Cleaning tracing paper

This tracing paper plan is being conserved at the Essex Record Office as part of the Chancellor Project. This is a project to clean, repair, repackage and catalogue the 10,000 or so plans we hold from the office of Fred Chancellor, a prolific Victorian architect.

The plans are beautifully produced, and many of them are highly coloured. Chancellor is credited with over 700 works, about 530 of which are in Essex. He worked on all types of buildings – from farm buildings and private houses to schools, hospitals and other large public buildings – and in several different styles.

The collection includes plans in several different formats on different types of material. Most of the plans are on paper, but a good proportion are also on tracing paper. A smaller number are on tracing cloth, and there are also a few blueprints.
Of these, the tracing paper plans are the most fragile and require the most repair. This video shows one of ERO’s professional conservators cleaning one of these tracing paper plans, which will then be repaired while still wet, and then dried.
The Chancellor Project is mainly staffed by volunteers, who are kindly giving up their time to painstakingly clean the paper plans. So far, about 1,500 plans have been cleaned, repaired and repackaged.

The project will take several years to complete, and more and more plans will become accessible over the next few years as progress is made. Plans that have already been cleaned and catalogued include Chelmsford Workhouse, later St John’s Hospital, Ingatestone Rectory, and several churches.

The project has been made possible by grants from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust and Essex Heritage Trust, which have been used to purchase the materials needed.

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