Conserving the documents in the Lower Archive Room, Oxford University Archives.
About the Lower Archive Room
For preservation reasons, many of the Bodleian Libraries collections are kept in modern-day purpose built, windowless, climate controlled storerooms. This includes many of the documents held by Oxford University Archives in the Weston Library.
Found, however, up a narrow stone spiral staircase in a panelled tower room across the Old Bodleian Quadrangle are some of the earliest documents belonging to this archive. The archive holds the administrative records of the University, with the earliest dating from the thirteenth century. Stored here since the 1600s, many remain in the drawers of the original wooden cupboards from that time and are still consulted today. The room bears witness to over 350 years of use as an archive.
Within the drawers are primary documents written on parchment and handmade papers, many bearing wax seals, handmade pins, or woven ties securing single sheets together. Alongside the cupboards sit books on shelves, and more modern cupboards containing manuscript, typed and printed documents on machine-made papers.
The Keeper of the Archives from 1634 to 1644 was Brian Twyne. He considered the security of the documents by locating them in the tower room and placing them in cupboards (known as presses), giving some protection against the potentially damaging effects of the climate. Conservators, in more recent times, have continued that legacy of preservation in consultation with the incumbent Keeper and there are both delights and constraints when working as a conservator within this collection.