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Subject: Conservation of drums

Conservation of drums

From: Peter David Verheyen <pdv1>
Date: Tuesday, July 19, 1994
Bruce Ford <brucef [at] capcon__apana__org__au> writes

>The AWM has a collection of historic drums dating from at least
>the 1st World War, some of which have been stored with tension on the
>skins, and which are now splitting.

While I was working with Bill Minter in Chicago, we had the opportunity
to work on two drum heads for the Chicago Historical Society. One of
these had relatively minor damage, while the other had supposedly been
slashed by a sword in some Civil War battle. It had been stored in what
could best be described as un-ideal conditions and the drum head vellum
had shrunk and hardened dramatically.

If I remember correctly (this was some years ago) we removed the drum
heads from the body  and humidified it (ultrasonic humidification in a
plastic "tent" with the drum head resting on a frame). This was
continued until the vellum was supple and then it was placed on a round
"board" which had been cut to fit the outside dimension of the drum

With the vellum secured along the outside edges we proceeded to
carefully pull the parts together and into alignment securing it with
pieces of heavy Japanese paper and using PVA as an adhesive. It was held
flat during the drying and stretching process by placing blotters and
weights on top. Glycerin (very dilute) was also applied to help retain
any moisture.

This treatment procedure took several weeks, and apparently is still
holding up. The drum head was then placed back on the body and secured.
The drum head was put under minimal tension after treatment to help
avoid any future splitting.

I guess the thing to remember is that drum heads are untanned skins, ie
vellum, and should be treated as such. I found it to be a very tedious,
yet enjoyable project, especially since it was successful.

Peter D. Verheyen
Rare Books Conservator
B-39 Olin Library
Cornell University Library
Ithaca, NY 14853

                   Conservation DistList Instance 8:9
                   Distributed: Friday, July 22, 1994
                        Message Id: cdl-8-9-001
Received on Tuesday, 19 July, 1994

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