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Conservation Treatment of a Town Clerk Docket

Conservation Treatment of a Town Clerk Docket

circa 1882

By: Suzanne Moase, Conservator
Date: October 2003

The Town Clerk’s Dockets were the main correspondence series of the Town Clerk’s Department from 1865 until 1976. During the nineteenth century the Dockets comprised single items of incoming correspondence, however they later became more subject oriented and included copies of replies, extracts from Council Minutes and Committee Reports, newspaper clippings and other papers relating to a particular subject.

The City of Adelaide Archives now houses thousands of these individual dockets and the historic information they contain.

Condition Assessment

The docket shown here is one of many that were unfortunately damaged whilst stored for many years in the basement of the Town Hall. The damage caused by the water left the dockets in an unstable condition and therefore could not be handled without risk of further damage.

To preserve the damaged dockets for future public access it was decided that each docket would undergo conservation treatment at the City of Adelaide Archives Conservation Laboratory. An example of the stabilizing treatment is detailed below.


The initial stage in the treatment was cleaning. A soft white sheep hair brush was used to gently dust the surface.

Although washing is often a desirable technique for cleaning paper documents the soluble nature of the inks on this docket made dry cleaning the best option.

Some of the tools used in the treatment:

  • Wheat Starch paste
  • Natural hair brushes
  • Japanese paper (repair tissue)
  • Micro-spatula
  • Scalpel

The next step in the treatment was to humidify the document in order to encourage the fibres in the paper to relax. With the fibres relaxed the document would more easily receive the introduction of the repair tissue.

The docket was placed in between Reemay® and Gortex®, distilled water was then introduced to the outer side of the Gortex® - this material is moisture permeable and will allow humidity to reach an object without wetting. 

Once the paper fibres were relaxed the docket was carefully moved to a flat work surface in order to begin the Japanese tissue repair. 

The wheat starch paste was evenly applied to the Japanese tissue using a soft brush.

In order to stabilize the friable lower half of the docket the tissue was carefully adhered to both sides and smoothed using a wider brush.

After the tissue repair had been made the docket was then set to dry between absorbent felts and under the heavy weight of a book press. The document took several hours to dry and required two felt changes during the drying time. 

When the docket had finished drying it was removed from the press and the Japanese tissue repair was trimmed away from the docket using a straight edge and a scalpel. 

The docket was trimmed to its original size and returned to the historic collection of dockets housed in the Archives' repository. 

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