Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Paper Conservation Training

We have had a fantastic week down here at the museums, immersing ourselves in the world of paper conservation. Under the expert tuition of Caroline Whitley, Senior Conservator of paper and photographic materials with the Australian National Maritime Museum, three workshops were held providing training to a total of fourteen staff from the museum, KAVHA and Records Department. Each of these three areas is responsible for paper based artefacts and items that are part of our island’s material heritage. From photographs, letters, documents, maps, newspapers and books – we have a large collection of paper based items to care for and ensure that future generations will have access to.

 Caroline took us through best practice handling procedures as most damage is caused by poor handling. Preventing damage occurring in the first place was a good lesson and place to start! We then looked at options for collection housing, focusing on making two types of protective enclosures to help preserve items during storage, handling and transport. These are mylar (polyester) encapsulations and boxes. We came to understand the need for being precise and patient, clean and orderly and having good cutting skills. We saw how hand making a box from proper archive quality materials to neatly fit a fragile or damaged book, results in a housing that is not only lovely in its own right, but importantly provides the support and protection required to stop further damage.

After the workshops Caroline looked at some of the paper-based conservation ‘issues’ that we have in the Museum. We were also able to extend her visits to include Registry and Records Departments. We kept her busy as she provided advice on objects requiring attention such as historic Births Deaths and Marriage records; less than ideal storage facilities; the best options for keeping files to ensure they don’t create damage; and specific remedial work on maps, letters and documents. Janelle Blucher had some wonderful 1:1 sessions where she was able to learn further techniques for repairing damaged items. Caroline gave so generously of her time, working far beyond the hours we had requested. Her skill in this area is immense and we learnt so much from her, even though we knew that we had just scratched the tip of her paper conservation knowledge. We are very thankful to the Australian National Maritime Museum for making Caroline available to us, and also for all their support in ensuring we had the correct materials ordered and ready on-island for her visit. Our sincere thanks to you Caroline for all the preparation time you put into getting here, and also for such fabulous training while on island with us.

This training was made possible with the use of the profits from the play The Trial of the Fifteen. Expenditure of these monies is agreed on by the owner of the rights to the play, Peter Clarke’s son Stephen, and the Museum Trust.

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