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The intention and the purpose of the Archives Centre is to collect and preserve archival material (meeting the criteria of our Collecting 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.
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.
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.
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.
Different preservation paradigms apply to digital records, where a distinction must be made between the intellectual content of the record and its digital/technical format. Long-term access to a particular digital/technical format cannot be guaranteed due to its unavoidable dependence on specific technologies which will become obsolete over time. 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. The preservation policy encompasses two levels of preservation: passive preservation, which provides for the secure storage and integrity of digital records and active preservation, which may require the migration of records to new digital/technical formats over time.
The senior management team at the Archives Centre consists of the director, senior archivists 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:
Archival material is acquired in accordance with the Archives Centre Collecting Policy.
Archive material can be paper, books, photographic, audiovisual and born digital.
Born digital material is acquired following procedures currently being developed, in order to ensure no change occurs in the process of handover, though it is understood that some such material is acquired as physical media (e.g. floppy discs) amongst paper documents.
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 born-digital material in order to provide appropriate storage, where possible.
The Archives Centre will seek to ensure appropriate and secure accommodation for all its holdings, whether they are being stored, processed or used.
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 College Bursar’s objectives.
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.
All copies (surrogates) that are kept by the Archives Centre have preservation value because they:
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 in preference to making preservation copies. The process of making copies should not endanger the original.
Preservation copying will employ techniques and materials tested for longevity and cost-effectiveness. For traditional, human-readable records, this will be digital copying using scanners or cameras and producing images that conform to the standards described in our document ‘Reprographics – handling, procedures and 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. The Archives Centre also holds some traditional black and white photographic negative surrogates which are accepted as preservation copies.
Where there is a demand for access, machine-readable (audio-visual) records will be copied to create a digital surrogate (where funds allow). In addition to a digital access copy, a preservation copy will be made and kept on a backed-up server to the standards described in our document ‘Reprographics – handling, procedures and standards’. The Archives Centre is committed to a small, continuous project to copy audiovisual materials in its holdings, on the basis of priority.
For born-digital records, a distinction must be made between copying, which generates a new identical instance of the record, and transformations, such as migration, which create a new digital/technical instance of the record.
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. Furthermore, copying does not present any risk of damage or deterioration to the original (unless the storage medium itself is fragile). The integrity of all copies of electronic records will be verified as part of the copying process.
Because of the risk of obsolescence of digital media, copying this material is essential and is part of collection processing. In order to preserve the digital information, as well as to provide access to it, the Archives Centre is developing its own guidelines based on best practise elsewhere.
Copying for or by researchers must not endanger the archival record. For that reason, certain restrictions are in place. Some scanning is carried out by trained staff in-house or by digitisation companies working on site. Occasionally large scale or bound formats may be copied externally. 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 https://www.chu.cam.ac.uk/archives/about/policies/media-policy/.
Copies can only be made in accordance with copyright procedures.
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:
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 database and in hard copy and 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.)
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. External loans will be logged onto a database which will restrict further loans of the same document(s).
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 sign an undertaking to do so 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.
Where a surrogate is available, this must be used by readers and staff instead of the original except in exceptional circumstances.
Reviewed by: Sarah Lewery
Approved by Senior Management Team for October 2019 Archives Committee meeting
Date of next review: Oct 2020