Preventive conservation

Man looking at a graph on a computer screen.

Prevention is always better than cure. Our preventive conservators work across all areas of the Library to protect the collections from harm, inhibit the progress of existing damage or deterioration, and prevent new damage from occurring.

Setting and measuring environmental standards

The environmental conditions in which items are used, stored and exhibited are a critical factor in the reactions that cause items to deteriorate. Working with the science team in interpreting and applying environmental standards and guidelines we provide advice on optimum conditions for different material types and we are responsible for monitoring levels of light, temperature, relative humidity and pollution to ensure that they are within acceptable or beneficial levels and are stable.

Collections disaster and salvage

We are responsible for establishing, maintaining and developing collections disaster and salvage procedures. Working closely with our own Estates department, we train dedicated response teams and volunteers from across the Library and provide 24-hour emergency response all year round to any incident that adversely affects, or has the potential to adversely affect the collections.

Integrated pest management

We are responsible for providing integrated pest management across the library, working with our Estates department to keep the collections and storage areas free from pests. We respond to any incident involving pests, providing identification and advice. We also offer a quarantine service in our dedicated quarantine room.

Handling and use

Our collection is a working collection, and handling and use pose one of the greatest risks to its physical condition. It’s our job to advocate best practice when handling and using collection items, within the Library and externally. We provide training for our own staff and all users, and written guidelines and support information.

Read our position paper and strategic direction 2017-20 (PDF format) for more details on our conservation methods and activities.


Blog posts

Textiles in Ethiopian Manuscripts at the British Library

Friday, December 17, 2021

Eyob Derillo, Curator Ethiopic and Ethiopian Collections. Little is known about the secrets that Ethiopian Christian manuscripts retain inside their covers. In addition to the texts that cover the full range of topics, from religion to magic, or from poetry...

Conservation of the Granville Archive papers

Friday, December 10, 2021

Veronica Zoppi, Conservator General description: The Granville Archive, recently acquired by the British Library, includes a vast collection of letters and papers relating to British national life in the 18th and 19th centuries. These papers had been unknown to researchers...

Important information for email subscribers

Friday, August 13, 2021

Unfortunately, the third-party platform that the British Library uses for email notifications for our blogs is making changes to its infrastructure. This means that from mid-August 2021 it will no longer send notifications by email to subscribers. To find out...

Conservation of Thurloe’s State Papers

Monday, July 19, 2021

You may have seen a recent conversation sparked by one of our ‘Before and After’ conservation posts on the Library’s main social media channels. This may have got you wondering how conservators decide on the best treatment methods for collection...

More blog posts