The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 21, Number 4
Nov 1997


Conference Handbook, Institute of Paper Conservation, Fourth International Conference, 6-9 April 1997, London. IPC, 1997. A two-ring notebook with sections for the program, abstracts, posters, participants etc. Postprints of the conference may be available at the end of the year.

By Ellen McCrady

This is not a book of proceedings, but it does contain the 35 abstracts of papers given, 19 of which deal with art on paper. The papers that have the most to do with library and archive conservation are:

"The Disastrous History of Paper," by Peter Bower. Reviews changes in papermaking methods over the last 700 years, resulting in decreased durability and usefulness.

"The Research and Restoration of the Map 'The Borderlands of Latvia-Russia 1782/1784,'" by Arija Ubnarste and Ilze Poriete.

"Thomas Jefferson's Rough Draft of the Declaration of Independence: The Evolving Condition of an American Icon and Implications for Future Preservation," by Linda Stiber.

Previous treatments, beginning in the 1800s, included mending, inlaying of margins, silking, and cellulose acetate lamination. Preservation for the future may involve permanent housing in an inert gas enclosure.

"History and Conservation Treatment of the Jamestown Papers and the Records of the Virginia Company of London, a 17th Century Irongall Ink Manuscript Project," by Sylvia Rodgers Albro and Holly Krueger.

The papers, which were in poor condition when they were owned by Thomas Jefferson, were being treated by the authors, using enzymes in a partially aqueous solution to remove silking, washing in water and ethanol, and deacidification using magnesium bicarbonate in a water and ethanol solution They were leafcast with an ethanol resist to avoid the loss of ink, reinforced with Klucel-coated gossamer tissue, and given special housing.

"A 13th Century Manuscript: Study on Book Archaeology and Conservation," by A. Serda Kantarcioglu. The materials of this copy of the Iliad were analyzed so that materials used to repair it would be as close as possible to the original.

"Conservation Survey of Rare Manuscripts in the National Library of the Czech Republic," by Jiri Vnoucek. Five hundred of the rarest manuscripts were surveyed, with assistance from Getty Grant Program funds and consultation by Chris Clarkson. Their physical characteristics and preservation needs were noted, and future storage and preservation (including "conservation ambulance repairs") planned.

"Processes and Materials Used in the Production of Computer-Generated Documents: A Conservator's Perspective," by Kathleen Orlenko and Eleanore Stewart. A discussion of the nature and permanence of materials used in desktop printing. Permanence characteristics included lightfastness, water fastness, and vulnerability to handling.

"Controversial Treatment Options Applied to the Conservation of a Sketchbook in Iron Gall Ink by George Romney," by Julie L. Biggs.

The goal of treatment was to stabilize the fragile areas and arrest the ink corrosion. The abstract does not describe the treatments used, but if this is the same project she described recently in another paper, it involved immersing the paper in boiling water, a procedure used in Europe.

"'MT5' Dry Mount Tissue: Accelerated Aging, Solubility, SEM and FTIR Studies," by Dorna Badiyan and Patrick Ravines. This tissue (glassine with dry adhesive on both sides) has been used widely to mount photographs, documents, art, and textiles for over 40 years. As the adhesive ages, chemical changes take place that result in an insoluble crosslinked mass that remains on the surface of the glassine.

"The Conservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Israel Antiquities Authority Laboratory," by Esther Boyd-Alkalay and Elena Libman. This paper is similar to the one published in Restaurator on the same topic, and summarized in the Literature section of this issue.

"The Paper Splitting Equipment Used in the German Library Leipzig," by W. Wächter, J. Liers and E. Becker. Paper splitting (manual separation of the front and back sides of a sheet of paper and insertion of a reinforcement sheet) has been used for 30 years at the German Library for very weak and damaged paper. Equipment to automate this process was developed by the German Library and Becker Preservotec GmbH. This year the last piece of equipment was installed, the one that removes the facing paper. Now they can do about 2,000 leaves a day.

"Carbon Black Inks from the Middle East Used by Scribes, Calligraphers and Artists," by Nasim Dehghan and Patrick Ravines. Four previously unreported recipes for inks are compared.

"Paper Conservation Research: The Last 21 Years," by Vincent Daniels. The number of conservators has increased greatly; that of conservation scientists hardly any. Scientists evaluate or develop new techniques, investigate deterioration of objects and their reaction to treatment. Popularity of conservation techniques waxes and wanes. Water mist and vacuum tables are now in, and deacidification, enzymes and bleaching are used much less than 21 years ago. Health and safety legislation has made life simpler, in a way, by reducing the number of chemicals that can be used. Scientific research is better now, because it uses more statistical methods and a wider range of test samples, but also because of the cumulative effect of previous work.

"An Investigation into the Use of Lasers in Paper Conservation," by James Caverhill, Brian Singer, and Ian Latimer. Removal of modern inks from art works is sometimes necessary. Sometimes chemical removal is not possible, and mechanical removal is unsatisfactory, so lasers are used. Laser treated cotton paper was tested and aged. It lost no strength, except at higher fluences. Results for the Russell effect test (to detect oxidation) showed some oxidation at all fluences.

"Characteristics of 20th Century Lignin-Containing Publication Papers," by D.J. Priest, J. Stanley and A. Karademir. Paperback book papers from 1935 to 1996 were analysed, and deterioration is attributed to alum that was used as a processing aid, rather than to lignin.
"Treatment versus Stabilization at the National Archives of Canada," by Greg Hill. Item level treatment at the National Archives has been superseded by a collections conservation approach. A survey of conservators, custodians and the National Library (which does not have a conservation lab) revealed strong and varied opinions on this policy. There was concern over specialists' potential loss of skills, and conservators see a change in their professional status.

There were 27 posters too. Two of the most interesting were:

"Image Permanency on Polyester Film," by Hanna Szczepanowska and Wayne Wilson. Several hundred land records created on polyester film were examined and tested, as a preliminary to writing storage and handling guidelines. They were coated, usually on both sides, and bore images formed chemically, electronically, or by photographic or electrophotographic processes. Deterioration took the form of discoloration, blistering of emulsion and separation of coatings, ink smudges and image transfer, residue formation and emission of odors. Recommendations: Copy the document as soon as deterioration is noticed; store at temperatures below 50° and at low relative humidities; and store records created by different techniques separately.

"An Investigation of Flood-Damaged Pigment Coated Papers," by Andrew Macdonald. The conditions and types of coatings, among other variables, were investigated to discover what makes wet coated pages stick together after drying. (Findings are not described in the abstract.) The author is at the Department of Paper Science at UMIST, PO Box 88, Manchester, UK, M6O 1QD, UK.

  • Culture Shock: Fire Protection for Historic and Cultural Property (video, 23 min.). Producer: Linda Swenson Stoppacher. Boston University, American Studies Program, 1996.
  • Reviewed by Karen E.K. Brown

    For those responsible for disaster prevention in historic house museums, or anyone interested in fire protection for cultural collections, the video "Culture Shock" is an excellent introduction. The production quality is very high, and the narrative is both entertaining and informative.

    Fire detection and suppression is a technically challenging subject to present clearly and concisely, but this video manages it well. The central theme is encouraging the staff responsible for the welfare of the collection to install sprinklers and other fire safety equipment. By working with a sprinkler company, a system can be developed that is sensitive to the aesthetics and historical integrity of an institution. This video will prove a worthy addition to your training resources. The best news yet is that you can get a copy for free! Write to the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, c/o Training and Education, MSU Box 5682, Natchitoches, LA 71497. Limited quantities are available.

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