Conservation & Preservation Volunteer – Stitch in Time Project (MERL)

Conservation and Preservation Volunteer – Stitch in Time Project

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The Conservation Studio at The Museum of English Rural Life, Redlands Road, RG1 5EX.
Please note this role will take place on Mondays mornings from 9.30am to 12:30pm, starting from Monday 29th January 2024 for a period of up to 12 weeks.

Why we want you

This role is to support the activities of the library and archive conservator and the work of conservation at The MERL. At The MERL, we have a number of collections that require cleaning and consolidation before they are rehoused. This is extremely valuable to the stability of the archive and library collections, as dirt causes paper and leather items to degrade more rapidly, can attract pests and mould and makes the items very difficult for researchers to handle. Your role will be a vital contribution to ensuring access to these collections.

These collections include a wide variety of material: bound volumes, single sheet items in paper and parchment, printed ephemera and photographic material. You will be working on the Wellington Estate papers.

What you will be doing

Working in the Conservation studio on Monday mornings, you will undertake basic but important preservation tasks on the selected material. This may include:

  • Cleaning archive material and bound objects with vacuum suction and latex cleaning sponges
  • Tying up damaged bound volumes to secure detached boards and/or spines
  • Undertaking minor binding repairs such as pasting down loose areas of covering material, labels and damaged corners
  • Housing single sheet items in standard, pre-made folders
  • Wrapping bound volumes for storage
  • Rehousing single sheet items in paper folders, four flap folders and Melinex® (a clear polyester material)

Special access/ allergy trigger considerations

This role includes

  • Items that are likely to be dusty
  • Using latex cleaning sponges 
  • Periods of time spent standing and sitting; some of the benches in Conservation are higher than normal, and the chairs we have available are similarly high
  • Lifting moderate weights

As you will be working as part of a small team, we will be able to distribute tasks within the team and adapt your tasks to promote as full participation in this role as possible.

This role will suit you if you are

  • Able to both work independently, but also enjoy being part of a small team
  • Meticulous in your approach with good manual dexterity (good hand skills, for example experience of crafting or a similar task)
  • Able to maintain concentration during repetitive tasks
  • Able to follow instructions and not be afraid to seek help if necessary

What you will gain in return

  • Direct experience of handling heritage materials
  • Gain skills in archive and library preservation techniques and procedures
  • Work as part of a larger project in a team in an archive environment
  • Training in all aspects of the role

Who does the role report to?

Victoria Stevens ACR, Library and Archive Conservator, based at The MERL.

How much time will it take up?

The sessions will be held on a Monday morning from 9.30am to 12:30pm from Monday 29th January 2024.
This cohort will be for up to 12 weeks maximum, and will be dependent on material availability.

You will get the most out of the placement if you are able to attend as many sessions as possible during that time. However, we realize that you may have some prior commitments/ appointments in the 12 week period.

To apply:

Please complete your volunteer registration form on our volunteering platform Better Impact by midday on Monday January 15th 2024.

Please click on this link to the volunteering platform

Please ensure you tick ‘Conservation and Preservation volunteer – Stitch in Time project’ in your ‘Interests’ section under My Profile, when registering.

Existing volunteers - If you are already registered to volunteer with Museums Partnership Reading, please log in to the volunteering platform, click on My Profile, select the ‘Interests’ section, and ensure you tick the box next to ‘Conservation and Preservation volunteer – Stitch in Time project’ by midday on Monday January 15th 2024.


Matching to the role

We are fortunate to have perennial interest from prospective volunteers hoping to volunteer with our archives for fascinating projects such as this. We are looking for up to two volunteers to help in our next 12 week cohort.

We will let you know by Wednesday 24th January if we will be inviting you to join this cohort.

The first meeting will take place on Monday 29th January at 9.30am where you will be given more detailed guidance and initial training.