In the Stettinius Gallery hallway on the second floor of Alderman Library, Preservation Services presents an exhibition of preservation/conservation tools to celebrate Preservation Week, which begins on April 21, 2013. Please also visit the online version of the exhibit. Department member Leigh Rockey gathered materials and information for the display, and she came across a few morsels of preservation and conservation info that she would like to share.
Leigh says: It’s difficult to decide which tools, materials, and equipment to feature in the hallway display because there are so many of them! And, of course, they’re all fascinating in some way. Let’s look at the Twitter profile pic for @UvaLibPreserve, at left. It contains many of the basics—embroidery scissors, linen thread, a bamboo hake brush, a tacking iron, methyl cellulose paste, wheat starch paste, a ruler, an eraser, an awl, a spatula, a scalpel, and a brick weight—and that’s a just a few of the tools used in the care of library items!
Please note that there are two kinds of paste shown in this picture.
In the clear Tupperware container is methyl cellulose, which may sound intimidating, but it’s just plant fiber that’s been processed with caustic soda. Preservation and conservation labs use methyl cellulose mainly as an adhesive, to secure papers and boards. It’s also used to loosen and then clean off old glue from spines and book cover boards.
Interestingly, we’ve all eaten methyl cellulose. It’s in a lot of fast food shakes, processed cheese, puddings, batters, sports drinks, some soups and sauces, processed meat, peanut butter, candy, etc., chiefly as a thickening agent. It just also happens to be a stable adhesive that doesn’t stain or discolor paper.
The large white pill bottle contains wheat starch paste. A bit stronger than methyl cellulose, starch adhesives are ubiquitous in preservation and conservation labs.
Methyl cellulose and starch pastes meet all the criteria for mending library materials—they do not yellow, darken, or stain paper; they retain adhesive strength for a long time; the adhesion is reversible (you can undo repairs, even after a long period of time, without damage to the original library item); and they do not contain preservatives or chemicals harmful to paper, boards, leather, etc.