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Thursday, June 1 • 11:30am - 12:00pm
(Book & Paper) The Challenge of Scale Revisited: Lessons learned from treatment and mounting an exhibition of 160 illuminated manuscripts

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The Challenge of Scale Revisited: Lessons learned from treatment and mounting an exhibition of 160 illuminated manuscripts This presentation will describe changes incurred to the Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts from their use in the large-scale exhibition Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections. The findings will be used to evaluate and refine the treatment protocol for unstable media in illuminated manuscripts developed at the Weissman Preservation Center, Harvard Library. In addition, the presentation will offer valuable lessons learned from staff management to mount-making for this exhibition, unprecedented for its kind in scale. The presentation also serves as a critical companion to The Challenge of Scale: treatment of 160 illuminated manuscripts for exhibition as presented at the AIC annual conference in Montreal (2016). In preparing for installation, cradle making and strapping techniques previously established for Houghton Library were evaluated and modified to suit the three exhibition venues: the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, the McMullen Museum of Art, and Houghton Library. Our method of making life-size drawings for oversize cradles for the Plexiglas vendor will be shared. Traditional strapping approaches were examined, materials tested for suitability, and our approach using nylon monofilament thread will be presented. Nearly all of the framed objects were mounted with a non-adhesive attachment. Our method of compiling condition checks and team approach to installation will also be discussed. Rather than consider the project complete with installation, the senior conservators will make this an opportunity to critically review a selection of manuscripts following the exhibition. Beginning in January 2017, approximately 10% of the exhibited manuscripts will be selected and re-examined for changes. Our treatment protocol included all procedures, judgment criteria, and a detailed documentation method using images marked in Photoshop. Conservators will closely compare the pre- and post-exhibit condition for each manuscript by which new or resurgent areas of insecure media will be clearly apparent. This level of review will allow us to determine if the protocol provided adequate stability for the rigors of exhibition including handling by researchers, imaging services, packing and transport, as well as installation. The data gathered will make it possible to identify what worked and what didn't, evaluate the accuracy of our time estimates, inform and refine the consolidation protocol, improve our project management, and ultimately refine our best practices in preserving the manuscripts in our care. In sum, the large scale of the Beyond Words exhibition significantly affected all aspects of the project. The team-based approach used for conservation treatment continued throughout mount fabrication, condition checking, and on-site installation work. It required the involvement of conservators with varied backgrounds and approaches to agree on standards and share workloads in order to complete high quality work in a reasonable time frame. We are keen to share what we have learned with the wider conservation community.

avatar for Alan Puglia, [PA]

Alan Puglia, [PA]

Senior Rare Book Conservator, Harvard Library, Weissman Preservation Center
Alan Puglia is the Senior Rare Book Conservator at the Weissman Preservation Center at Harvard University. Alan is responsible for managing and coordinating the conservation of special collections, primarily bound materials, throughout Harvard libraries. A graduate of the University... Read More →

avatar for Debora Mayer

Debora Mayer

Helen H. Glaser Conservator, Harvard Library, Weissman Preservation Center
Debora D. Mayer is the Helen H. Glaser Senior Paper Conservator at the Weissman Preservation Center at Harvard University. Debora is responsible for the conservation of rare and unique materials, largely unbound, held in special collections throughout Harvard libraries. She has over... Read More →

Thursday June 1, 2017 11:30am - 12:00pm CDT
Regency A-B Ballroom Level, West Tower