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Housing a new Winston Churchill old cigar at the Archives Centre

10th October 2019 in Archives Centre, Conservation

Last February, a donor came to the Archives Centre with a new object for our collection. It was a cigar that had been gifted by Winston Churchill during an event in Aberdeen in 1946 where he was greeting crowds while standing in an open top Rolls Royce car. To thank the car’s owner for supplying the vehicle, Churchill gave him a cigar held in a brown envelope with the following inscription: ‘Have this one on me, Mr. Churchill’.

The cigar had never been used but became fragile and brittle after time. The envelope was too light and worn to keep the object safe from handling and the environment. At the Archives Centre, we already own one of Winston Churchill’s cigars that is often put on display for our visitors. This extensive use of the fragile object is not ideal for its good preservation. Therefore, this second cigar not only will expand our collection but also reduce the amount of handling and exposure from the first one. 

No conservation treatment was necessary but it was essential to create an appropriate housing in order to allow the visitors the see the cigar and the envelope in a neat way without having to touch them. We also wanted to create a box with as much organic materials as possible and avoid plastic such as polyethylene foam. Indeed, organic materials play a role as a buffer limiting the impacts of environmental fluctuations on the objects. The housing materials also had to have a smooth surface on which the leaves of the cigar wouldn’t catch.

The support was created with one large piece of archival board (Timecare heritage conservation solid core board, 1500 microns) folded twice on the verso – after cutting two lines at 70 % of the thickness of the board with a scalpel on the recto (see fig. 1) – and three small pieces of the same board adhered with EVA-con (neutral pH synthetic adhesive) to the large piece. The three pieces followed the profile of a platform that had itself the profile of the cigar and space to support the envelope (see fig. 2).

Shaped archive board

Figure 1: Large piece of thick board cut twice at 70 % of the thickness on one side then turned over and folded at a 90 degrees angle.

Shaped archive board

Figure 2: Illustration of the cigar platform: one large piece of board folded twice at a 90 degrees angle; three pieces of board following the profile of the cigar are glued inside the large piece of board; one board following the profile of the cigar is glued on top of the three pieces of board.

Two layers of Japanese paper (Usumino Shiro, 17 gsm) were placed in the rounded bed before placing the cigar. Not only is Japanese paper a soft material but it will also make the handling easier in case the cigar had to be removed. Indeed, the cigar does not have to be touched but can be carried by holding the edges of the Japanese paper. We then fixed the objects with strips of polypropylene that we passed through slits made in the board and adhered on the back with archival double-sided tape.

The polypropylene strips securing the cigar were only lightly touching to avoid damaging the brittle object. To avoid the cigar sliding when the box is handled, we adhered a strip of Japanese paper in the rounded bed on each side of the cigar with a small amount of wheat starch paste (see fig. 3).

The platform was adhered to the profiled boards with EVA-con and two pieces of Archival paper (120 gsm) were pasted on the sides to make the support look neater and offer extra security if the cigar were to slide (see fig. 4).

The cigar in its housing

Figure 3: The cigar is sitting in its curved bed with strips of Japanese paper on each edge so the cigar cannot slide.


Side view of the cigar

Figure 4: Side view of the platform with a large piece of paper pasted on the side.

We added a polyester sheet on top to protect the objects from anything falling onto them and to prevent visitors from touching. This plastic sheet is only folded twice to the exact size of the support; no adhesive was used so the sheet can be easily replaced if damaged or dirty.

Finally, the support was placed in a clamshell box made of corrugated board (see fig. 5).

The cigar from above

Figure 5: View from above of the cigar platform in its clamshell box.

Erica D’Alessandro

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