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News > From the Archives > From the Archivist > The Dust Busters!

The Dust Busters!

Inevitably after just over a hundred years, documents, photographs and books begin to show the ravages of time, exacerbated by less than ideal storage conditions over the decades.  These organic materials are damaged by extremes of humidity, temperature and light.  Dry and hot conditions dry out leather and paper leaving them brittle, damp encourages mould and insects which, combined with dirt and dust can cause chemical degradation.  Well-meant storage and display practices can also cause issues.  Blue Tac on the back of items leaves an oily residue as does the adhesive on Post It Notes which then attracts dirt and dust.  Paper clips, staples and pins rust and leave marks and too much handling leaves grease from fingertips which oxidises and collects dirt.

Pangbourne's existing archive contains items that display various states of damage right across the spectrum.  There are those that are in excellent condition and only require proper storage and cataloguing and those that are quite badly damaged and need extensive cleaning before being stored.  It was at this point that the Dust Busters were born - a wonderful group of volunteers largely from the current parent body!

Some of the College's oldest records such as the first register of cadets in 1917, the stores book from the same period and the first Captain Superintendents logs have suffered significant damage and decades of dust and bugs needed to be removed.  Armed with a selection of new soft artists brushes each page was gently cleaned with smaller brushes used to gently brush the dust from the spines and bindings.  While this work was time consuming it probably wasn’t helped by the fact that we became easily distracted by the contents of the books we were cleaning and soon snippets of college history began flying backward and forward across the room and many debates begun about new ways versus old.  Only when a book had been thoroughly cleaned was it placed in a clean temporary storage box ready for the next step in the process.

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