Volumes on a shelf

Looking after the collections

Nestling behind the public face of the Hull History Centre is the Conservation Unit. To ensure the collections are accessible and usable for future generations, it is important that they are looked after carefully. So how do we do this?

We do this by storing them in a dedicated archive storage area on the first floor of the building and undertake any repairs to damaged documents to stabilise them chemically and physically to allow them to be accessed and used. We also implement policies and procedures for their safe handling and copying.

Storing the collections

The entire first floor of the building is dedicated to storage material in optimum conditions (temperature range 16ºC and 55% humidity) that are monitored 24 hours a day. To avoid any damage from heat and light there are no windows or heating systems – with temperature and humidity being controlled by a building management system to maintian a stabile environment .

To make efficient use of space the archives are stored on mobile racks and we have over twelve kilometres of shelving. The majority of the collections are stored in archive standard boxes or folders, and we have a continuous programme of providing and making protective packaging to ensure that everything is protected.

All the materials we use are acid-free, chemically inert, and pH neutral. Regular checks are made for any signs of pest infestation or any damage to the building structure, and any problems found are rectified as soon as possible.

Collections checks

The collections come to us in various conditions. Most are clean and relatively undamaged, but some can be very dirty, damaged by water or fire, or damp from being stored in unsuitable conditions. These items are checked and treated before they can be allowed into the storage areas.

One of the first things we look for is any signs of insects or mould. The documents are put in an isolation room for the checks and if any infestations are found we can control and isolate them.

Treatments include placing items in a blast freezer (-18º C) for six weeks to ensure that anything live and active is killed off. Any mould affected documents are left in the air-conditioned isolation room to allow them dry out in the open air to kill off any active mould spores.

The conservator will also undertake cleaning of items using a soft haired brush to remove surface debris or use a baissaire cleaning machine to extract any loose particles and debris – in a similar way to a vacuum cleaner.


We have procedures and controls in place for the safe copying of documents. We will not photocopy items where this places the item at risk of damage. We also have an overhead camera scanner that allows us to copy large items like maps upto A0 size. We also have a book cradle to allow us to safely digitise tightly bound volumes safely. Further details about our copying service and the supply of images.