How a collection is stored is critically important to its longevity and factors like humidity, temperature, light, air pollution, insects and rodents all contribute to the deterioration of archival materials.[1] Up until 2022, Views of England and Wales was stored off of central campus in Marc Fitch House at 3-5 Salisbury Road, the home of the Centre for English Local History (now the Centre for Regional and Local History) from 1988 to 2021. It was situated in a large, wooden chest of drawers on the first floor of the building where it resided, rarely used, unknown to most and walked past by staff, students and visitors every day. In 2022, it took up its new home at Archives and Special Collections in the David Wilson Library at the University of Leicester. Here, the conditions in the archive store can be optimised for the collection’s long-term preservation.

Gloucestershire 1-300 folder closed

Closed Gloucestershire 1-300 folder.

Gloucestershire 1-300 folder open

Open Gloucestershire 1-300 folder.

Currently, all of the prints, paintings, drawings and photographs belonging to Views of England and Wales are stored in the large, flat folders they were kept in when they lay in the wooden chest of drawers at Marc Fitch House. Too many of these folders are overfilled, which has led to many of the items getting crushed, folded and damaged, even torn. See, for example, the state of the folder for the first part of Gloucestershire containing over 300 prints below!

Gloucestershire 1-300 folder open showing overfilling

Open Gloucestershire 1-300 folder showing overfilling.

Furthermore, the folders are highly acidic, which has resulted in the discolouration of most of the items inside of them, in addition to making them brittle, owing to the migration of the acid. Supports for the prints, drawings and paintings present the same problem.[2] To limit further degradation of the collection, Archives and Special Collections is in the process of securing new, archival-grade, non-acidic storage boxes to better protect and preserve the prints for the future.

[1] Holben Ellis, M., The Care of Prints and Drawings, 2nd edition (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), pp. 23-24.

[2] Ibid., p. 26.