So I’m back at Southwestern University, only this time not as an employee but as a volunteer. I decided to focus on finding out what I could do with myself regarding conservation/preservation, so after a brief hiatus, I’m back in the lab working on these four volumes of Geography books.

Today I will to some small tissue mends on pages that have already been flattened, and then of course dampen and press other pages for work next time.

Also, this time I have a very small camera lens to take some super close pictures of the work I’m doing today – they will probably come out more “artsy” than technical, but it might help others see things like a beveled edge on a tear etc. We will see how this pans out!

This photo shows a tear in a foldout map – but as you can see, it looks more like the paper has deteriorated and crumbled away from repeated use and folding. The paper around it looks soft and dusty.


Another important component in working on books you are preserving is to prop them up/open while you are working! The spine of this type of book is carefully preserved by not allowing it to open fully – you wouldn’t want, for example, to lay it flat on the table. Given that books of this age are constructed by sewing the signatures in with thread, that thread has become brittle over time and will break if stressed. Here I have propped a volume open using some lead weights covered in felt – I need to prevent the front cover from opening all the way. Now I can work more on the first few pages.


Another thing that just came to mind – Southwestern University’s Special Collections, like most Special Collections, keeps a close eye on their collections. Careful notes are made about when a book is used, especially if the item is removed and placed on exhibit, or in this instance, removed for repair.

Making wheat paste is fairly simple for these tiny repairs. Powdered wheat paste and distilled water are combined, being careful there are no lumps in the mixture. Once the wheat paste is mixed, it needs to be refrigerated to be used again. I make a very small amount to I don’t have to worry about a large amount going bad in the fridge.

More next week!

2 thoughts on “Volunteering!

  1. The explanation of your process is very interesting to me. And the before and after pictures are great! Nice work!

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