Conservation Volunteer

In this blog post Staphany Cheng talks about her time volunteering at Strathclyde University on the Patrick Geddes collection……

Archives and Special Collections at the University of Strathclyde is home to the Patrick Geddes papers, an incredible collection of over 4000 maps, plans, photographs, prints and drawings and over 45 metres of textual records, pamphlets and books. Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) was a biologist, sociologist and pioneering town planner, and was one of the greatest social thinkers of his time. The collection vividly documents the development of all his theories and is of international significance.

A doodle found when conserving the archival boxes

Over the last year, thanks to funding from the Wellcome Trust, the Centre for Research and Collections, University of Edinburgh has been working in collaboration with the University of Strathclyde in conserving the collection. I was very fortunate to be able to volunteer with Project Conservator Nicole Devereux, who is carrying out the conservation work in the project. Though I am currently completing my second year of an MPhil in Textile Conservation at the University of Glasgow I was particularly interested in working with the Geddes papers so that I could gain an interdisciplinary insight into the intricacies of paper conservation and archives and special collections.

Whilst paper and textile conservation have always been distinct disciplines, similarities exist in the material composition of the objects, the way that they are treated and the approaches that are taken by conservators. Often objects in each discipline will also have elements of the other, papers and books may have fabric samples, or embroidered covers and textile objects such as embroideries often have paper backing or lining. Under Nicole’s guidance I was able to apply my conservation knowledge into a different medium. The majority of the collection that I worked on exhibited soot around the edges of the pages this was removed with conservation grade vulcanized rubber sponges. Severe folds that obstructed the text were unfolded with a heated spatula. Tears that were considered vulnerable and likely to worsen with handling were supported with a remoistenable tissue made from Japanese paper and gelatin.

An example of textile and paper in the collection

Working with the Geddes Collection allowed me to see first hand the treatment of a large paper archival collection. And how standardizing treatments and storage for a range of different objects can be the most efficient way to conserve an entire collection in a short amount of time. The opportunity to experience the basics of paper conservation has allowed me to further appreciate both the differences and similarities between the two specialisms. It was also a wonderful opportunity to glimpse into the mind of Patrick Geddes. Working through the different boxes I never knew what I was going to find, some days there would be several folders of detailed botanical drawings and on others there were architectural plans for a new university or vegetable gardens for preschools.

Cyanotype photograph and plant specimens

While my time working with paper is over for now I would like to thank Nicole and Victoria Peters from Strathclyde University for this wonderful opportunity.

Crowdsourcing Event at Strathclyde University

On 19th and 20th February 2018, we are holding a conservation crowdsourcing event here in Archives and Special Collections at the University of Strathclyde. Our aim, over the two days, is to rehouse the Patrick Geddes papers, one of our most important archive collections, in acid-free folders and boxes. Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) was one of the greatest social thinkers of his time. He was a biologist, sociologist and pioneering town planner, with a fascination for the organization of human societies and their spatial manifestation in the city and country. The collection vividly documents the development of all his theories and is of international significance. It comprises correspondence, notes, news cuttings, pamphlets, books, photographs, maps, plans, prints and drawings, including Geddes’ famous ‘thinking machines’. You can find out more about it here.

Patrick Geddes

The collection is poorly housed in unsuitable folders and other packaging. As a result, many pages were torn or creased. An extensive programme of conservation to repair the torn pages alongside cleaning to remove surface dirt has just been completed but, to ensure that the collection is properly protected and that no more damage occurs, we need to rehouse it in archival quality acid-free folders. Over the two days, we aim to rehouse the contents of 175 archive boxes.

Geddes papers in the Archives store

Each day will begin with a training session in the morning, followed by practical work. In the afternoon, participants will be joined by staff members from Archives and Special Collections who will talk to them about their roles. Complimentary refreshments and catering will be provided throughout the day to encourage networking during break times.

This is a great opportunity to get some hands on experience with archives, and find out what it’s like to work in Archives and Special Collections at the University of Strathclyde.

