The Paper Conservation Studio is responsible for the care and preservation of the Museum's substantial and expanding collection of paper based material. This diverse collection includes works of art on paper in a range of media including watercolour, charcoal and prints. Holdings also include a vast collection of ephemera: the term applied to material that was not meant to last or be kept. Within this category there is a wide variety of material, ranging from 20th-Century cardboard advertising cutouts to a hand-written proclamation by P.H Pearse during the Easter Rising of 1916. Other materials under the care of the studio include collections of early photographs and newspapers.
Associated with the Paper Conservation Studio, the Museum also has at its disposal the services of a Bindery, operated by an experienced Book Binder. The main responsibility of this area is binding, into volumes, the vast number of contemporary reference journals that make up part of the Museum’s library collection. Other services available include purpose made box making and the repair of books in the collection using traditional methods and materials.
The range of tasks carried out in the Paper Conservation Studio is as diverse as the collection itself. Preservation plays a major role in this, and involves housing collections in a safe and stable environment. The construction of boxes, folders and custom built portfolios using stable conservation standard materials is ongoing as an essential part of maintaining the collection in optimum condition.
The later machine-made papers from the mid 19th Century onwards tend to be most vulnerable and by their nature are often very acidic, requiring careful handling and storage as well as controlled display conditions. When paper based material is requested for exhibition, the studio will first examine the item and if necessary carry out repairs, this could be as simple as dry cleaning and flattening or as complex as wet processing, stain removal and de-acidifcation of acid paper stock. Repairs to structural damage may require the use of handmade Japanese papers, chosen for their inherent stability and long fibre structure, this combined with a starch-based adhesive produces repairs that are both strong and reversible. Finally an appropriate display mount is constructed and the paper conservator will continue to monitor conditions in the display area for the duration of the exhibition.
The Paper Conservation Studio produced a report on the Faddan More Psalter, as pictured in the image above. You can find the report on the Conservation Projects page.