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.

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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