Places are limited to 13 participants per day. You can book your place through Eventbrite. If you have any questions, please email victoria.peters@strath.ac.uk.

Booking will close on 11 February, to allow us to organise catering.
Timetable

9.30 – 9.45: Welcome

9.45 – 10.00: Introduction to the Geddes collection

10.00 – 10.30: Rehousing training

10.30 – 11.00: Rehousing begins

11.00 – 11.30: Tea break (refreshments provided)

11.30 – 13.00: Rehousing

13.00 – 14.00: Lunch break (lunch provided)

14.00 – 15.30: Rehousing and networking

15.30 – 16.00: Tea break (refreshments provided)

16.00 – 17.00: Rehousing and networking

Conserving Patrick Geddes

I am very excited to be working on the ‘Evergreen: Patrick Geddes and the Environment in Equilibrium’ project as Project Conservator which runs for 10 months. During my first month on the project I have been getting to grips with the collection which is split over Strathclyde University in Glasgow and Edinburgh University. Whilst looking through the collections I have come across a variety of different media including photograph albums, photographs, glass plate negatives, and transparent paper, loose sheets of correspondence and drawings.

 

A portrait of Patrick Geddes

 

The majority of the collection requires rehousing, flattening and minor paper repairs. Tearing of the paper collection has been caused by years of handling and inappropriate storage. To repair them remoistenable tissue with gelatine is being used. This method is being used because of the different types of inks used throughout the collection which are sensitive to moisture. It is also a faster repair method for a larger collection. The rehousing will consist of new archival folders for the collection housed in 180 archival boxes and three different sizes of melinex sleeves for the larger items in plan chests. We also hope to set up a crowdsourcing event to help rehouse the 180 boxes.

Survey Graphic magazine in need of paper repairs

 

Riddle’s Court, a Discovery

With our this project currently in progress, our eyes and ears are particularly attuned to Patrick Geddes material elsewhere in our collections.  It was a delight recently to stumble across a volume entitled Records relating to the Mechanics’ Library and University Hall, Riddle’s Court.  We have been working very closely with the Education Officer at the Patrick Geddes Centre, Riddle’s Court, so this is an extra special find at this time.

In the late 1880s, Patrick Geddes acquired Riddle’s Court for the purpose of creating University Hall.  Prior to this, it had been in the possession of the Mechanics Library, who had been based there since the mid 1850s.

A volume in our collection contains extracts of records relating to the building’s time as the Mechanics Subscription Library, including the earlier history of the buildings, as well as records of its time as University Hall.  As well as text, the volume is peppered liberally with illustrations.

The first residents moved in for the Winter Session of 1889-90.  There were only three of them – William Speirs Bruce, Riccardo Stephens and William Grant Burn-Murdoch.  All three had a strong connection to Geddes.

Illustration by Louis G Irvine

Continue reading

Newsletter 1

Welcome to the first newsletter of the Wellcome Trust Research Resources-funded project ‘Evergreen: Patrick Geddes and the Environment in Equilibrium’. The newsletter will be circulated quarterly and aims to provide an update on project progress, and to highlight some of the fascinating collection discoveries that are sure to be uncovered throughout the project. Later in the project there will be a number of exciting opportunities for individuals/ groups to engage in more depth with the project and the collections. Please watch this space to find out how you can get involved.

Project Overview

This is a two-year collaborative project between the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh and Archives and Special Collections at the University of Strathclyde, which will run from October 2016 until October 2018. The aim of the project is to preserve, conserve, catalogue and virtually reunite two collections of papers of Sir Patrick Geddes held in both institutions. Continue reading

Hello!

Welcome to the first blog post from the ‘Evergreen: Patrick Geddes and the Environment in Equilibrium’ project.  The Project Archivist has now begun work on cataloguing the significant Patrick Geddes collections held by Edinburgh University’s Centre for Research Collections and Strathclyde University’s Archives and Special Collections.  Over the coming months we will keep you updated about project progress and will share some of the fascinating collections discoveries and highlights that are sure to be uncovered during the course of the project.

You can read more about the project in the About Us part of this blog.