Thursday, 4 February 2016

Conserving the Perranzabuloe Scrapbook

This has been a fantastic project that came into the studio from the Perranzabuloe Museum in Perranporth, Cornwall. The book had been previously used as a time book by the mysterious 'Riviere Mine' of which no record can be found, but is likely to have been around the Riviere area of Hayle, if it ever even existed - there was much speculation in the mining business in the 19th century and so it is possible the stationery was ordered before the mine actually opened. The stationary binding has been used however by someone, to record figures, and later was revamped by a member of the Tremewan Family local to Perranporth. 

 It is a delightful and thorough recording of the history of the town and its inhabitants in the 1800s; with personal reports of the marriages, births and deaths, along with the weird and wonderful from the wider world in the form of newspaper clippings, postcards, early Christmas cards, song sheets et al !

 The scrapbook was not in a very good state upon arrival - the compiler had rather too enthusiastically filled the binding which was then bursting at the 'seams' causing the sewing to mostly break, the protruding textblock to become very damaged, and some pages to have gone astray.

 The first job was to document the location of all of the (mostly unnumbered) pages, including loose pages that had been returned to a wrong place in the textblock. With some detective work, it was possible to correctly assemble the pages and number each in pencil.

 There was so much that could be done to treat the scrapbook, and time / budget was limited, so first of all a plan of action had to be put together, deciding exactly to what degree each stage of conservation needed to be carried out to. The binding was damaged and ineffective, the textblock pages were very damaged, and the ephemera adhered in was also damaged and detaching in many places.  It was decided to prioritise the binding and pages, ensuring the functionality of the binding and to stop any further loss or damage of the object, and only to treat the most severely damaged inserted material.

 First of all the scrapbook was surface cleaned, which needed to be repeated throughout the treatment, as dirt would 'hide' beneath adhered material, and only later slip out once a page was turned. Since the textblock was far to large for the binding, it was decided to cut the leather joints and the pastedowns in order to release the textblock. The partly broken sewing was cut, and the large job of repairing pages and ephemera began. All sections were then guarded.

 As the head of the book was substantially thicker than the tail (due to the uneven distribution of material) a solution was needed. Lizzie came up with the idea to use melinex as compensation guards. This was necessary as the writing / material was adhered right into the gutter and so it was important not to cover up information. The guards were made each with two strips of 36 micron melinex that ran the whole length of the textblock, and then inside a thicker 75 micron melinex that only spanned the area of the spine that needed bulking up. The textblock was protected from the edges of the thicker melinex by having the softer, outer one protruding beyond the inner layers. These compensation guards were then placed in between the section and the whole textblock sewn up. This technique worked very well to even out the textblock and ensure that all information from the pages was still available to the viewer.

 The spine was gently rounded and then lined with Japanese paper adhered with EVA. Subsequent layers of hahnemuhle, and two layers of alumed tawed skin were then added and sanded to provide the spine with sufficient support and to smooth out the lumps and bumps. The boards were readhered with aerocotton and the tapes inserted into the boards. Corners were rebuilt using wheat starch paste and cords, and covered with a reverse, toned calf leather to match the very worn, 'furry' original leather. The leather was consolidated with Cellugel.

 The book was rebacked using a toned calf skin, and the original leather spine piece readhered. Inner cloth joints had previously been sewn into the textblock and were pasted beneath the pastedowns to finish off the treatment.

 The uneven nature of the book meant the some inserts were protruding beyond the boards, and so a cover was created using book cloth lined with archival paper, with strips of museum board added to the cover along the foredges of the boards so that the pages are protected.

 Finally, a box was made to house this lovely book, and recommendations were made for the display in the museum. The plan is to turn a page each day so that visitors can get a real impression of life in Perranporth the the 1800s.