JISC NFF Archives Sub-Committee
Survey of conservation expenditure
by Willpower Information

Part 3 of 3 : Conclusions and appendices

5. Conclusions

5.1 Overall increase in expenditure

The overall expenditure on conservation of archives and special collections in the institutions surveyed was almost 5.5M in 1996/97, compared with 232k in 1991/92 (Table 2). The bulk of this increase is accounted for by seven capital projects (Table 10), costing 4.7M in 1996/97, but non-capital work has still increased to 776k, an increase of over 300%. These figures do not include any allowance for inflation.

Over all institutions, 63% of non-capital conservation work is done by the staff of HEIs (Table 2) and 27% is contracted out. In London, however, 40% is done in-house and the remaining 60% contracted out (Table 4).

These figures are based on the cost of work rather than the quantity, and will have been distorted by the fact that in Scotland the conservation centre in Dundee does work at a highly subsidised rate (5 per hour rather than the commercial rate of 35 per hour). The availability of this service has been a major stimulus to having conservation work done, but as its subsidy is not included in the expenditure figures given the actual amount of public funds used for contracted-out conservation work in Scotland will be larger than shown.

5.2 Sources of funds in 1996/97

The largest source of funds for capital work was the Heritage Lottery Fund, which gave 2.3M for one project, almost half the total capital funds used in the year. A further third came from institutions' own funds, while NFF funds and an allocation from SHEFC together provided another 19%. (Figure 1)

Non-capital work was dominated by NFF funds, which made up 65%. A further 28% was provided from the budgets of library and archive departments holding the collections, while the remaining 7% came from special allocations from the institutions with a small amount from other sources. (Figure 2)

5.3 Factors affecting expenditure

Expenditure was largely determined by the availability of funding. NFF funds have made a major impact in the development and care of archives. Staff of HEIs are very appreciative of this, but are very worried that when this funding stops their work will be returned to a state of stagnation. There has been a feedback effect, in that having funds to employ staff has led to a higher visibility of archive and special collections, which in turn has attracted more funds. Other sources are comparatively small compared with NFF funding, however, and it takes continuing effort from dedicated staff to maintain an awareness of the collections within the institutions and outside. There is great concern that many of these staff are on limited-term contracts with no guarantee of renewal.

Conservation work cannot be considered in isolation, but must be assessed in the context of all types of work on the collections, including cataloguing, storage, public availability and exploitation.

5.4 Forward budgets

Forward budgets are often hopes rather than expectations. HEIs in general do not have firm future budgets for conservation work, not knowing what funds they are going to have available. The budgeted amount for non-capital work in 1998/99, for 32 institutions, is 714k, about the same as the total spent by all institutions in 1996/97. (Table 17)

5.5 Analysis of expenditure

The returns submitted were not consistent enough to draw any firm conclusions about the types of work and types of material conserved, or to calculate unit costs. The summary tables (Table 20 to Table 35) give a subjective impression of the areas in which substantial work is being done, and some base-line figures for the number of items processed and the amount of money spent on each.

There were two substantial digitisation projects on which money was spent in 1996/97, although several respondents would consider such projects for the future if money were available.

5.6 Factors affecting choice of conservation service

Not surprisingly, the two major factors were cost and quality. Skill and qualifications of conservators were means of assuring quality, as was the recommendation of other users or independent advisors. Distance between the institution and the conservation centre was not a major factor. (Section 4.9)

The majority of institutions rely on their own inspection of the work, with a few obtaining advice from external experts or advisers based on an examination of samples. (Section 4.10)

6. Appendix A

6.1 Questionnaire

6.2 Covering letter sent with questionnaire to librarians

6.3 Letter sent to people responsible for special collections and archives

7. Appendix B: Lists of institutions covered by the survey

There were no consolidated returns for institutions shown in bold italics, because the component institutions shown under them were treated separately. Where consolidated returns were received, these have been shown by an "(including . . .)" note under the parent body. No returns were received from institutions marked with an asterisk (*).

7.1 London (within the M25)

7.2 North West England

7.3 Scotland

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