Session 2 LMA 24th January 2020. Handling and protection

Last week’s SMART art group session was all about different papers and card, before people made beautiful Masu origami boxes. That fed straight into today’s LMA session.

A slow bus journey from SMARTs Chelsea base to LMA in Farringdon, so we did everything we planned except visit the Box Machine. Caroline met us in the Huntley Room with archivist Sally Bevan and the group went into the Conservation Studio to hear about the history of the St Luke’s Hospital archive. There was talk about the language of diagnosis in the past and now.

After lunch we returned to the Studio where the table was prepared with a couple of volumes for each person, box measuring frames and worksheets to record measurements and label information. Boxes protect books from damage by handling so that they can be used for research. They are a buffer between the book and environmental factors that affect organic materials like high humidity, dirt and pests.

The box measuring frames are like shoe fitting guages for height, depth and width. Each box must be accurately measured to its largest dimension so that the volume fits snugly inside a bespoke box and can’t be damaged by moving inside the box. The label number and measurements have to be recorded together so that the box is correctly matched to it’s book – LMA are boxing so many volumes from their enormous collection that a volume’s number is essential to keep track of the books.

Its trickier than it sounds! And fun to do.

The boxes are cut on the laser box machine, with their label number etched on the outside. There are different styles of boxes for different types and sizes of volumes – some like envelopes, others like box files. We will see if we’ve got the measurements right next session, as the boxes will be made up between times.

Next session on 7th Feb will be a visit to the box machine, placing boxes around the volumes, learning about agents of deterioration and making folders.

Conservation for Wellbeing Session 1, London Metropolitan Archives 10th Jan 2020

People came from SMART’s base in Chelsea by the Number 19 bus to LMA at Farringdon. The session began at 11.30, when we met at the Huntley Room, then Caroline de Stefani, Head of the Conservation Studio, took us on a tour of strong rooms with new and old roller racking. Climate is controlled by the building’s thermal mass to be at a regular temperature of 17 degrees, with relative humidity of 45 – 50%. We also went into a film store, where the temperature was lower to reduce relative humidity, trying to slow deterioration of the film stock. We broke for lunch, then went into the Conservation Studio, where Caroline showed us the wet area, demonstrated a humidity chamber for working on parchment, and identified some of the equipment, including guillotines, presses, and a book measure. She introduced us to a colleague, Georgia, who talked about a volume she is starting to work on, and also showed an ‘after’, a re-bound and cleaned set of document. We then looked at 19th Century volumes of documents from St Luke’s Hospital – registers and case books, as well as photographs from Banstead Hospital in the1920s and 30s. Next session will involve making boxes…