Conservation of Modern Collections

It is often assumed that modern collections such as LHSA's HIV/AIDS material do not require conservation treatment. However, this material is at risk of deterioration due to the inherent nature of the items or unsuitable storage methods on accession. Frequently, modern collections in archives are formed from unstable or low quality materials as they were not intended to last, but instead had a practical and ephemeral use.

For example, modern paper made from low quality materials may exhibit greater deterioration than an older paper object made with good quality rag paper. Plastics formed 20 years ago may already be fading or becoming brittle and modern material such as VHS and audio tapes could be unreadable after just a few decades.

Problems may also occur with mixed media collections in terms of how to store these items together in their original form without losing their meaning, whilst still maintaining conservation standards. Ethical issues also arise, such as what items to retain and what can be disposed of.

Questions regarding the conservation of modern material will only increase over time as more and more modern material is created every day, making this a new and fascinating topic.

A sample of objects taken from an HIV/AIDs collection, consisting of modern paper materials, balloons, condoms and badges