CEREDIGION ARCHIVES COLLECTIONS CARE & CONSERVATION POLICY
1.1 The Definition and Role of Archives was given by Archives for the 21st Century, (The National Archives, 2009) as follows: “Archives are the record of the everyday activities of governments, organisations, businesses and individuals. They are central to the record of our national and local stories and are vital in creating cultural heritage and supporting public policy objectives. Their preservation ensures that future generations will be able to learn from the experiences of the past to make decisions about the present and future”.
1.2 Archives provide rich and vital sources of evidence about past and present life. This evidence is unique in its ability to foster and inspire a sense of place, time and belonging. Archives help to bring the past to life, help us to understand why our present world is as it is and support the role of today's citizen. They provide authoritative evidence of past events for everyone to use, for educational, and academic, social, legal, business, medical and other uses. Archives may be used to solve problems and defend rights, and to cultivate pride in individual and community identities.
1.3 Archives are created as documentation to accompany human processes of many kinds. As time passes these records are often the sole survivors of organizations, institutions and individuals, and provide unique evidence, however flawed, of past events and previous generations.
Archives and documents in all media (including paper, parchment, maps, plans, photographs, films and electronic) provide unique evidence of the historical development of places and people’s daily lives.
1.4 Ceredigion Archives (and its predecessor body Dyfed Archives, Cardiganshire Area Record Office) has protected the archival record since its creation in 1974, safeguarding irreplaceable information assets for current and future use by means of correct management of the archives to professional standards. We collect, protect, preserve, manage, share and promote the archival legacy of the county of Ceredigion and Cardiganshire for the use of current and future generations.
We also contribute to the modern county of Ceredigion achieving its priorities especially with regard to sustainable development, a strong economy, better education and skills and independent healthy living; and we act, with our Information and Records Management Service, as the corporate memory of the authority and its predecessor bodies.
1.5 Statutory framework for the archive service is provided under:
• Local Government Act 1972 and Local Government (Records) Act 1962
• Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 section 60
• Parochial Registers and Records Measure 1978
• Public Records Acts 1958 and 1967
1.6 Access to collections complies with:
• Freedom of Information Act 2000
• Data Protection Act 1998
• Environmental Information Regulations 2005
2. Mission Statement
To preserve, manage and make available evidential material (both historic and contemporary) relating to the county of Ceredigion through our Archive Service, and to support the local authority through our Information and Records Management Service. To make the information in our care available to all who need it, within a framework of legal compliance and a good understanding of our user’s needs. To provide training in Information Security and Data Protection to the authority and to have responsibilities for, and an advisory role in the responses to Subject Access Requests for the authority.
3. The Purpose of this Policy
3.1 The purpose of the policy is to demonstrate how Ceredigion Archives (hereafter “CA”) will fulfil its aims in preserving, managing and conserving its collection, specifically:
• To preserve and store archive collections by providing suitable storage and professional management.
• To provide and promote access to the collections for both on-site and distance enquiries without compromising the security and safety of the documents in our care.
3.2 The policy also outlines the strategic approach of CA in curating and conserving its collections to ensure that they will be available for future generations to use and enjoy. It provides a comprehensive statement on the preservation of the archive collections and communicates the principles that guide the conservation activities necessary for their long term protection and security.
3.3 The Collections Care and Conservation Policy provides
• a framework to inform managerial decisions on future development,
• a source of information to staff who share a common responsibility in caring for the collections,
• a statement of commitment to archive users and depositors,
• a supporting document to facilitate funding applications,
• and a benchmark to improve standards and measure performance.
3.4 The policy is underpinned by the relevant British Standards, namely, PAS 197:2009 Code of practice for cultural collections management, PAS198:2012 Specification for managing environmental conditions for cultural collections and PD5454 Guide for the storage and exhibition of archival material.
3.5 The County and Senior Archivists are responsible for developing the Collections Care and Conservation Policy and for ensuring that it is implemented, monitored and reviewed.
3.6 The County Archivist is responsible for securing and allotting an appropriate budget for the good maintenance of the collections and ensuring that staff are aware of their responsibilities in relation to the care of the collections.
4. Collections Care and Conservation Principles
4.1 CA stores archival material, whatever its nature or format, in secure and suitable accommodation with appropriate environmental conditions.
4.2 We follow relevant national standards and best practice, and a professional code of ethics, in all aspects of collections care and conservation.
4.3 We adopt an ongoing risk management approach to collections care and conservation, and assess new deposits at time of accessioning to identify priorities for conservation.
4.4 CA seeks to stabilise items in its care using preventive measures to slow or prevent deterioration on the basis of external advice. CA has no professional conservator and therefore external conservators are consulted, when appropriate, to provide advice about remedial treatments and advice on planning for the long term care of collections.
4.5 CA provides access to archives, whilst ensuring their protection and minimising the risk from handling.
4.6 CA is part of the Archives and Records Council Wales’ (ARCW) Digital Preservation Working Group and contribute to an All-Wales Digital Preservation solution. We will adopt the Digital Preservation Policy for Wales once it has been ratified by ARCW and develop appropriate institutional polices and strategies.
4.7 CA consider collections care to be the responsibility of every member of staff.
5. Accommodation for the Archive Collections
5.1 CA aims to fulfil the requirements of PD 5454 Guide for the storage and exhibition of archival materials.
5.2 The archive collections are housed in a nineteenth century Town Hall which was extensively redesigned and refurbished in 2011. The three strongrooms provide PD5454 compliant archival storage. There is approximately 313 cubic metres of shelf space for the collections on mobile and static racking.
