Scottish Session Papers Condition Survey

In this week’s blog, Special Collections Conservator, Emily, describes the conservation problems encountered during a condition survey of a collection of bound volumes…

I have recently carried out a condition survey of three collections of Scottish session papers across three sites in Edinburgh; the Centre for Research Collections, Signet Library and Advocates Library. Session papers are documents used in the presentation of cases in the Court of Session, Scotland’s supreme civil court. They are the written pleadings of contested cases, plus non-legal documentary exhibits such as drawings, plans and maps. The papers give a valuable insight into the social, economic, political and legal history of Scotland. I am carrying out this survey as a part of a pilot project to evaluate digitisation options, and estimate the time needed to conserve and digitise the collections and the associated costs. This project is being carried out in conjunction with John Bryden, Project Photographer in the Digital Imaging Unit team.

Session papers at the Centre for Research Collections

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Volunteer Voice – Valentina de Riso

In this week’s blog we bring you another edition of our volunteer voice, this time from Valentina de Riso, who volunteers in the conservation studio every week….

Valentina in the conservation studio

What is your name?

I’m Valentina de Riso.

Where are you from?

I’m from Italy and I’ve come to Scotland to study for an MSc in Comparative Literature at the University of Edinburgh.

What do you do when you are not volunteering?

I am a book lover and I have a passion for literature. When I’m not volunteering I love reading, writing short-stories and exploring the city of Edinburgh. I am also keen on old and used books, so I often happen to be in some second-hand bookshop, sniffing between pages and looking for rare books!

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A Book of Two Halves

Our Projects Conservator, Nicole, describes a technique for repairing books that have broken in half in this week’s blog…

I have now moved full time to the conservation studio at the main library and I have started working on the Latin thesis from 1726 – 1826 which contain a number of PhD thesis in one leather binding.

The majority of this collection is in good condition with just under half needing conservation treatment before digitisation, mostly quick treatments such as being board reattachment. A small number of volumes have been rebound with a hollow and using book cloth which makes them more accessible and easier to be digitised. However, 46 volumes have broken sewing resulting in the text block breaking in half or in some cases three or four separate pieces. This has been caused by repeated use, and forcing the volumes open.

An example of a Latin thesis broken in half

An example of a Latin thesis broken in half, before conservation

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Introducing our New Projects Conservator – Helen Baguley

This week’s blog comes from Helen Baguley, the newest member of the conservation team…

I have been recently employed by the University of Edinburgh on a 12-month contract as a Projects Conservator. This exciting and varied role means I am predominantly located in the University Collections Facility (UCF), and off-site storage building in South Gyle. I will be working within the rationalisation project, looking at the collections which are currently housed there, such as rare books and university archives. I will also be assisting the musical instrument conservator and art department in their work. This will consist of carrying out conservation work and supervising volunteers under the direction of the Preventive Conservator, Katharine Richardson.

Collection items on a shelf at the University Collection Facility

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Crowdsourcing Conservation

During the Festival of Creative Learning (20-24 February 2017), we will be hosting our first ever conservation crowdsourcing event!

Over a two-day period (20-21 February), with the help of 30 participants, we aim to rehouse section II of the Laing manuscripts – the University’s most important written collection.

Folder from the Laing II collection

Folder from section II of the Laing manuscripts

Laing’s collection of charters and other papers is of national importance and the most distinguished of its kind in any Scottish university. It is an essential resource for the 18th century, however, it is in poor condition due to its current housing in unsuitable upright boxes and folders. It is an extremely popular collection, but it is difficult to access and there is a risk of further damage every time it is handled.

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End of an Internship

Victoria Haddock, the second in a series of interns working on the Thomson-Walker collection, reviews her time spent at the CRC in this week’s blog post. If you’d like to find out more about this project, you can view Victoria’s end of internship Powerpoint presentation at the bottom of this article.

As I watch another beautiful sunset from the window of the CRC conservation studio, it seems a good moment to reflect back on the past 10 weeks of my internship here, which have absolutely flown by.

Although I did think on my first day that I was looking forward to 10 weeks of solid tape removal, the internship has been very busy, varied and with lots of opportunities beyond what I first expected.

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PhD Theses Conservation

My name is Nicole and I am excited to be in my fourth week as the new digitisation project conservator working on conserving the PhD theses before digitisation. The PhDs I am working on range from 1750–1961 and are mostly bound. The volumes vary in size and material. The earlier volumes are bound in leather and hand written, while the later volumes are bound in book cloth and typed.

At present my time is split between two locations for conserving the PhDs: the Library Annex and the Main Library conservation studio.

So far I have mainly been working on the medical PhDs which include some beautiful and what must have been very time consuming drawings. The volumes also house many photographs and x-rays, including the x-ray of a shilling swallowed by a patient!

