Preservation of a scrapbook of important records

This blog post is about the conservation and preservation of a scrapbook/album with extremely important documents, pictures and maps, that was breaking into pieces because of ageing and brittleness.

During initial observations it was found that it is extremely difficult to remove the originals from the brittle backing because the adhesive had turned acidic, brown and quite insoluble.

We found that the adhesive used to paste the maps and pictures etc. was water soluble, but had turned brittle and its solubility had decreased with age. We tried different types of humidity treatments to soften the adhesive. Some of the photographs were found to be water and humidity sensitive, and there was written matter and markings with water soluble colours. This made it difficult to use humidity liberally. We tried to introduce humidity from one side only i.e. from the back. the front was either protected with a mylar, or, in some cases we were humidifying just for the time that we found safe for front and at the same time, enough to soften the adhesive at the back.

Mild humidification set-up from back only
Mild humidification set-up from back only
After mild humidification from the back, the adhesive got softened for some time. It was easy to detach the photograph from the backing before the adhesive got dry again

All the photographs, maps and documents that were pasted with glue, that had turned acidic, 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 couple of minutes, the glue would dry and become too hard to be removed (just like before humidification). So, it had to be cleaned or removed when it was still soft after the process of detachment.

All the pictures and other documents were kept under weights for flattening after the removal of adhesive from them. The flattened documents and photographs were then attached to a new album with acid-free pages. Instead of any adhesive they were attached with conservation grade mylar corners.

Mylar corners
Photographs attached without glue, with invisible mylar corners

The album was bound and kept in acid-free and humidity controlled box.

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