Conservation challenges posed by the Changi Archive

(16 November 2015) The conservation of the WWII Changi civilian internment camp archives is being undertaken by two conservators, Emma Nichols and Mary French.

The materials in the Changi archives pose a number of challenges to the conservator due to several different factors. 20th century materials, like the ones in this collection, are generally cheaply made and tend to degrade quickly. The fact that a lot of the papers had already been used once or even twice before they came into the hands of the internees means many had already suffered damage. The archive is made up of loose leaves of paper, some of which have been adhered or ‘tipped’ to each other or held together by staples, pins, and paper clips, as well as pamphlets and bindings. Tipping and stapling leaves together has resulted in the contents being obscured and the fragile paper has sustained tears and losses during use. This means the contents cannot be accessed by readers and prevents safe and successful digitisation.

Numerous illustrations amply show the challenges posed to the conservationists.