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Feilding Archives Preservation Enquiry

The Community Archives Team, Wellington · 05 October 2010

Community Archives received the following enquiry from the Feilding Archives accompanied by these pictures. They have kindly given us permission to reprint the advice forwarded by our preservation team conservator.

Please find attached photos of a large, leather bound book. It is rather an elaborate text on John Bunyan's tales. It was presented to Robert Snodgrass as he and family left Liverpool and emigrated to Nelson in the 1880s.

The problem is - it has been sitting somewhere damp for the last 30 years after passing from Robert's granddaughter Winifred Short to one of her stepchildren when she died.

The front cover and most of the book is fine. It is the last few pages and the back cover that are affected by damp and mould. Restoration is currently beyond the budget. What can we do in the meantime? It is currently sitting in an enclosed box isolated from other papers.
Your expert advice is anticipated.

Here is the response from the conservator:

Polly Martin forwarded your query to me re your volume of John Bunyan's tales which has had some damage to its back covers due to damp. I've looked at the images she attached as well. It looks as if there has been some cockling (undulations) of the endpaper and pastedown of the back cover, and though there is not an image of the front cover, there may be some warping of that as well. I also see that there is some decorative metal banding that appears to be lifting along the fore-edge. It doesn't look like there is significant mould on those pages, at least not from what I can see from your images, which is a good thing, though you do mention it being an issue in some of the book.

(Our conservator has gone on to outline some of the basic requirements which are already being implemented by Feilding Archives. However we chose to include this for the benefit of those who may be just starting out in archival management or who are looking to increase their knowledge of conservation processes)

You have done the right thing in placing the book in an enclosed box, and though I would suggest you have a conservator assess the volume at some point, focusing on proper storage, handling and environment is very important and the best thing to do in the mean-time. For long-term storage I would suggest you store the book flat in an acid-free, high quality box (I have listed some suppliers below), and keep it in a dry, cool area, that is not exposed to direct sunlight. I would also keep it away from sources of heat and anywhere that you know may be prone to dampness. Do not store it on the floor or against an outside wall. Try to handle the volume only when necessary, and make sure your hands are clean and dry when you do so. Because of the metallic elements that appear to be present, wearing cotton gloves when you handle the volume is also a good idea. Also, place the book on a clean pillow or other soft surface in order to support the spine when you look at it and to help prevent it opening at such a wide angle that it may be damaged. Make a small depression in the pillow for the spine to sit in, so that the covers are supported when you open the book to view it. Do not disturb any areas of mould and make sure you wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

I would not recommend that you try to flatten or smooth out the creasing you see in the papers at the back of the book, and I'd also suggest that you store the book face down in its box, so that the creased areas at the back do not have the full weight of the rest of the book on them, if you do plan to have the book treated at some point. This may help reduce further damage to the papers along the raised areas of the creases. Do not use any sort of leather conditioners or metal polish on the book or its metallic elements. If there is any surface dust on the cover of the book, just use a clean, soft, dry cloth or very soft brush to gently dust the surface - however do not do this on mouldy areas!

Do not rub or pick at any embedded dirt or stains. If the metal clasps still close easily then I would suggest you leave them closed as it may help the book to remain in a flatter state, however if they are under a lot of tension or the book itself is warped enough that they cannot be closed easily then I would suggest you leave them open so less pressure is placed on the binding. You can hold the book closed with some gentle tension without using the clasps by using some cotton twill ribbon (called 'tying tape' but is not adhesive, its just cotton).

This will place some pressure on the creased areas of the pages which were affected by damp, so I'd probably use just very minimal tension. If you are not sure, don't restrain the book at all. If the mould is more severe in some areas of the book, I'd suggest not restraining it or closing the clasps so there is more air circulation around the pages.
Even if you don't plan on having the book treated, I'd still recommend you have a conservator assess the volume in order to give you more specific storage and handling recommendations as my suggestions are all just general as I've only seen your photographs and not the book itself. They may also be able to suggest staged treatment - just treating the mould initially for example.

Suppliers of archival boxes and other supplies:
Port Nicholson packaging: (see Archival section - boxes, gloves)
Triptych: (custom boxes, other care and handling products such as pillows and weights)
Conservation supplies: (boxes, gloves, cotton tying tape unbleached)

Comments on this Blog

Comments 3 Comments · Post a comment here

I think the Triptych link posted above isn't the right one for conservation, although their business is book keeping.
Try this one -

· Posted 11 July 2012

Well, this is all very interesting. I come from Feilding and didn't know there was a Feilding Archives. Since I have a number of old books with stains etc I would appreciate the phone number of the Feilding Archives you mention.
Stella James
06 3231059

· Posted 22 February 2011

Moving Home? At Smart Storage Boxes we offer a wide selection of smart moving boxes, packs, bubble wraps, foam protectors, loose fills,tissue papers with tapes and markers to meet your requirements. For details log on to

· Posted 10 January 2011

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