Conservation

 

At the outset of this project a thorough conservation assessment of the Adam White scrapbook was carried out by ROM Paper Conservator Janet Cowan. This assessment determined that the spine of the scrapbook was damaged and needed to be replaced, the pages of were very dirty and required cleaning, and many of the plant specimens had come loose. The loosened fragments needed to be collected into packets and reaffixed to the scrapbook page they came from. Most of the pages of the scrapbook were in relatively good condition but the edges of some had become frayed and were at risk of further damage.


Based on the conservation assessment
the following steps were required to restore the scrapbook and retard further deterioration: (a) surface clean the pages, (b) add interleaving tissues between the pages, (c) add ethafoam strips to immobilize the book in its box, (d) repair the scrapbook’s damaged spine, (e) repair superficial page tears. All of the conservation work except the spine repair, was done in the ROM’s Paper Conservation Lab under the guidance of the ROM’s Paper Conservator Janet Cowan.


Before the cleaning and repairs could begin it was necessary to record the initial condition of the scrapbook photographically. Both 35mm and digital photographs were taken of each page. The 35mm photographs were made into a duplicate set of slides, with one set residing in the ROM’s Conservation Department and the other in the ROM’s Botany Department. The digital photographs were made using a Nikon E3200 digital camera, and were transferred to a computer to allow the specimens to be studied and catalogued without excessive handling of the scrapbook. Cataloguing involved documenting each page with digital photographs, and databasing the information associated with each artifact. Records from the catalogue were incorporated into the ROM Green Plant Herbarium specimen database.


In order to safely and effectively clean the scrapbook it was necessary to build a bookstand. The bookstand was designed and built specifically for this project out of wood and Plexiglas. The stand allowed work to be done on individual pages without compromising the rest of the book. Since the scrapbook’s spine was already damaged it was important to lessen the strain placed upon it during cleaning. The bookstand allowed the book to be positioned in such a way as to greatly reduce the stresses on the spine and underlying specimens while at the same time providing a stable surface on which to work. Foam pads and heavy lead blocks were also used to hold the book and stand in position.


Prior to cleaning, the specimen fragments were carefully removed from the pages and placed in petrie dishes. The petrie dishes were labeled with the page number from which each fragment came. Paper packets were constructed from an antique white, lightweight, archival quality acid free paper. A paper was chosen that would not look entirely out of place in a scrapbook from the mid nineteenth century. The paper had to be of a colour and quality so as not to distract the viewer from the rest of the page. The packets were placed next to the specimen from which the fragments they housed came. Each specimen was assigned a TRT accession number and the corresponding fragments and packets were labeled accordingly. Determining the origin and identity of fragments was at times difficult. With the help of Dr. Tim Dickinson and Deb Metsger all fragments were placed properly.


Pages were individually cleaned using soft brushes and miniature vacuums. Kneadable erasers were used to clean over a century’s worth of surface dirt. Frayed edges and other minor page tears were mended using small strips of Japanese mulberry paper and a starch paste.


The three-dimensional nature of the specimens contained within the scrapbook presented some challenges. The weight of the closed scrapbook placed a considerable amount of pressure on the bulkier specimens and often caused them to fragment. The weight of the closed book also weakened the paper around particularly robust specimens. Interleaving tissue, cut to a standard size of 9”x12”, was added to cushion the specimens and slow down the deterioration of the paper.


Another cause of paper deterioration was acid migration. The plant specimens in the scrapbook were more acidic than the paper they were placed on. Acid from the plants was transferred to the paper by way of this concentration difference. The acidification of paper not only causes staining but also weakens the structure of the paper. The acid leached from the plants will, over time breakdown and shorten the cellulose fibres in the paper and cause it to become brittle. Specimens belonging to the Salicaceae family contain salicylic acid, and were particularly harmful to the integrity of the scrapbook. The effect of Salix arctica could be seen as far away as six pages. Acid free interleaving tissues helped to slow down further deterioration through acid migration.


After cleaning an superficial repairs were completed the scrapbook was sent off to a professional book conservator, Barbara Rosenburg, who repaired the spine and binding of the book.
When the book returned from the conservator final digital photographs of the scrapbook pages were taken using a Nikon Coolpix 3.2 megapixel digital camera and a copy stand. These photographs accurately document the scrapbook as it exists today in its cleaned and stabilized state. The same photographs were used throughout this web site in an effort to make the scrapbook more accessible. By digitizing its contents both photographically and as part of a database, the scrapbook can be studied without excessive handling. Through the conservation work, and the creation of this website the scrapbook and the specimens it contains will be available as a resource for many years to come.

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This is an example of the packets used to hold plant fragments. When we could confidently identify which specimen the fragment came from we placed the accession number on the front of the packet.

 

This image shows page tear before it was repaired

 

This is a page tear after it has been repaired with Japanese paper and starch paste before trimming

 

This is a before and after cleaning comparison of page three. The photograph on the left was taken before we started cleaning. The photograph on the right was taken after cleaning

 

The scrapbook positioned on the bookstand for cleaning and repair.

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Please send your comments to tim.dickinson@utoronto.ca; last updated 24-Jul-2010