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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Conservation of the Hett Cemetery Plan

Detail of the plan after conservation

Detail of the plan after conservation

Repaired, digitised and copied

Claire, the Hett and Croxdale Parish clerk, came into the Record Office earlier this year with two cemetery plans in need of conservation. The plans are used for identifying and recording names in plots but they were both fragile, with tears and losses resulting from over a century of use.  As a solution, Lindsey, one of our conservators, agreed with Claire that the plans should be repaired, then digitised and facsimile copies made that she can continue to work with while the original plans are housed here at Durham County Record Office.

One of the plans is drawn on to cotton or linen cloth and has been sent to a specialist textile conservator. The other plan, for Hett cemetery, is drawn on paper with a textile backing. The main conservation issues were numerous tears, small and large, around the edges of the plan and some minor losses which were running into areas of text.  These made it difficult for the plan to be used and posed a risk of further damage and loss to the plan.

The first stage of treatment was surface cleaning to remove dirt and deposits. The textile backing was lifting from the paper around the tears and at the edges.  It was not strongly adhered overall so Lindsey removed it so that she could make the repairs to the back of the plan.  As the plan had been stored rolled, it was flattened in order to carry out repairs.  It could then be stored flat to reduce the risk of future damage. 

Lindsey repaired the torn areas from the back using wheat starch paste and Japanese tissue; these are archival quality materials and have properties which mean they age well. She filled in the missing areas of the plan using archival western paper that was toned using watercolours so that it would blend in better with the original paper colour. The repaired plan was then digitised and we had an archival print produced that Claire could use in place of the original to consult and update. The original has now been added to the Sunderland Bridge Parish Council (later Croxdale and Hett Parish Council) collection, and this is housed in our environmentally controlled strong rooms.

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