Our conservation priority over the last few years has been our Quarter Session Rolls. Anyone who has ever used the rolls will know that they can be very difficult to use. Prior to the formation of Local Government in 1888, the Quarter Sessions dealt with local matters and petty crime. The Quarter Sessions sat four times a year and a single roll is a bundle of paperwork created at each court sitting. The fact that the bundles were often threaded on the single string and rolled makes them incredibly difficult to work with and some are very fragile. The rolls vary in size and often consist of hundreds of pages.
The work that goes into conserving a single roll is time consuming, but results in the researcher being able use the records with ease. The following photographs show the work that goes into each roll.
The conservator will carefully open the roll, clean the surface of each page where possible, and then humidify the sheets. Each sheet is then pressed between blotting paper and glass weights to gently flatten.
Special attention is paid to sheets with wax seals which have a template cut to accommodate the depth of the seal so that this isn’t flattened whilst pressing. Any particularly damaging tears are repaired with mulberry tissue and wheatstarch paste.
The sheets, once flat, are put back into their order and packed between protective sheets of museum board and cotton ties.
We have over 1000 rolls and some are in better condition than others. So far, we have had over 70 rolls repaired in this way [June 2014] and the project continues. Our most recent work has been completed by Graeme Storey at Britton and Storey Conservation.