deteriorating further, and helps secure their permanent preservation. It also opens up access for consultation, however, under controlled conditions. Anyone interested in the items can contact Louth County Archives by telephoning 042-9324358 or by emailing archive@louthcoco.ie.

ENDS

Contacts:

Lorraine McCann, Louth County Archives Service: Tel: 042-9324358, email archive@louthcoco.ie

Brendan McSherry, Heritage Officer: Tel: 042-9392969, email: Brendan.mcsherry@louthcoco.ie

Images of Conservation Treatment

Group of certificates

1. Left: group of certificates before conservation            

Group of certificates during

2. Right: Certificates during conservation

Estate map before

3. Left: Corporation estate map before conservation

Estate map during

4. Right: Corporation estate map during conservation

Agricultural holdings map after

5. Left: Agricultural holdings map after conservation       

Docket of pontage before

6. Right: docket of pontage before conservation             

Newcomen Before

1. Left: Newcomen Map Before conservation

Newcomen After

2. Right: Newcomen Map After conservation

Newcomen During 1

3. Left: Newcomen during conservation – removal of the backing layer (left) and animal glue with Teflon folder revealing original paper.

Newcomen During 2

4. Right: Newcomen during conservation – swabbing off varnish with 2-propanol

Newcomen During 3

5. Left: Newcomen conservation – varnish removed

Newcomen During 4

6. Right: Newcomen conservation – tear repairs

Newcomen During 5

7. Left: Newcomen conservation – paper infills

Newcomen Custom Roll

8. Right: Newcomen conservation – custom roll storage

Taylor Skinner 1

1. Left: Taylor & Skinner map before conservation           

Taylor Skinner 2

2. Right: Taylor & Skinner before conservation

Taylor Skinner 3

3. Left: Taylor & Skinner: removing the linen backing     

Taylor Skinner 4

4. Right: Taylor & Skinner during conservation

Taylor Skinner 5

5. Left: Taylor & Skinner during conservation: pressing out undulations     

Taylor Skinner 6

6. Right: Taylor & Skinner during conservation

Taylor Skinner 7

7.  Left: Taylor & Skinner: after conservation    

Taylor Skinner 8

8. Taylor & Skinner after conservation: velcro attachment to the semi-circular upper wooden lath.