We are conducting a collections survey of the Music Library’s locked stacks in order to develop a conservation plan for the items held there. Surveying can be fun, but it can also be routine and repetitive:
- Pull book from shelf.
- Enter bibliographic info into database.
- Look at the covers and binding.
- Look at the text block and paper.
- Record your observations.
- Put the book back on the shelf.
- Repeat hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times.
It is easy to feel that you have seen every book there is to see and nothing could surprise you. Then you open the next score on the shelf and you gasp out loud.
This brittle music score has had some pretty awful repairs done to it in the distant past (emphasis on distant). My guess is that when it was first damaged someone used self adhesive tape to repair it. Fair enough, it’s a common impulse and often seen in scores. When those repairs failed and the paper was too brittle to repair, it was laminated between two vinyl sheets AND stapled AND glued into a pamphlet binder.
There appears to be a little air pocket about a millimeter in width around the score. I tried picking around the edges of the vinyl with to see if it would come away easily. No luck. We’ll have to bring this to the lab to see if there is something we can do to remove the lamination. Digitization may be the best option at this point given the condition of the paper.
As horrible as this treatment is, if not for the lamination, this score may have ceased to exist long ago. Yes, the treatment is actively damaging the paper, but it also kept all the pieces together.
We have a lot of discussions about when to undo previous repairs, and whether or not we should spend time working on items whose repairs may be unsightly but are still functioning and not causing further harm. It’s a worthy discussion to have. But this one is crying out for undoing if at all possible. It went into the database as “treat immediately” and we will be talking to the head of the Music Library about treatment options when it gets to the lab.