1.2, July 2012
The National Archives of Australia (the Archives) has extensive and varied holdings, annually increasing in number, that must be managed and cared for with finite resources. This policy has been formulated to ensure that the Archives’ conservation resources are allocated to the best effect. The basic guiding principles are that intervention is kept to a minimum and ‘broad-brush’ approaches are employed wherever possible.
This policy is intended to guide Archives staff working in treatment conservation, preventive conservation, exhibitions conservation, preservation digitisation, and audiovisual and digital preservation in conservation of the Archives’ holdings.
The policy applies to the work of Archives staff specifically dedicated to the conservation of the holdings.
Conservation encompasses a broad range of activities, providing a comprehensive and holistic approach to the care of the archive.
Conservation activities include:
The Archives has a small number of professional and paraprofessional resources devoted to the conservation of its holdings. Given the size and complexity of the Archives’ holdings, it is important that these resources are used in the best possible way to achieve the greatest good. The principles employed to ensure this is done are as follows:
All conservation work performed on archival records is governed by the guidelines and requirements set out in the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material (AICCM) Code of Ethics. Conservation focuses on stabilisation and retaining original material, and ensures against further deterioration, whether environmental, chemical or physical.
Conservation is encompassed in the Archives’ Corporate Plan 2009–2012 as follows:
Greater understanding of our heritage and democracy through preserving, describing and providing access to the national archival collection
Program 2.1 – Securing, describing and preserving records of national archival value
Of the 10 core business responsibilities outlined in the Corporate Plan, the following seven involve the conservation function directly or indirectly (because any use and handling of archival holdings may at some time require conservation assistance):
Surveys examine targeted records and/or format types to determine where best to focus conservation treatment attention and provide information for long-term planning.
Programmed conservation projects can take many forms and include in-depth, time-consuming conservation treatment processes, repackaging projects, and quick and effective basic treatment approaches on a large scale.
This provides immediate conservation attention to records, primarily as a result of requests for access, or other operational requirements.
A Conservator On Duty provides a streamlined process between accepting ad hoc work into the laboratories, the allocation of work and the subsequent prompt completion.
The aim is to provide quick and effective outcomes for the records and the requesting areas. In a small number of cases, where the treatment required is more complex and/or more time consuming, a project proposal may be required (see section 7.2 'Projects').
Preservation research and development are conducted where information to make preservation decisions is lacking. Conservation research can be divided into two categories:
Both forms of research may lead to publication or presentation of papers on conservation to conferences or in wider forums.
The scope of conservation outreach programs is wide, but all aim to provide audiences with a working knowledge of, and experience in, keeping and caring for historical records. Conservation outreach programs are provided to both Archives staff and the public.
Public outreach programs include conservation clinics associated with the Archives’ Shake Your Family Tree Day, state and territory open days, exhibition-related workshops and seminars, as well as in response to public enquiries.
Internal outreach programs include records-handling training, involvement in staff induction and building tours for visitors, and in response to special record viewing requests. Conservation also provides assistance to those Archives state and territory offices that have no permanent conservation staff.
Preventive conservation encompasses disaster management, environmental control and monitoring, integrated pest management, and records use and handling.
Conservation supports the preparation and treatment of items for display or loan, exhibition installation and removal, environmental monitoring and services for couriering items interstate.
AICCM Code of Ethics
In the Archives, 'conservation' is used to describe those activities carried out by professional conservation staff and which involve direct intervention with the records. The term ‘preservation’ is used to cover the broader function, which includes conservation but also includes storage, copying and handling. A wider range of staff is involved with preservation, and some aspects of the preservation effort are the responsibility of all staff.
'Conservation' is defined by the AICCM as preventing damage and loss to cultural heritage. It aims to minimise change to archival holdings; protect records from the adverse effects of climate and chemical deterioration, and providing access; and safeguard our heritage not only for ourselves but for future generations.