Conservation of Julian Amery’s Papers

24th April 2015 in Archives Centre, Our Collections

The collection of a Conservative MP Julian Amery (1919 – 1996) held at Churchill Archives Centre includes personal and family papers, some papers from Amery's wartime service and political correspondence, speeches and articles as well as photographs and audio material. The papers were deposited at Churchill Archives Centre in 1998 and previous damp storage has resulted in severe weakening and staining of some of the papers from mould and insect damage.

Many papers are affected overall and stained areas are very weak and almost powdery. These areas include losses from beetle larvae and silverfish and many documents also have iron oxide stains in the top left-hand side corner from corroded metal fastenings.

Page before conservation

Pages before conservation

Page before conservation

Around 900 documents (War Office correspondence of 1957-58) are now being treated in the conservation studio. Where possible they are brushed and cleaned with cotton wool. Rust corroded areas are supported with pieces of ‘re-moistenable tissue’ (a very fine Japanese tissue pre-coated with water-based conservation adhesives) using a mix of alcohol and purified water. The most damaged documents with large areas missing are treated by applying re-moistenable tissue to weak areas of the back (verso) using a light misting of aqueous calcium bicarbonate.

First the document is laid onto a smooth-surfaced piece of bondina (polyester fabric) and the crumpled areas are flattened out and torn pieces put together. Then the verso is supported with re-moistenable tissue which is tacked in a few places to the original using spots of the alcohol/water mix. The document is lightly sprayed with de-acidifying solution of calcium bicarbonate to provide it with some protective alkaline reserve. Then it is covered with fresh piece of bondina, smoothed out and placed between blotters and pressed overnight.

Page during conservation

Pages during conservation

Page during conservation

Infills to edges and large missing areas are then applied to front (recto) using a thin application of wheat starch paste to re-moisten the tissue underneath and lock on the feathered edges of a suitable Japanese paper (chosen depending on the thickness of the original document). Afterwards, another piece of re-moistenable tissue is cut out and applied on the recto with mist of calcium bicarbonate as previously. The documents with ink are first tested for solubility and if the inks are very fugitive, then an ultrasonic humidifier is used rather than misting.

Page during conservation

Pages during conservation

Page during conservation

After the pressing, repairs are trimmed and documents are packaged into the archival four-flap folders using acid-free paper to contain documents within the folder. After they are boxed and labelled, they are fit for production and can be used by Churchill Archives readers.

Page during conservation

Pages before and after conservation

Page during conservation

 — Jana Kostalikova, Conservation Assistant.


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