We get all sorts of interesting records in local authority archives. Unfortunately not all (possibly most?!) of it is in such good condition and requires professional conservation. This was the case with Musselburgh Burgh records found at Musselburgh Town House. A large volume of records with the earliest dating back to 1545 had been stored in bin bags in the cellars. Once they found their way to the archives the staff undertook some basic conservation such as cleaning and repackaging the material. Despite the majority of the records being in surprisingly good condition, it was clear that some of the volumes required professional conservation. We contacted the National Archives of Scotland (NAS) who selected and took away some of the volumes to their conservation unit in Edinburgh.
Among those items to be conserved was a particularly interesting document which had been used as a cover to an unrelated volume. The document was in bad shape and was hanging from the volume by a thread but from what we could make out the writing looked monastic and we were hoping it would become the earliest item from the retrieved documents. When it was deciphered by the NAS it did indeed become the earliest document (though not by as much as we were hoping!). It is a papal bull from 1529 granting William Stewart (later Bishop of Aberdeen) the office of Provost of Lincluden Collegiate Church.
The following slides show the progress of the items from bin bags to professionally conserved documents including a fully digitised volume showing an account of ground annuals paid in Musselburgh from the mid 18th century.
It’s been fascinating to watch the process over time and the work of the NAS conservation unit is greatly appreciated. Without their painstaking work and expertise we would not have been able to understand so much of these documents nor to make them available to the public.