Kylie Ladd and Professor Mark Pollei, Conservation Department HBLL
For my ORCA grant project, I enrolled in and completed a course called “Chemistry for Conservators”, offered by correspondence through International Academic Projects. The course provided me with good manuals and resources and taught me how chemistry applies to the field of conservation. The course was four months long. As it was by correspondences, I was responsible for keeping up with the work and experiments.
Personally, I found the course difficult in my situation, as I did not have much hands-on experiences to apply to understanding the concepts that I learned. I feel that the course was more targeted towards conservation professionals working in the field. However, through the experiments and readings, I was able to learn the principles and the resources I received with the course are resources that I plan to keep and use throughout my conservation schooling and career. Through the conservation experience that I have gained since completion of the course, I have recognized chemistry at work in conservation and have been able to understand the concepts even better.
Along with completeing the chemistry course, this summer I had the opportunity to take a course in San Gemini, Italy. The course was on beginning paper restoration. Over the course of the class, we completed the conservation of two projects – a Greek liturgical text from the 19th century and documents from the town’s archives. We discussed the various damages that can occur in a book – including chemical damages – and were able to see examples in the documents we repaired. During the conservation of these items, we were able to use chemical principles and processes such as solubility of ink and washing paper. Before we could start work on the documents from the San Gemini archives, we had to test the ink for solubility in water and alcohol.
We washed the printed book pages in a solution of water and sizing. The ink used for printing was not water soluble, which is why we were able to wash the paper without risk of further damages. The handwritten documents from the archives were water soluble so we weren’t able to use the same methods on those documents. Paper is made using water, which is why it is possible to use water to wash it. The water swells the ‘pores’ of the paper, which loosens the fibers and allows any dirt embedded in the paper to be released. The paper then comes our looking cleaner than before.