5.3 The collections are stored, according to their physical nature and condition, on mobile and static steel shelving and in map cabinets.
5.4 Ceredigion County Council's Facilities Management Service inspects and maintains the buildings and ensures that regular testing and servicing of the fire detection, fire suppressant, temperature and humidification, and alarm systems is carried out by an approved contractor.
5.5 All strongrooms are fitted with smoke detectors and an automated Argon gas fire suppression system.
5.6 The fire and intruder alarms are monitored 24 hours a day (or when the system is activated) by Custodian Monitoring, and the Mid Wales Fire Service will automatically attend all out of hours automated fire alarms.
6. Security of the Archive Collections
6.1 External security is provided by a CCTV surveillance system with external and internal motion activated cameras. The intruder alarm is monitored 24 hours a day (or when the system is activated) by Custodian Monitoring.
6.2 All doors are fitted with appropriate locks. Access to the staff and strong-room areas is restricted to relevant staff operated by electronic SALTO fobs.
6.3 CA belongs to the County Archives Research Network. Everyone visiting CA is required to sign into the archives search-room.
6.4 Archive material can only be viewed in the staff invigilated search-room area.
6.5 Lockers are provided for visitors to secure their personal possessions.
6.6 Researchers are allowed to request only a limited number of items at a time to mitigate risk of loss.
7. Environmental Control and Monitoring
7.1 DENCO air-conditioning systems were installed in the strong-rooms in 2011 during the remodelling of the building. The system is monitored, and serviced, maintained and when necessary repaired, by appropriately qualified contractors.
7.2 CA takes the necessary steps through the use of appropriate monitoring and control practice to ensure that the collections are not subjected to unsuitable environmental conditions. Environmental monitoring of temperature and humidity within the three strong-rooms is undertaken twice daily. This is a manual process. The DENCO air-con system maintains the selected temperature and humidity and continuously displays the temperature and humidity. Readings are also taken from digital thermometer/hygrometers situated elsewhere in the strong rooms. Additional monitoring using ‘Tiny-Tags’ data logging of temperature and humidity is planned.
7.3 CA recognises the importance of a safe clean environment in the storage areas and the value of good housekeeping in collections care. All strong-rooms are regularly checked for mould or any other infestations.
8. Packaging and Storage of the Archive Collections
8.1 CA uses quality conservation products from recommended sources: high quality acid-free paper and board, polyester sleeves, unbleached tape and brass paperclips which meet the technical specifications recommended for archival use.
8.2 The physical condition of all new accessions is checked in a designated area and we provide appropriate preventive treatment, including cleaning. Contaminated archive material, which has the potential to harm or infect other collections, is placed in isolation until treated appropriately. Documents infested with insects may be frozen.
8.3 There is an ongoing programme of re-boxing and of cleaning and repackaging earlier accessions which were not prepared to current standards.
9. Remedial Conservation
9.1 CA does not have an in-house conservator and any conservation work is carried out by external professionally qualified conservators.
9.2 The County Archivist and Senior Archivist prioritise conservation treatment depending on user demand, the context of the item within the collection, or its physical condition.
9.3 CA will record all conservation work on its Accessions database, which also contains all basic metadata about our collections.
10. Access and Handling
10.1 CA makes catalogued archives available to all users for consultation in appropriately controlled and supervised conditions, and in accordance with the current Searchroom Rules and Document Handling Guidance. Uncatalogued, but accessioned material may be made accessible to researchers under special supervision. Archives deemed to be at risk in their present format may be produced under supervision at the County or Senior Archivist’s discretion, or a surrogate may be offered.
10.2 Access to archives is subject to statutory closure requirements, the reasonable wishes of the depositor and the physical condition of the item.
10.3 CA supports the use of surrogate copies and makes them available where the condition of the original material is unstable, or where current or anticipated use will pose a threat to its survival. Researchers are encouraged to use surrogate copies to minimise handling and reduce the risk of further damage to the original.
10.4 Staff and volunteers are trained in handling archives and promote best practice in the search-room. We provide researchers with appropriate aids, (such as supports, protective polyester sheets, and weights) to protect archive material, and guidance on how to use them.
10.5 Photocopies and digital copies of documents provide remote access and are supplied in accordance with copying and copyright rules and regulations.
11. Disaster Planning
11.1 CA maintains a Disaster Plan. This mitigates risk to the buildings, archive collections and staff in the event of a disaster and suggests the most appropriate responses to recover archival holdings and make provision for business continuity in the event of an emergency. The plan has provision for staff training and testing.
11.2 CA subscribes to Harwell Document Restoration Priority User Service which in the event of a disaster will provide recovery and emergency salvage services.
12. Communication and Training
12.1 We provide advice and guidance on best practice and the importance of collections care to other Ceredigion County Council services, outside organisations and institutions, community groups, owners of private archives and the general public.
12.2 We communicate an understanding of the nature and value of archives and the importance of collections care and appropriate conservation through our outreach activities and information leaflets.
12.3 All staff and volunteers are made aware of their responsibilities and trained in the appropriate care of the archive collections. The safe working practices are communicated to all staff on a regular basis.
12.4 CA maintains active professional relationships with the archival and preservation communities and organisations in the UK, including the Archives and Records Council Wales and the Archives and Records Association.
13. Review of Policy
This policy will be reviewed at least every five years. The policy was written in October 2017 and will be reviewed in October 2022 or sooner if circumstances dictate.
Ceredigion Archives - 40 years of preserving the past for the future - and counting