Bangor University: Archives and Special Collections

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Rowena Doughty ACR


The Archives and Special Collections at Bangor University is responsible for the collection and long-term preservation of manuscripts, archival collections and a diverse range of rare books and printed material. The manuscripts that they hold date from the 12th century to the present day and a significant percentage of these collections relate to landed estates throughout north Wales.

In 1999, the Archives and Special Collections received a small collection of papers relating to Sir Charles Harper. These documents had been carefully and chronologically arranged into albums in the 1980s by his son, John Charles Harper Douglas Pennant[1] and after his death were transferred to the care of Bangor University along with other family papers. When catalogued, this collection will take the form of an addendum to the Penrhyn Castle Papers, one of the most popular and important estate collections held by Bangor University.



The Project : Safeguarding the Sir Charles Harper (1876-1950), St Helena albums

The project looked at implementing preventive conservation measures with regards to eight of the Charles Harper albums which contain a variety of manuscripts, photographs and printed ephemera relating to his tenure as Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. These documents are illustrative of island life over a period of seven years.

The original albums had a sheet of plastic covering each page and its unique ephemera and a slightly sticky covering to the page itself. The aim was to remove the content of each album and position the items in new bespoke albums of archival quality. The layout of each page would be kept.

Securing the long-term preservation of these albums was essential since they are of immeasurable value to anyone studying the history of the British Empire and how it affected the colonies, the indigenous peoples and their cultures.


Conservation work

Rowena M. Doughty ACR, Conservation Officer at Gwynedd Archive Service was commissioned to make new folios in un-buffered heritage archival photokraft paper to house the Harper material. Each page of the binding structure was given a guard as is typical of a folio made to contain such items and additional sheets of archival photokraft non-buffered tissue was inserted between each page to give a barrier between the verso and recto that contained mixed media.

The content of each page within the old albums was lifted and placed in the same position within the new folios. Ephemera which contained text on both front and back were held in place with a hinge to allow access to both sides.

Unexpected, loose items were stored in pocket enclosures, adhered to the page.



The Charles Harper material has now been returned to the Archives and Special Collections – carefully preserved in new albums.

This project will be the first and most important step towards making the papers of Sir Charles Harper accessible. Their improved preserved status will make them suitable for handling by users and will also ensure the long-term preservation of the collection. Visitors to the Archives will be able to capitalize on this new resource by being able to access the albums for personal or academic research, and University staff will be provided with the opportunity to incorporate the collection into their teaching and learning.

In due course, the albums, along with other Charles Harper material, will be catalogued and made available via the online catalogue CALMView and also via the Archives Hub which will reach a wider audience.

We have already started on the work of promoting this collection. The albums featured as our Archive of the Month in July 2021 and an online exhibition in both Welsh and English is available via this website: This project provides a real opportunity for Bangor University to promote the diverse nature of the archival collections that it holds – in particular those of international interest.

[1] John Charles Harper Douglas Pennant (d. 1998) was married to Lady Janet Pelham (1923-1997) who inherited Penrhyn Castle in 1949. She was the daughter of the 6th Earl of Yarborough and his wife, a daughter of the 3rd Baron Penrhyn.

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