Manuscripts and Special Collections

Looking after the collections

 Members of staff repackaging books in the reading room at Hallward Library

In preparation for the move staff repackaged fragile books in customised boxes

Preservation and conservation are key activities of Manuscripts and Special Collections.

In part, they involve measures to protect the materials – by good storage and handling. New accommodation at King’s Meadow includes a spacious environmentally-controlled store. In the Reading Room, special regulations encourage safe handling.

Conservation staff assess the needs of damaged documents and books, sometimes after centuries of use and neglect.

Medieval illuminated volumes, such as the Wollaton Antiphonal, are a particular challenge and additional funding is required to secure the necessary expertise. Its full restoration will take years to complete, involving the painstaking treatment of pigments, inks and parchment leaves. 


Two pages from the Antiphonal in the process of being conserved 

Conservation work on the fifteenth-century Wollaton Antiphonal [MS 250]


Paper produced since the mid-nineteenth century present a different problem. Generally made from cheap wood pulp using chemical processes, it rapidly deteriorates. Acid migration from a low grade mounting board attacks paper quickly, sometimes leaving it unaffected only in those places where glue has provided a barrier.  The conservators remove such boards to prevent any further damage.


Two documents, one in good condition and the other with discolouration caused by acid

Identical documents, one attacked by acids from a former backing board (Co M 7/1-2)


The poor quality of modern papers is evident throughout the D.H. Lawrence collection. A grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund supported the creation of protective acid-free free packaging and the production of surrogate copies to reduce wear and tear on the originals.


Volumes containing conserved items from the Lawrence collections

Conservation and preservation work carried out on the D.H. Lawrence collections


Sometimes fragile material must be treated before it can even be catalogued. Papers in this state from the Archdeaconry of Nottingham archive have also benefited from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The modern technique of leaf casting, which introduces fresh pulp to strengthen the paper, has made over 7,000 documents fit for reader use.


'Before and After': bundle of conserved Presentment Bills (AN/PB 330)


Next:  Publicising the Collections


Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4565
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 8651