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Caring for parish church records

Looking after records in the parish

  • Rapid changes in temperature and humidity will damage documents over time. Damp conditions will encourage the growth of mould. The best place to store documents is somewhere cool, dry and well-ventilated, with a stable temperature and relative humidity.
  • Avoid keeping documents near a direct heat source (such as radiators) or in direct sunlight. Photographs are especially vulnerable to damage from light.
  • Dust, dirt, vermin and insects cause damage so try to minimise these risks. Keep documents away from other hazards too, such as communion wine and candles.
  • Make sure that documents are loosely packed to avoid damage and to allow air to circulate as freely as possible. They should not be in direct contact with metal, concrete, stone, brick or plaster.
  • The safe or other container in which documents are stored should, if possible, be raised off the floor in case of flooding.
  • Place loose papers in good-quality folders or envelopes, but take care that gum on the latter cannot stick to their contents or to any other documents.
  • Tie bundles of papers with unbleached linen tape. String tends to cut through papers.
  • Documents should never be kept in plastic bags, nor should volumes be covered with self-adhesive plastic.
  • If you wish to display any of your documents in the church, it is always best to exhibit a copy rather than the original. Documents (and photographs in particular) are very vulnerable to damage from light, which causes fading and photochemical deterioration of paper.

Please contact our conservation staff if you would like more detailed advice on the care and storage of your records.

The conservators also keep a list of suppliers of archive-quality stationery, such as envelopes, folders and photographic sleeves.

Damaged documents

Do not attempt to repair these, especially with modern contact adhesive tape or glues. Seek our advice urgently in the case of fire or flooding.