Housing the Fairbairn Collection

The Fairbairn collection includes over 100 artefacts of various types; clothing, a sword,  hair ornaments made out of human hair, items used for sewing , just to name a few. All of these objects need to be stored in the best possible way.

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Housing is the process of making protective enclosures for objects to be stored in. By housing an object or group of objects we are creating a micro environment; temperature and humidity become more stable, direct light is deflected, materials are not damaged when handled or when placed on a shelf. Housing can be a box, folder or tray that has been custom made and fitted out to the exact requirements of the object. Inert materials and/or  acid free board are used.

Some of the objects in the Fairbairn collection required conservation treatment before they were housed. For example, the leather had detached from the front of this object but was reattached during treatment.

Some objects required individual housing (for example clothing items, sword and shoes) but the majority of the objects could be housed in groups. These groups were determined by object type and the material it was made of (for example all the coin purses made from similar materials are in a group).

purses

This was done not only for ease of locating a particular object but because different material types can need different storage conditions and some materials can affect other materials if stored together (for example the vapours released from wood can cause metals to corrode).

laying-out-objects

Each object was arranged to fit into a box in such a way so that its weight would be evenly supported and so that it can be retrieved without being damaged or damaging neighbouring objects. Then layers of board and/or foam were built up to support the items.

open-box-showing-contet-including-glasses-stamp

Labels were placed to give direction on safely removing the objects from there housing. Labels were also placed on the outside of the boxes to identify what each box holds  as well as the correct way to place each object inside the box.

lables-on-housing

Custom supports were made for some objects. For example the internal support for this hat.

 

Each item in the Fairbairn collection has now been housed and placed carefully into long term storage with the rest of the State Library of Western Australia’s collection.

Equipment used in the Conservation Lab

There are many valued and interesting pieces of equipment necessary for us to properly treat objects in the lab. Let me introduce you to some of them!

Board cutting machine

Valiani

As the name suggests we use a board cutting machine to cut board. This machine is used daily to cut and crease boxes which are then folded and glued by hand.

We also use the board cutting machine to cut out mats when framing objects, inserts to fit out boxes and backing boards. In fact anything that fits the dimensions of the table and is made of board may be cut using this machine.

In the past boxes, folders and cutting mats were done by hand. It took approximately 40 hours to make 30 boxes. We are now able to cut up to 65 tailor made boxes per day, i.e. each book is measured and a perfect match is produced.  Conservation is currently running a boxing program to house all our Rare Heritage materials. We box as a preventative measure to protect materials. By boxing we are creating a micro environment; temperature and humidity become more stable, direct light is deflected, materials are not damaged when handled or when placed on a shelf.

Boxes                                   Folders                                  Mats

A microscope is a handy piece of equipment to have around when your job is to see what is wrong with an object and to try to stop it from deteriorating further. Using a microscope to examine an object can allow us to see problems that cannot be seen by the naked eye and closely investigate problems in greater detail. Currently this microscope is been used on our photographic panoramas.

Microscope

full shot microscope

A microscope is a handy piece of equipment to have around when your job is to see what is wrong with an object and to try to stop it from deteriorating further. Using a microscope to examine an object can allow us to see problems that cannot be seen by the naked eye and closely investigate problems in greater detail. Currently this microscope is been used on our photographic panoramas.

Item been worked on                         Through the Microscope

Using a microscope in this example has allowed for tears to be correctly aligned; to consolidate flaking gelatine; to accurately repair small losses and assist with the application of a surface gelatine cote over both scratches and tears where necessary.

Suction/Humidification Table

Suction Table                                            Humidification Chamber

The suction table is used for any porous 2-dimensional collection items, usually paper or textile. The perforated surface of the table is equipped with an adjustable suction level to suit  various treatments, for example; localised washing of dirt and/or stains, controlled drying, lining and treatments where it is necessary to monitor humidity or use a liquid solution safely.

The humidification chamber sits on top of the suction table and can be used for mass humidification, humidifying large objects or applying steam as the best option. We often humidify an item preparing  it for flattening.

Did you find this article interesting? Would you like to hear more about the conservation lab or our equipment? Please comment below with any questions, suggestions or feedback below.

Conservation

Welcome to the Conservation Lab!

We have been updating our space recently. We now have a redesigned space and new equipment to make our job easier and more efficient. Have a look at some before and after shoots below. As we use some of these fun new things we will post updates on this blog – so look out!

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Before and after lab refurbishment

We haven’t posted here before so let me introduce the team…

The conservation team has the job of caring for the objects in the Library’s collection. We aim to minimise change to collection material and keep it in its best condition for people now and for generations to come. There are five full time staff; two conservators, a book binder and two conservation technicians.

We look after all sorts of objects from those you would usually see in a library to those that are more unexpected (e.g. trowels, shoes, paintings, giant sculptures, etc.)
DSC_0642
Cleaning Maintenance of Akio Makigawa’s Marble Sculpture “Gate to Coalescence”

The work we carry out can generally be divided into two categories; preventative work or a treatment.

Preventative conservation aims to avoid damage to items by looking after the environmental conditions, educating staff and clients about handling of heritage items, housing material appropriately and running an Integrated Pest Management program.  As part of this program we inspect all items coming into the collection for bugs, mould and assess how dirty they are.
Mould example for blog
Mould infested receipt book.

Treatments may range from something very minor such as erasing an accidental lead pencil mark to a major treatment like rebuilding an item without all the original pieces. In our treatments we aim to use minimal intervention and for every treatment to be reversible.

Ladder before   Ladder after
Panorama of Perth Water (Before and after treatment)  Panorama of Perth water taken from Jacob’s Ladder [BA689]

Rob before    Rob After
Crew of Rob Roy (Before and after treatment)  Crew of Rob Roy [5203B]

Imagine the possibilities..Library and Information Week at the State Library 25-31 May 2015

Behind the Scenes Tours711A 49
Visit the State Library on Tuesday or Thursday next week and find out just a little about the fascinating preservation and conservation work that is so essential to the care of our most precious heritage items. Sessions are free but bookings are essential. 

Your Library Online
Come along on Friday 29th May and learn how to be an effective online researcher to find what you need when looking at the Library catalogue and our online databases and journals. Session is free but bookings are essential.

National Simultaneous Storytime
Join us on Wednesday 27th May to listen to The Brothers Quibble by Aaron Blabey read
at the same time to children around Australia.  All children (with carers) welcome. Storytime is held in the children’s area The Place on the mezzanine level. No Bookings are required.

The Place

The Place