Imagine a tingling down the spine as every brush stroke removes debris particles from books that are more than 100 years old. Then think of the information contained in those books! The tingling turns into a shiver of delight when able to ‘decode’ information and realize the information hidden in the Old Dutch records.
The Conservation Workshop on 13 September 2014 was an experience that I will cherish. Our team was able to clean twelve volumes that morning, including one of the oldest in the archives. Under the watchful eye of Deiter and Keith, we learned the process, from a thorough washing of our hands, followed by white cotton gloves, setting up a workspace with blotting paper, then finally opening one of the special, acid-free boxes and cautiously lifting out the volume. Armed with a chemical free brush, we finally got the go-ahead to begin.
It was exciting, yet very humbling, to clean a book. Although my volume of church membership records only began in 1843, I could not help wondering about the church secretary. Was the secretary male or female? How old? How long had the secretary been a member? How did anyone maintain such beautiful and artistic handwriting while copying names? And, in Dutch!
With nudging from project manager Sally, I finally managed to stop trying to read, and focused on the process of cleaning. With steady brush strokes from bottom to top, the pile of debris particles grew. We learned that the upward brush stroke helps determine how ‘dirty’ a book is. We also learned how to turn pages- not as simple as it sounds- and to clean along the bindings. My list of do’s and don’ts grew as the cleaning progressed.
Ultimately, I came to page 734 and the end of the book. This is not the end of my work with the ELC archives. My next challenge is to assimilate what I learned and transfer that knowledge to others in the ELC congregation so that they too can experience the wonder of our heritage.
My thanks go out to Sally, Dieter and Keith—and to the Netherlands for recognizing the wealth of information in the ELC archive and so generously donating funding for its conservation.
The team spent weeks earlier this year measuring every single volume and artefact, recording their sizes, collating the data, and ordering archival enclosures for each item. On May 26th Peter van Reenen from Jansen Beuns Wijsmuller, the Netherlands supplier of conservation enclosures, visited the project and provided valuable information for further conservation care in the future.
The conservation materials have now arrived from in the Netherlands and their introduction into the Collection will be carefully managed over the next few months.
A workshop, co-hosted with DK Conservators on 10th August will kick start this process:
In July 2013 we began the next phases of the project. These focus on:
- Physical conservation of the archive (placing each volume into conservation packaging and marking the packaging with inventory numbers)
- A care and conservation management plan for the collection
- Updating the website for interaction and registration
- updating the database for records management
- A handbook to the collections and for use of the archive
- A brochure for the Church
- A piece of research (the first using the materials in the archive) that begins to reveal some of the wealth of possible understandings contained in the volumes
- Planning for test digitising, and a small test of the method
- 4 workshops: Conservation handling, using the database for records management and planning, archival procedures and management of access, and the final workshop will be public
As part of this phase a few people will receive training in care and handling of the documents according to the protocols selected.