Volunteering

Shedding some light – using the Glamorgan Archives lightboard for map conservation

The very satisfying and delicate job of untwisting and unfolding the fragile scrunched edges.
The very satisfying and delicate job of untwisting and unfolding the fragile scrunched edges.

Devin Mattlin and myself have been volunteering at the Glamorgan Archives for the last 3 months under the guidance of Lydia Stirling. We have been cleaning pamphlets and a leather bound book from the 1800s.

The conservation lab at the archives is a beautiful room with large windows, lots of clean flat working spaces, and an impressive lightboard measuring 3m x 4m. It is said to be the largest single pain of glass in the country, and was imported from Spain. Earlier this month 3 maps were brought in for conservation treatment. Our eyes lit up: we knew we could finally use the light board!

Lydia Sterling leading the treatment process discussion of the damaged map.

Lydia Sterling leading the treatment process discussion of the damaged map.

Drying and moisture management is a tricky business with paper conservation. There are various techniques including temporary mounting which keeps the paper under tension, ensuring less distorted pulling in the drying process. This is what the lightboard is used for. The lightboard takes it’s inspiration from the Japanese Karibari board. Briefly, a karibari board is a temporary mount constructed from 8 layers of various paper types on a wooden frame with a persimmon tannin finish. (For more info on a karibari board check out this.)

Every day that we go to the archives, the lightboard is begging to be used, and now was our first time.

Devin and Michael Hodgson (a paper conservator who has been working at the archives for over 20 years) prepared the backing mount on the lightboard. A few days later Devin, myself and Michael proceeded to remove the backing material of the map, wash it, and carefully unfold and untwist its torn edges. Laying the map flat on the lightboard allows the paper to dry in the right placing while we fill in the missing portions with matching repair tissue. It has been mounted on the lightboard with wheat starch paste for about a week, while we complete the infills.

Devin Mattlin submerging map in its wash bath.

Devin Mattlin submerging the map in its wash bath.

Michael Hodgson flattening the map on the Glamorgan Archives lightboard.

Michael Hodgson flattening the map on the Glamorgan Archives lightboard.

Japanese tissue infills on the edge of the map.

Japanese tissue infills on the edge of the map.

While this was a small map in comparison to others in the Glamorgan archives, it was great training and invaluable experience in unfolding such fragile scrunched edges and working together getting the map in and out of the bath and onto the different working surface. Communication and clear understanding of the next step are vital. Sometimes slow careful movements are needed, as when gently removing the backing, and other times slick efficient movements are needed, as when turning the map over.

You can find out more about the Glamorgan Archives at their Facebook page, or on Twitter.

 

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