When A Conservation Effort Fails (Or Did It?)

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:

  1. Pull book from shelf.
  2. Enter bibliographic info into database.
  3. Look at the covers and binding.
  4. Look at the text block and paper.
  5. Record your observations.
  6. Put the book back on the shelf.
  7. 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.

Photo Jan 13, 10 01 46 AMThis 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.

Music score laminated in vinyl.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.

2 thoughts on “When A Conservation Effort Fails (Or Did It?)”

  1. Removing past repairs really isn’t black and white, is it? We often leave pressure-sensitive tape in place if it is not failing, even if it has created an unsightly stain on the paper, because removing it may cause more damage than leaving it in place or because it’s not worth the time and effort that tape removal requires. On that note, I just love when people outside the profession ask me to teach them “something really simple, like tape removal.”

    1. If only it was simple! Sometimes I feel like arguing for “provenance” and leaving all the old repairs in place. But I know I can’t do that.

      This one will be fun, if that is the right word, to figure out. Best case scenario is that the vinyl is only sticking to itself and not to the paper. That little air pocket around the paper gives me hope, but I’m probably hanging too much hope on 1mm of air.

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