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

Conservation and Storage of the Panorama of Lahore

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

‘Panoramic Depiction of the Fort and Old City Walls of Lahore’ is a rare scroll painting of the city walls by an unknown artist and dated broadly between the late 18th and early 19th century. The panorama of the city...

From Tackling Digitisation to Preserving Historic Photos - Autumn One Day Courses at British Library

Friday, September 6, 2019

By West Dean College of Arts and Conservation British Library and West Dean College of Arts and Conservation collaborate to deliver Continued Professional Development for those involved with, or with responsibility for care of libraries, archives and collections, and for...

All sewn up: British Library colleagues work together to ensure the survival of 100 embroidered and textile bookbindings

Friday, May 10, 2019

Mary Horrell, Conservation Support Assistant, and Mark Oxtoby, Collection Care Workflow Coordinator The Felbrigge Psalter’s decorative 14c covers (pictured below) are the oldest known examples of English embroidery on a book and a prime example of the type of binding...

Consider the cover: conserving a Chinese book

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The British Library's next major exhibition, Writing: Making Your Mark, opens 26 April and runs until 27 August 2019. In preparation for the exhibition, conservator Rebecca D'Ambrosio has been working on the conservation of one of the items which will...

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