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The Collection Care team at the Parliamentary Archives

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Collection Care, Outreach, Preservation

Collection Care at the Parliamentary Archives has developed in the past few years from bookbinding to conservation and preservation. The team are Lois, Oriana, Tiffany, Tom and Lara, who are all trained as library and archive conservators. We look after the many historic items held in the Parliamentary Archives and help to preserve them for current and future generations. We also assist with conservation programmes for the House of Commons and House of Lords Libraries and occasionally work on the art you see around the estate.

The Collection Care Team: (left to right) Tom, Oriana, Lois, Tiffany and Lara
The Collection Care Team: (left to right) Tom, Oriana, Lois, Tiffany and Lara









21st century collection care is a complex and varied job that requires an extensive knowledge of science, history and craft based skills.

Our work in the Archives falls into two main categories that aim to use preservation to help facilitate access to the collections in our care:

  • Conservation: Treating damaged or deteriorated items to stabilise and improve their condition
  • Preservation: Preventing damage from occurring in the first place by improving environmental conditions, storage and collection movements in transit, and by raising awareness about best practice in collection management relating to collections care.
Lois demonstrating a paper conservation technique
Lois demonstrating a paper conservation technique









Tom and Tiffany have recently joined the team as part-time Collection Care Assistants. We asked them to tell us about their experiences so far:

Tiffany: Hello! Having initially trained as an artist, I recently graduated from West Dean College (University of Sussex) with an MA in Conservation of Books and Library Materials. It’s been a great experience at the Archives so far, I have been working on joint preservation projects with Tom, as well as undertaking book conservation work for the various libraries across the estate.

Tom: I qualified last summer from the Paper Conservation MA programme at Camberwell College of Arts (part of the University of the Arts London). So far I have mainly worked on preservation projects such as dust monitoring on the Parliamentary tourist trail and producing specially designed archival boxes for rolls of historic parchment stored in the Archives. I am learning that the role of the conservator is ever-evolving and we need to be flexible as we never know what will come next!?

Tiffany and Tom making boxes for historic glass plate negatives
Tiffany and Tom making boxes for historic glass plate negatives








A couple of weeks ago the whole team were delighted to welcome colleagues from across Parliament as part of the Parliamentary Heritage Tours. We showed people around the studios and talked about recent projects and ongoing work that the team is involved in. It was a great opportunity to ‘demystify’ collections care and answer questions about what we do. We thoroughly enjoyed the tours and look forward to welcoming more visitors in future!

Oriana introducing book conservation to one of the Parliamentary Heritage tour groups
Oriana introducing book conservation to one of the Parliamentary Heritage tour groups









A typical day for us at the moment is carrying out repairs on damaged books or documents, specifically prioritising this around preparing for items to be digitised, or going out on loan or being used in the search room; monitoring environmental conditions; helping researchers handle fragile items and preparing displays for exhibitions. In addition, we are frequently asked to research and advise on many matters relating to heritage, such as looking at some of the archival specifications for digital printing, showcase stipulations and historical bibliography. It’s a challenging job but never a dull one!

Do check out future blogs as we will keep you posted on anything interesting that we come across.

If you want to know more about the profession of the conservator here are some useful sites:

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  1. Comment by Heather Lapierre posted on

    Hello, I have a question, please.
    I have a book, "The Ingoldsby Legends" which was presented to my gg-grandfather in England in 1862. There is a typed note in the back of the book saying it was restored by the Parliament Book Conservation in 1973 and listing what they did to repair it. Would a private citizen have been able to have this restoration done? Much of my family were from Ottawa, but this was in the possession of my grandfather here in Vancouver.
    I'm just curious, as it ties in beautifully with my Genealogy research.
    Thank you!

    • Replies to Heather Lapierre>

      Comment by mcmahonp posted on

      Thank you for your question Heather. I've not heard of the Conservators doing private work like this. I'd be interested to see an image of the description of the repair. Can you send a photo to