Four Welsh archive services will receive funding totalling over £28,000 to undertake vital conservation work on fragile and damaged items in their collections, thanks to a partnership between the Welsh Government and the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust (NMCT).
The funding will conserve items to which access had previously been extremely restricted due to their condition, making them accessible to local users, students and researchers.
The conservation treatment will also enable the digitisation of the documents, extending access to Wales’ cultural heritage to online audiences in Wales and beyond.
The successful projects include maps from The Penrhyn Estate collection, an unbroken series of documents which give a unique and valuable insight into the management of an estate in North Wales during the nineteenth century.
Some of the maps are important for evidencing the historic issues of the time. For example, the Penrhyn/2219 map was produced as a consequence of a cholera epidemic in Bangor in the 1850s and is therefore a valuable research tool in understanding this significant episode in the city’s social history.
The Penrhyn Estate papers were accepted for the nation in lieu of inheritance tax in 2010 and are considered to be of outstanding national and international significance.
Also being conserved is a collection of medicinal recipe and prescription books, which reflects the growth of L. Rowland and Son Ltd (Numark) from a local business to become one of the most important and respected in the town of Wrexham.
In the context of Wales, the collection is important as a detailed record of the development of medicinal recipes and their prescriptive uses. The prescription books in particular reflect the changing practices and the diverse ways in which the ‘Druggist’ served the community, with recipes from Horse Embrocation Cream, the curiously unexplained ‘Horse Pills’ and ‘Bug Powder’ in the earliest books to Lemonade and Ginger Beer powders in 1921.
The Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Ken Skates said:
“There is a fantastic range of items receiving funding this year, including items from the Neath Abbey Ironworks archive, a UNESCO memory of the world registered collection, and the Penrhyn Collections, which was judged to be of exceptional significance when it was accepted for the nation in lieu of inheritance tax.
“I am delighted also to be able to support the work to preserve two important local collections, one of which evidences the development of Denbigh and the other providing a fascinating insight into the work of a Chemist from 1759 in Wrexham.
“I would like to thank the NMCT Trustees for their support and for enabling archive services in Wales to ensure that some of our most special items will be preserved for both us and future generations to access, appreciate and enjoy.”
Since 2008 the NMCT, in partnership with the Welsh Government, has supported 35 projects. Items and collections of national and international importance held by archives across Wales, including letters of correspondence from the trenches of the First World War, Family Pedigrees and historic maps, have been conserved.
The conservation work will enhance access to the items. In a stable condition, items can be studied, handled and safely digitised, and consequently made available to a wider audience via the internet.
Lord Egremont, Chairman of the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust, said:
“We are absolutely delighted that our long term partnership with the Welsh Government is ensuring that more, important Welsh manuscripts are being conserved than ever before.
“Our partnership has helped attract other funding and, as a result, together we have invested over £200,000 in the conservation of Wales’ written heritage – all of which is now publicly accessible thanks to our support.”