University charter gets new accommodation

Moira Buick, Conservator

University of Bath Royal Charter of Foundation, 25th October 1966.
University of Bath Royal Charter of Foundation, 25th October 1966.

Bristol-based, parchment specialist, Moira Buick describes her work to conserve and protect the University's Royal Charter of Foundation

The charter was probably produced by the College of Heralds. It comprises sixteen landscape sheets (32cm x 46cm) of printed upon parchment which have been folded at the bottom. Unconventionally the fold has been turned to the back. The composition of the large (diameter 16.5cm), red seal is not traditional wax but some modern chemical compound that is now reactive. The original presentation box, with built-in Perspex top, was too small and not fit for purpose since the heavy seal was not hanging down straight and the chemical reaction of the seal was turning the Perspex opaque. The box was filled with a thin layer of polystyrene covered in orange, brushed nylon; the seal being held in a skewed position by a slight depression.

Parchment is naturally long lasting so long as it is not allowed to become damp or stored in hot, bright conditions. A new box was required to give an archival micro-climate. The ornate two colour cord and seal need to remain attached to keep the charter authentic.

The new box was made with a base and lid of wood walls, sealed with micro-crystalline wax, holding oil-tempered hardboard used by easel conservators. They are held together by four extra wood strips nailed with brass pins and glue; and renewable wide elastic bands. The charter is now loosely held in place with clear archival Melinex bands pushed through slots in the archival base cards. It could, therefore, be removed safely if necessary. Several layers of archival board were used to line the box especially deep in the base to house the heavy seal safely. A loose soft 'duvet' of polyester wadding and washed cotton was placed on top.

With the 9cm drop of the seal cord the final box measures 67cm x 56cm and is about 5cm deep. It has been designed so that if the lid were removed and a covering sheet of clear Perspex applied, the charter might safely be put on short-term display. The seal, which rests on soft material, can be removed safely or turned over to display the reverse. Overall the charter's new accommodation is light, rigid and gives excellent protection to an important and historic item.

About this story

University of Bath Royal Charter of Foundation, 25th October 1966.
University Archives