Paper and photographs

These case studies show how preventive conservation can help preserve paper objects and yet keep them accessible in the long term.  

The Baird Television Transmitter c1926

John Logie Baird was a Scottish engineer and innovator.  He was one of the inventors of the mechanical television, demonstrating the first working television system on 26 January 1926, and inventor of both the first publicly demonstrated colour television system, and the first purely electronic colour television picture tube.  

Falkirk Museums asked us to help with the conservation of the oldest piece of equipment made by John Logie Baird known to exist. Essentially a camera, it has cardboard discs that rotated to scan a lit image. A light sensitive cell, which sadly has not survived, converted the image into electrical current. The current was then sent by wire or radio waves to a remote receiver that converted the current back into a picture.

The two original card discs were in a degraded and fragile state, and had old repairs on them.  We suggested that we should stabilise the original discs, to strengthen them and improve their appearance, but that they were too degraded for using them in demonstrations at the museum.  Instead of taking this treatment further we would instead create replica card discs that could be used in the demonstrations, and we would make special boxes to protect the old (and new) discs to protect them and facilitate careful handling.

We worked with a model maker who produced exact replica metal components (spindles and screws) to place in the new card discs. 

The individual boxes were designed to fully support the card discs. The boxes, which are clearly labelled, can be turned over so the discs can be studied from top and bottom sides without having to be directly handled.  We provided advice to guide safe storage and handling practices.

The project was funded by the Association of Independent Museums Remedial Conservation Grant Scheme.  The AIM Grants and Finance Officer wrote:  'The treatment report is an amazing read and the replicas will really help with the understanding of the object – what a great conservation project.'

One of the damaged card discs, before treatment.
original and replic
The conserved original disc, and the replica of it, in their new storage boxes.
all in boxes
The two replica discs and the two original discs in their individual boxes, and a storage box to hold them all.
images 3
The assembled Television Transmitter, the first ever in the world, as invented by the Scottish engineer John Logie Baird.

Canadian Grant of Land document 1832

A Canadian client brought this document to the Studio. It had been in her family’s possession since, having emigrated from the Isle of Skye, they purchased land in Ontario in 1832. 

The parchment was folded and stiff, and the William IV wax seal cracked and fragile.  The client was eager for the document to be flattened so it could be read.  But I was anxious that after it was unfolded it would be harder to keep safely.

I proposed that I would carry out the flattening treatment to the parchment, and repair the wax seal. I would then create a mount that also served as a storage box.  A folding support was created: the flattened document was secured to the inside of the ‘lid’ with strips of Melinex.  The wax seal was embedded in a Plastazote recess on the base of the mount. A slip case was made to house the mount so it stayed closed and could be stored vertically on a bookcase. A photocopy of the inscription on the back of the parchment was pasted to the base of the mount to save the document being handled to access the back of it.

1 Before treatment 2
The parchment document and seal before treatment. The document was impossible to unfold and read in this state.
1 Before treatment 4
The cracked and fragile seal before treatment.
After treatment 1
The document after unfolding and flattening, with its seal,
Seal after treatment 1
The repaired seal.
folder and slip case 1
The conserved work in its mount, with the slip case.

Robert Dick herbarium

We have treated and re-housed several hundred fragile herbarium sheets from Caithness Horizons Museum.  The sheets were difficult for the museum to display and for researchers to handle for studying without causing damage.  After discussions with the Curator we devised a mounting system that supports the sheets in display drawers, and fits a standard size storage box that we make.

First we cleaned the paper sheets with their mounted plant specimens to remove surface dirt, and then re-adhered any loose plant elements.  Each specimen sheet was then mounted to a good quality card backing to give it rigid support, and given a window-mount to cover the edges so they held down, look neat, have a handling edge, and to protect the plant specimens from being crushed when the specimens are stacked up.

We made lidded boxes from acid-free corrugated card with a drop-down side making access to the mounted sheets very easy and safe.

Group before treatment
A set of sheets before mounting
Herbarium attaching sheet to new mount 4
Attaching a herbarium sheet to a mount
Mount making set up
Making multiple mounts for the herbarium
Mounting set up 1
Herbarium G 007
A set of four individually mounted herbarium sheets
A stack of mounted herbarium sheets
Box making 3
Making custom boxes for the mounted sheets
Box making 4
The boxes were designed to facilitate safe handling, with drop sides and easy opening but with strong support
Mount making 1
Fronts and backs of mounts cut from buffered rag card ready for assembly