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National Archives of Scotland (NAS) advises Scottish government departments, institutions,
businesses and private individuals on the preservation and conservation of their
records. In addition to giving advice, the Conservation Services Branch (CSB),
based at Thomas Thomson House, is responsible for the physical care of the records
by carrying out treatments or ensuring their storage environment is correct.
The history of conservation
at the NAS goes back to the early days of Register House and for many years the
conservation unit was situated in the basement there. In 1995, CSB moved to a
purpose-built conservation laboratory at Thomas Thomson House. The conservators'
work involves a combination of techniques some of which are centuries old and
others which conform to the latest scientific practices. Only researched and accepted
methods and techniques are applied using materials known to be chemically and
physically stable and all treatments undertaken are documented in detail.
The NAS houses over 70 km of archives containing a wide range of organic
materials including textiles, paper, wax and animal skins. These undergo a continual
and inevitable natural ageing process. More chemically complex and often more
unstable media such as photographs present particular preservation problems and
require specialised storage, handling and care.
The conservation unit
aims to preserve
our collections for the future. While preservation concentrates on slowing down
degradation and preventing damage to collections by passive methods, interventive
conservation treatments are required to prolong the life of documents and make
CSB staff support the NAS exhibitions programme and
assist with the preparation and mounting of in-house exhibitions and support requests
from other organisations wishing to borrow records for exhibition
Staff in CSB will not undertake private conservation work.
Advice to owners on conservation and preservation of historical papers can be
obtained by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information on conservators working privately can be found through the Conservation
The NAS does not offer training
in conservation although there may be opportunities for students on work-placements
from time to time.