Operational Policy: Conservation
1. Executive Summary
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.
4. What does the policy apply to?
Conservation encompasses a broad range of activities, providing a comprehensive and holistic approach to the care of the archive.
Conservation activities include:
- triage and treatment
- research and development
- outreach programs
- preventive assistance
5. Policy statement
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:
- Where possible, ‘broad-brush’ approaches to conservation are favoured, for example, the use of appropriate storage containers, storage in appropriate conditions and the use of appropriate handling procedures.
- Intervention is restricted to records of high conservation need, high usage and high significance.
- Conservation work is matched to the needs of the record. It is aimed at the stabilisation of the record and ensuring it is safe from future harm.
- Conservation work will not unduly endanger the integrity of the record.
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.
6. Policy context
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):
- identify records of enduring national significance as archival resources of the Commonwealth
- transfer archival-value records from Australian Government agencies
- enable agencies to continue to access the records of their business that we hold
- catalogue and index all the records that we hold
- identify and preserve records that we hold which are at the highest risk of deterioration
- provide access to the records that we hold in accordance with the Archives Act 1983
- promote understanding and appreciation of the archival resources of the nation.