Internship experiences at the Lothian Health Services Archive – Part 3

This is the final part of our series of blog posts kindly written for us by interns at the Lothian Health Services Archive (LHSA) about their experiences.

Hi my name is Sarah and I am the new Conservation intern with LHSA, which is part of the Centre for Research Collections and based at the Main University Library, University of Edinburgh.

I came here after recently graduating from Northumbria University in July after having completed an MA in Fine Art Conservation, specialising in ‘Works on Paper’. During my MA we had to complete 2 placements during the summer months, for one of my placements I chose to come to Edinburgh and I am very pleased and excited to be back here in Edinburgh once again to live and work.

My conservation internship is for 10 weeks and my main task is to review the condition report and create a treatment proposal for an accession that came in from a local Solicitors ‘Gillespie Mcandrew’ that contains a selection of Parchment title deeds, other related papers and architectural plans relating to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. I have already completed 8 weeks of my internship and have only another 2 weeks left to complete all that I have hoped to achieve.

This internship is especially designed to give me the opportunity to gain the hands on skills and experience that I need to help me forge a career in my chosen field of Conservation within the UK Heritage Industry, so working on a large accession that has many different elements involved has been a fantastic opportunity for me and has already helped me get a 1 year internship at The British Library, London starting at the end of December 2013.

So my first few weeks were spent looking at each item within the accession, seeing what items there were, what condition they were in and getting an idea as to the possible treatments that may be involved in the future. Because of the nature of this accession being so large and having so many different elements it was decided that I would enlist the help of the Archive Intern Sharon who would create a hand list for this accession. This is required so that once treatment begins on the accession the original order that the accession arrived in can be maintained even once items may have been physically separated. The original order is a very important consideration when the cataloguing of an accession takes place. Once the hand list was completed I was able to start compiling information about the possible different treatments that I felt may be required, I went about this by reading published journal articles, books and speaking to more experienced conservators about the various treatments and re-housing possibilities and deciding upon which were the most suitable for this accession.

Within this accession there were a number of large parchment title deeds that had previously been opened and flattened by another conservation intern using a dry pressing technique and it was decided that I would re-house these flattened parchment title deeds into made to measure 4-flap folders using acid free card that would encase the parchment. The parchment itself would then be attached to a sheet of acid-free boxboard using sections of Archival Linen Tape; this was used to reduce any movement of the parchment within the 4-flap folder. Some of the parchments also have pendant seals attached and some are rather fragile and desiccated; so these seals have an extra support consisting of a made to measure Tyvek draw string pouch that will encase the wax/resin seal, keeping it safe and protected within the folder housing.

Parchment Title Deed with pendant seal
Parchment Title Deed with pendant seal encased in a Tyvek pouch and re-housed in an acid free 4-flap folder

Aside from the parchment title deeds the main elements within this accession are many boxes full of paper documents, letters and pamphlets, all requiring surface cleaning, tear repairs, dry pressing and re-housing. There is also a selection of oversized maps and plans that are currently stored in rolled up tubes. These are currently being surface cleaned, humidified and pressed and will then be housed in Melinex Sleeves and placed into plan chests in the store.

Large poster being humidified
Large poster being humidified in a Sympatex Humidification Chamber

As part of this internship aside from the work on the accession I have also had the amazing opportunity to work with two exhibitions that LHSA are involved with.  On Friday 15 November the ‘200 years, 200 Objects’ exhibition opened at the Talbot Rice Gallery and on 5 December ‘Collect.ed’ exhibition opens at the Main Library Exhibition Gallery, Edinburgh University.  As part of these two exhibitions, LHSA has lent an extensive amount of objects to go on display. It has been my job to make sure that all of the objects have been condition checked, packed, transported and then installed. This was all done alongside Ruth Honeybone, Manager of LHSA and in conjunction with the curators, artists and exhibition installation teams from each exhibition.

200 years, 200 Objects
Helping install a collection of 55 items lent from LHSA for the exhibition ‘200 years, 200 Objects’ at The Talbot Rice Gallery

I have also been writing blogs for the LHSA website, running a conservation training day that was designed for people who have been thinking about conservation as a career, and want to get a better idea of the kinds of treatments that a conservator may have to do on a day to day basis, visiting other conservation studios and archives, attending the Annual Icon Scotland conference in Dundee and also giving my own 20 minute presentation to the whole of the Centre for Research Collections about what I have been achieving during my 10 week internship.

This internship has given me an amazing amount of opportunities that have enabled me to enhance and expand my skill base in the area of conservation and I have gained a huge amount of experience during my time with the LHSA and I am really looking forward to using these skills in the future, especially within my next internship. My time here has been an invaluable experience and one that I am extremely grateful for and I hope that I have brought as much to LHSA as I have gained.

 Sarah Noble, LHSA Conservation Intern

Also published on the LHSA blog at

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