Through The Conservation Keyhole: Invisible Conservation Work of the Visitors’ Book for New Lanark

Thanks to a grant from the Friends of Glasgow University Library, the New Lanark Visitors’ Book has been repaired and conserved.

Throughout the Visitors’ Book for the New Lanark project, I consulted paper and book conservator Louise Robertson for her opinion on key aspects of the visitor’s book conservation project.


Louise Robertson displays the book after conservation

What were the risks associated with the restoration and conservation treatment of the New Lanark Visitors Book?

For this particular binding the challenge was not to over repair the book. Following Conservation ethics, the aim is to arrest the damage and attempt to slow down further deterioration, whereas restoration would be to return it to looking ‘as new’. I was guided by the fact that the book would remain in a stable environment in a custom made box, so I tried to retain and reuse as much of the original as possible.

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The gallery of before and after photos from conservation treatment.

Do you have a conservation treatment report with photos of ‘Before’ and ‘After Treatment’?

A full conservation treatment report was completed, fully documented with photographs detailing the treatments carried out. The report also contains a ‘map’ of the textblock structure, which is very important when resewing a book as it notes damage, missing pages, sewing structures etc.


Louise explains the documentation process.

How long does it take to treat a book as a full project with full documentation from the first assessment with recommendations to the last?

Each book is unique and it can be hard to estimate exact treatment times until investigatory work begins. From the outside a binding can look in fair condition but when work begins it can bring up challenges and problems which initially would not have been noticed. In this case the treatment took 6 days to complete including boxing and writing up the report.


After treatment: examples of the book pages that have been repaired.

These discussions about conservation processes reflect an ongoing discussion within the conservation community about the methods by which archival materials should be conserved. Assessment of the archival records is a very important part of each conservation project and has been very useful in terms of understanding the causes of damage, relationships between materials and structure, and in allowing the consideration of various options. During all archive projects, the range of conservation treatments is discussed and agreed on by archivists and conservators.
Along with the treatment itself, the conservation documentation is an important part of the item’s conservation.

Our Archive offers a wide range of educational opportunities for students through work placements and compiling documentation with technical, historical, aesthetic and scientific information about records complementing “archivist’s story” for student research or future researchers.
Good comprehensive documentation from a conservator also explain why the conservation treatment and treatment choices were necessary, and where the records will be stored, exhibited or how they should be digitised.


Many thanks, Lou, for taking to us about your conservation work.

Categories: Archive Services


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