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Trust's Conservation Experts Share Skills and Secrets

Curtorial staff and volunteers behind Brunel’s historic ship are welcoming visitors every Friday lunchtime, between 12.30 and 1.30pm, to witness ‘Conservation in Action’.
These free sessions offer a rare glimpse into how they care for thousands of documents, books and objects held in the ss Great Britain Trust’s Brunel Institute. 
Experts share the secrets of caring for the world-class National Brunel Collection – a collaboration between the Trust and the University of Bristol – which houses rare engineering drawings, photographs, and diaries ensuring it is protected from pests, pollutants and other damaging influences.
Visitors can see and hear about ‘preventive conservation’ in action as it is used in dealing with dust, pest control and handling of fragile documents and plans.
Dust may be just a nuisance at home, but to a library of precious books and archival material it can be lethal. Dust holds pollutants which cause staining on precious documents.  It’s also irresistible to pests such as book lice and silverfish which then feed on the paper, oblivious to its importance. Curatorial staff wage constant war on pests in the Brunel Institute, and they will explain how during “Conservation in Action”.
As well as dust and pests, the wrong handling can also damage fragile paper. Staff will also show how they use special techniques to unroll 7,000-plus large ship plans and carefully remove the dust using natural fibre brushes. Once cleaned and flattened the plans are then copied digitally so that they can be accessed online.
‘Conservation in Action’ also offers a chance to look around the David MacGregor Library, with its 6,500 maritime books and periodicals, including rare volumes such as the Lloyd’s Registers of Shipping.
The ss Great Britain Trust’s Curator of Library and Archive, Eleni Papavasileiou, explains: “These free events take visitors behind the scenes at the Brunel Institute. They give a glimpse of how we care for the documents in our collection such as diaries, letters and plans.
“Our open access sessions are unusual amongst archives and they are proving very popular. But you do not have to be an expert, everyone can enjoy the contents of our archive, in their lunchtime or as part of a longer visit to Brunel’s ss Great Britain. Everyone is welcome.”