Conservation and Preservation of an archival scrapbook

An important record of an organization, in the form of a scrap book, was brought to our lab for treatment and preservation. The data was important and the originals need to be rescued from further deterioration.

The pictures, maps and documents in this scrapbook were pasted with an acidic glue to the black paper of a photo album. The glue could be confirmed as acidic in initial observations because it had turned dark brown and transferred this stain as well acidic character to the paper on which it was applied. The album’s black paper had also tuned brittle because of its inherent acidity.

Apart from the acidic glue and paper, there was glassine separating sheet between all pages of the album. This glassine had also tuned brittle because of acidity. Moreover, adding to our problems, it had stuck irreversibly to the front of many photographs it was in contact with.

Considering the acidic nature of the paper and glue, it was considered urgent to detach all original photographs, maps and documents from the acidic paper and also to remove the glue at the back of all these originals. These two tasks are not as easy as they seem. More so, because of the age of the originals and the way they were completely and strongly adhered to the paper.

Different safe techniques were applied to carry out this intricate job. Some level of humidity was required to soften the glue. But, this had to be done without damaging the moisture sensitive photographic material and the inks used on the maps and documents. Even the mild and slow humidification through swins (polyester web with a polyurethane membrane) was damaging after a point. So, we calculated the exact time for which the humidification could be provided in a controlled manner and under constant supervision.

All the photographs, maps and documents that were pasted with acidic glue were removed from the brittle black paper. The remnants of the glue were removed from the back soon after the detachment because if they were left even for a minute, the glue would dry and become too hard to be removed. So, it had to be cleaned or removed when it was still soft after the process of detachment.

The photographs with glassine stuck on their front had to be treated very carefully to remove the glassine. We could see the sticky gluey material that had embedded the glassine in the image layer of the photograph.

After cleaning all the originals, we flattened them without using humidity.

before and after conservation pictures of some documents

The originals were then fixed on new acid-free thick paper with the help of conservation grade polyester corners without using any glue.

A special box with thick acid-free board was constructed. It was given a base of ethofoam sheet for cushioning the heavier new album. Volume of the air inside the box was calculated and accordingly, sufficient number of humidity regulating sheets were installed. A temperature humidity data-logger was also installed inside the box. Its readings were checked after a few days to compare its working before keeping in the controlled micro-environment and after. According to its readings the humidity was being kept in control with the help of humidity regulating sheets. But the data-logger had stopped recording as its memory was full. It was found that in the default settings it was recording each and every second and its maximum capacity is 43000 readings. So, data-logger was taken out and set for longer intervals of time to taking a reading. It was again kept for some days in uncontrolled environment to see how the graph shows up with this new setting and then for last few days in the lab it was again put in the box with controlled micro-environment.  

Author: namitajaspal
Namita Jaspal, with inherited skills of art and aesthetics and passion for science, opted to pursue post- graduation in ‘Conservation of Cultural Property’ after her graduation in Science from Delhi University in 1992. Four year intense training at National Museum Institute provided the right foundation to start a career in Conservation. She is currently practicing conservation consultancy for Heritage property including monuments and collections. She has been doing independent research in conservation techniques and procedures in Indian context. She is currently working on the conservation of wall-paintings of Sri Harmandir Sahib Ji (The Golden temple at Amritsar. The project is nearing completion and getting a lot of appreciation for the organized and ethical treatment it is providing. It is for the first time in the history of Sri Harmandir Sahib Ji (The Golden Temple) that wall painting conservation and preservation is being done in a scientific manner, keeping the codes of Ethics into consideration while decision making. Another project just completed is of the Conservation of Krishna Temple at Kishankot, Gurdaspur, Punjab. In her private Conservation Laboratory, she is not only providing onservation services, but also mentoring young aspiring conservators and archaeologists by the way of training and paid internships. She has been a guest lecturer at DIHRM (Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management). With all the updated knowledge database and innovative practical approaches relevant to the Indian conditions, she could successfully do curative and preservative treatment of very old textiles like a nine feet long flag from nineteenth century that is regarded as priceless memorabilia of second Dogra regiment at Chandi Mandir, and four hundred years old (seventeenth century) Chola Sahib Ji of Sixth Guru of Sikhs, Sri Hargobind Sahib Ji. Apart from this she has done conservation of Photograph collections, archival records, numerous paintings, manuscripts and other cultural objects. She is also involved in preparation of up-gradation proposals for museums and such organizations. Her expertise includes Conservation and preservation technologies and procedures for conservation of varied material like wall paintings, paper, photographs, textile, ceramics, stone, metal and archaeological objects.

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