Care for Collections

Conservation

Care for the nation's intellectual heritage

Imagine the challenge of caring for 150 million books, journals, maps, manuscripts, stamps, photographs, sound recordings and digital publications. Will you help us?

Support our work with a gift

 

Preserving the UK's national collection of published, written and digital content for the enjoyment of everyone is at the heart of everything we do. 

Head of Conservation, British Library

“Conservation is vital - if items are not in a fit condition to be handled then they cannot be used. Your support will help us to treat items and return them to the shelf quickly.” 

Cordelia Rogerson
Head of Conservation

Our collection is in constant use. Every year four million items are called up in our Reading Rooms alone. Watch the sheer range and diversity of content that is used on a daily basis within the Library by our Readers. 

Fragile items in our collection, many of which are unique, need to be kept in the best possible condition to preserve our nation's intellectual heritage. To keep as much of the collection in use as we can, we also have the challenging task of repairing frequently consulted items that have become worn. Our small team of conservators manages to treat over 1,500 items every year but that is only a fraction of what needs to be conserved. We need your help to keep our collection accessible to everyone for research, inspiration and enjoyment.

How you can help:

  • £10 could supply parchment needed for one item
  • £25 would provide a specialist tool to repair tears in fragile paper
  • £200 would fund ten extra hours of conservation work
  • £500 could fund the full process of conserving one item

Make a gift today 

 

 

Did you know that to prepare for Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy, our team of conservators and scientists worked over three years on the two surviving original 1215 charters in our custodianship?

Magna Carta conservation   Magna Carta spectral

Left: Releasing the charter from its mounting so that we can assess its condition and rehouse it.
Right: Using near-infrared spectroscopy and high resolution digital microscopy to assess the condition of the ink and parchment.

Magna Carta spectral   Magna Carta conservation

Left: A colour UV image reveals regions of text hidden on the 'Burnt Magna Carta'.
Right: The charters are now beautifully rehoused so that visitors can view them in the best possible condition. 

Here are some recent items that your donations have helped us save.

Catalogue of household itemsThe Book of Common Prayer [and] The Psalter or Psalms of David, 1797 thought to have been destroyed by WWII bombing

Catalogue of household items

A catalogue of the household furniture…of the RT. Hon. Lady Vere Bertie, deceased, 1779. Its cover was worn and parts were missing.

Franco-Prussian War Caricatures

Franco-Prussian War Caricatures, 1870-1871.  The spines were loose and the boards completely detached. There were many damaged pages with tears and cracks throughout.