My current conservation work focuses on the volumes which had been flagged up by the survey carried out prior to my arrival. The treatments I have undertaken so far include surface cleaning, consolidation of red rot using Klucel G in IMS, inner joint repair to reattach loose or detached boards, minor paper repairs and reattaching damaged spines to volumes using a hollow made from archival paper.

Detached spine on bound volume

Detached spine on bound volume

The aim of the conservation work is to stabilise the volumes for digitisation and to ensure the text and imagery are visible. On occasion rehousing is needed, made out of archival board.

Thesis to be rehoused

Thesis to be rehoused

 

Keep an eye out for updates on this project!

Paper and Water: Conservation Principles

This week’s blog post comes from Special Collections Conservator, Emily, who recently attended a conservation training workshop in Edinburgh…

Earlier this year in September, I attended a two-day course organised by Helen Creasy from the Scottish Paper Conservation Studio and hosted by the National Library of Scotland entitled ‘Paper and Water: Conservation Principles’. The course was based on the book “Paper and Water: a Guide for Conservators” (Banik and Brückle), which has become an essential text for conservators since its publication in 2011, and provided by Doris Müller-Hess and Hildegard Homburger, private conservators from Vienna and Berlin, respectively.

This course examined the interaction between cellulose and water and the effect this has during conservation treatments. Paper conservators frequently use treatments that employ water, from simple treatments repairing a document using wheat starch paste, and using a poultice to remove historic repairs, to more complex treatments such as washing paper to reduce discolouration and acidity in the paper, so it is vital to understand this complex relationship.

Paper and Water: Conservation Principles

Paper and Water: Conservation Principles

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Thomson-Walker Internship – Round 2!

This week’s blog come from Victoria Haddock, a recent graduate, and our second Thomson-Walker intern….

I am currently approaching the end of my fourth week of a ten-week internship working on the Thomson-Walker collection of medical portrait prints at the CRC conservation studio here at the University of Edinburgh.

I graduated earlier this year from the MA paper conservation course at Camberwell College of Arts and have been fortunate to have been quite busy over the summer with various short term contracts and was overjoyed to have been offered this opportunity here. It has been quite a whirlwind of new people to meet, things to learn and see in the last month and I’m sad to think it has already passed by so quickly.

Victoria in the conservation studio

Victoria in the conservation studio

There is certainly no fear of me running out of work to do though, with a collection of approximately 2500 prints to work through! I’m the second of a planned series of interns who will have to remove these prints from their current storage, where some anonymous person decades ago lovingly spent hundreds of hours taping all of these prints onto board and paper which has now become very acidic and brittle and prevents further conservation work or digitisation projects taking place. Like many conservation projects, I have to undo all of this work done with the best of intentions previously, and throw the unsuitable board unceremoniously into the recycling bin. You can read about the importance of good housing in this blog by Special Collections Conservator, Emily.

Boxes of prints, before treatment in acidic boxes

Boxes of prints, before treatment in acidic boxes

Boxes of prints, after treatment in acid-free boxes

Boxes of prints, after treatment in acid-free boxes

Following the procedures outlined by Samantha Cawson, the first Thomson-Walker intern (here is a link to her blog where she explains everything – with puns!), most of the adhesive tape (a paper gummed tape mainly) can be easily removed by applying lens tissue packages containing CMC (carboxymethyl cellulose) for anything up to 30 minutes, and peeling away the carrier.

Prints, during treatment

Prints, during treatment

It has been a great experience so far, and I have been fortunate to have gone on a tour of the National Library of Scotland’s conservation studio, be part of some of the studio tours here and the conservation taster days run for the students. It is a great place to work as there is always something amazing being brought in to the studio and there is also a fabulous view, which as many conservators will know, that not being consigned to a cold basement is a rare and wonderful thing!

Print, after conservation

Print, after treatment

Book conservation skills for paper conservators

This week’s blog post comes from Projects Conservator, Katharine Richardson, who recently attended a workshop to learn basic book conservation techniques….

Last month I attended a two day workshop, Book Conservation Skills for Paper Conservators, at the National Library Scotland. The course aimed to teach paper conservators basic practical book conservation skills. It was led by our friend and colleague, Caroline Scharfenberg, who is an accredited, freelance book conservator based at the University of Edinburgh Conservation Studio. I was very excited to learn a bit more about Caroline’s practice, and it was a great opportunity for me to get away from my desk for a bit and learn some new interventive conservation skills.

On the first day Caroline gave a series of lectures on the theory and ethics involved in book conservation as well as a brief history of book binding. We were then able to put some of the theory into practice through a practical exercise preparing a condition assessment and treatment proposal for some of the National Library’s book collections.

Class preparing their condition assessment and treatment proposals

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