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Hampshire Archives and Local Studies

Paper repair

Paper documents are easily damaged.

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This document, a 99 year lease of land in Brockenhurst dated 1679 - Finding No 29M82/35 - had been folded into eight with resultant damage caused by damp and rodents occurring along the fold lines. Work starts with surface cleaning if the paper surface is fairly robust.

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Paper repair usually involves chemical stabilisation of the paper before the application of any repair materials. Inks and pigments are tested for stability and if safe, the document is immersed in purified water, which reduces staining and soluble acidity, and then in an alkaline solution to neutralise any remaining acidity.

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After chemical stabilisation, a 'traditional' repair is carried out which means that the document is kept wet during the process. As an initial step the document is placed on a support sheet and manipulated to flatten out any creases.

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Repairs are made to weakened areas using suitable papers and tissues to infill and support, applied with archival quality wheat starch paste adhesive. Resulting repairs are flexible but strong and should not inhibit the flexibility of the original paper.

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The document is dried under weight to flatten it, and any excess repair material then trimmed off. It will be placed in a clear polyester sleeve to protect it when it is used.


Conservator at work

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