The Appliance of Science: Using Science in Conservation

Back in October we were really pleased to run our first ever workshop as part of the Norwich Science Festival.

The workshop looked at how science was used on a practical level within the workplace; in this case focusing on how we conserve our documents. A-level students from Hethersett Old Hall School and Taverham High School participated in the workshop, which included an introduction to the Record Office to help the pupils understand what we do and gave a chance to see some of the documents in our care. Next pupils had a tour of the building and a demonstration of various pieces of equipment in the Conservation Studio.


Learning how Documents are Conserved


Exploring the Equipment in the Conservation Studio

After that the real work started as the pupils and our Conservator, David, explored acids and bases, talked about what pH is, and discussed the dissociation of water. David explained how the more acidic the paper the harder it was to preserve. He went on to demonstrate the 3 ways of testing the pH of paper. Using these techniques the students themselves tested a variety of different papers and then compared the results to see how accurate each method of testing was. Pupils also made a de-acidifying agent used in paper conservation in order to halt the process of deterioration caused by the acidity in the paper.


Making a De-acidifying Agent

Finally pupils put their new found knowledge to the test by building their own conservation kit. Pupils had to think about why some materials were more suitable for preserving and conserving documents than others and work out which of the items given to them should be included in their kit.


Creating a Conservation Kit

Overall the pupils enjoyed the workshop saying:

‘I found the demonstration of equipment and the strong room viewing very interesting’

‘[I]enjoyed the practicals

and ‘Very well explained! Very interesting’.

This workshop is available all year round and we hope to be back as part of the Norwich Science Festival again next year. If you would like to book for your own school or would like more information please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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