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Library & Archives

4 Posts tagged with the paper_conservation tag
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Migrating an old card catalogue from hard copy to digital form is a complex task. When we made the switch in 1998, tens of thousands of items made it across – but thanks to our recent stock audit, we’ve turned up a few treasures that didn’t. Although these items still exist in the card catalogue and on the shelf, they may not have been recorded electronically. With such a vast and rich collection, an extra copy or two might escape notice. For this reason, we close annually to audit our stock.

 

 

Due to the size of the Library collection, we choose a section each year to audit. Recently, we’ve been focused on ensuring our Special Collections are all present and correct. For most staff, this involves printing a list of what the catalogue says we have on the shelf, and manually comparing it to what is on the shelf. If books are on the shelf but not the catalogue, they need to be added – usually, from scratch.

 

 

The Cataloguing Team spent our recent audit (November 2013) rediscovering and cataloguing some pretty interesting stuff – so we thought we’d share them with you. We don’t always know a lot about them though, so the pictures may have to speak for themselves!

 

 

 

A labour of love this year involved unravelling our catalogue entries for Archetypa Studiaque Patris (Hoefnagel, 1592). We hold three copies, all with different plates bound in different orders, inside different bindings, with different histories. One copy of the three is coloured. In its coloured form, this title is exceptionally rare. We can’t be sure our copy was coloured at the time of publication, but we hope so – for artwork 420 years old, the colours are still fantastic.     Archetypa-Studiaque-Patris-(1592)-frog.jpg  

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Our audit is also a good chance to monitor our collections for items which may need some level of conservation -- this set is a prime example (image below). Chemicals used in the tanning process of this binding have become acidic over time, turning the leather flaky and brittle. Using the books n this state will damage them further, while leaving them on the shelf might lead to their neighbours (and librarians!) getting discoloured as well. So, off to the conservation studio...

 

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More unusual was finding “an old pin with the twisted wire head” taped into a page, and a retention request! Adhesive tape and rusty pins aren’t good for books, so they’re both being removed by our paper conservator. The pin will be kept, but in a small pocket or envelope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some other new favourites included…

 

The Dry Fly Man’s Handbook (Halford, 1897). We hold the original manuscript, but you’ll have to be the judge of whether the manuscript is more or less fascinating than Volume 2 – with real fishing flies!

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A Victorian tale of murder and mayhem unfolds in Nemesis among the beetles (Gould, Britton Jr., c.1875)…

 

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A 20th century scrapbook of the author’s (Richard T. Lewis) published and original artwork, mounted side by side:

 

And last but not least, 5 binders full of a stamp collection focused on butterflies and moths (complete with negatives). 

 

I wonder what we’ll rediscover next year? We shall keep you posted.

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Agarose is a rigid gel made of seaweed and it is a homogeneous polysaccharide. Rigid gel is water in solid form at room temperature and in this example we are using seaweed that is made up of over 95% of water. The advantages of using rigid gels in paper conservation is only a recent discovery.

 

The proceedure is as follows:

 

When the gel is placed over an object that is drier than itself, water travels through from the gel to the object. It is thanks to the process of osmosis that this takes place. 

 

Once the concentration of water is increased on the object, the water is pulled back into the gel, but this time it also drags any impurities from the object back with it into the gel. This allows us to clean an area locally without immersing the whole object in a bath.

 

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The water is released on the object slowly. I used Agarose gel (4.5%) to surface clean an area on a watercolour. The area was affected by the adhesive underneath, which created stains on the surface of the artwork that subsequently attracted dirt. I placed gels on top of the affected area and left them for a while. The only area subjected to any moisture was purely the area that the gel pieces were place on.

 

The yellow discolouration faded and the dirt was removed.

 

A successful technique, involving minimal distruption and handling to this type of item from our collections.

 

 

 

by Konstantina Konstantinidou (Paper Conservator)

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Konstantina (Tina) Konstantinidou joined us as Paper Conservator on 5th August and has well and truly hit the ground running.

 

 

 

As well as getting to grips with all the projects that are in the pipeline for her, she has been working hard to become familar with some of the collections that she will be working with and meeting her colleagues in the Library & Archives team.

 

 

Tina joins us from the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) where she worked on various short projects covering a period of three years. Previous to this she worked at a facinating variety of other organisations such as The National Trust, All Souls College, Oxford and Regent's Park College, Oxford.

 

 

When I caught up with her she was working on a enchanting volume of 19th Century chinese watercolours from our Reeve's collection, that had become weakened and fragile. Using japanese tissue Tina is repairing each individual piece in a non invasive way, ensuring that any work done can be reversed at a later date, if required.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Originally Tina studied English Literature and Humanities at Birkbeck, during which time she used the collections at the British Library a great deal. It was during this time that she became fascinated by their special collections and particularly old books. Here began her interest in, and subsequently her career in Paper Conservation, where she has found her interest in art, science and her craft skills, to be the perfect receipe for success!

 

Like many, prior to joining our team, Tina admits to not realising the extent of the art collections held by the NHM Library & Archives. Now that she has had a chance to see for herself the full extent of what we do hold, she is keen to get involved!

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Eleanor Russell joined the Library & Archives team as our new Paper Conservator, on the 1st August.

 

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She was previously at the British Library specialising in art on paper. Prior to this she worked at the British Museum, the National Archives and the St. Paul's Cathedral architectural archives. Eleanor originally trained at Camberwell College of Art, gaining a BA Hons in Organic Conservation (e.g. paper, wood, leather).

 

One month in Eleanor is thoroughly enjoying her new role. As many of us did, she remembers her visits to the Natural History Museum as a child and now loves the feeling of playing a part behind the scenes. Originally from Cornwall, as a youngster she developed an interest in collecting and the natural world, which led to an interest in the history of art.

 

She feels her new role is her 'dream job', and is particularly enjoying the mixture of interaction with different museum departments and staff, and is starting to get her head round the size and variety of the collections in the Library & Archives.

 

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It has already been a busy month for Eleanor: visiting the Tate Britain to de-install NHM items loaned for their watercolour exhibition; and more recently installing an NHM item at the Royal Academy for their forthcoming exhibition 'Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement'.

 

Eleanor will next be concentrating on the forthcoming rotation of artwork in the NHM Images of Nature Gallery, and preparing a book handling course.

 

We look forward to Eleanor blogging in the future about the work she is involved in.