The Lincolnshire archives began in the 1930s gathering photographs; the university had a subject-based archive., whilst the Authority concentrated on area based. Deposits are stored safely and made available to the public.
Currently housed in an old bottle washing plant, they have 6 miles of shelving which carries a huge cost in air handling units, insect monitoring and climate control; there are no water pipes in the vicinity for obvious reasons! The many millions of documents are used for research for dissertations, books, family history etc.
1072 is the earliest document held – a grant to Lincoln Cathedral of land, although the Cathedral keeps much of its old library including illuminated manuscripts.
Coroners, courts and hospitals have to deposit, but most are deposited through good will; very occasionally documents of importance may be purchased but generally there is no budget for this. The Lincoln archive has a laboratory but is only able to contract conservators occasionally.
The Diocese of Lincoln used to extend to the Thames so there is a huge collection overseen by the National Archives, who are leading the world in setting new standards for future data collection and storage. Since the advent of the World Wide Web there is a major change to the way people are looking for and finding documents.
All the documents on display were old, of medieval origin, including fragments of monastic documents – trashed during the Reformation.
Some items have been rebound but many are still in a fragile state, some retaining the original leather or wooden board covers. One book had the edges of all the pages cut off so it would fit the library shelf when it was rebound many years age! Recycling was en vogue back then, one leather cover reused as the cover of an estate inventory.
Administration records from Cathedral laws and customs of the town, sit side by side with deeds, land transactions, documents in Hebrew script, rolls and volumes from 1290. There is even a hymn book in large print!
Medieval music scores, rhyming French texts, medieval Royal pedigrees (propaganda during the Wars of the Roses) parchment, vellum, rag papers, alongside modern wood pulp papers, which arrived in the 19th Century. Strongly acidic wood pulp paper self destructs over time and will not outlive its much older counterpart the rag paper.
Many old documents are written in ink made of old gall, or ground up precious stones and minerals to provide the colours, which because of the expense were only used on Royal or Monastic documents.