Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Balfour Library Conservation Project - how are the books cleaned?

The CAMdfas Heritage Volunteers are simply using specialist brushes and other equipment to clean the books:

The work area. The desks are protected with heavy duty polythene, which are wiped down at the end of every session.

Natural hog bristle brushes, used for cleaning the spines and boards (covers) and text blocks of books. Note that we have used two colours of electrical tape on the metal ferrules. The black indicates that the brush should be used for the really dirty text block edges (as Wendy demonstrates below) and boards. The green indicates the brush should be used for pages inside the books where relevant. The tape also protects the books from the metal ferrules.

Natural hog bristle shaving brushes, from the local chemist! Hog bristle is quite robust and removes an impressive amount of dirt.

Pony hair brushes used for smaller books and more delicate materials.

The brushes are cleaned at the end of every session with soap and water, and are left to dry naturally.
Wendy demonstrating how the brushes are used along the text block to remove dirt in to a bin. We tried to show the amount of dust coming off but we're not sure it's visible! The technique when cleaning the text blocks is to always move the brush outwards from the spine. Similarly when cleaning the boards, the brush strokes should fan out from the centre of the spine.

Microfibre cloths from the local supermarket. They are used for cleaning and drying the shelves and desks. They need to be washed after every session as they get so filthy.

The volunteers wear protective clothing such as face masks with filters to prevent them inhaling anything nasty, and vinyl gloves, and glamorous aprons.

If the volunteers find anything sticking out of the books that is getting damaged or causing damage to the book it is removed and logged on index cards and bagged in separate clear polythene self-seal bags (purchased from a well-known high street store!)

A manuscript has been removed from the book.

The volunteers make a note of the books they are cleaning at every session, and record anything relevant such as any damage found, and where they have bagged a loose item. They quickly flick through each book and clean the inside pages where required, and note the condition and any damage found (more of which later).

Cards with numbers on. These are ingenious! When removing books from the shelves, the first book on the shelf has the number 1 card placed in it, and so on, until the last book on the shelf. The different colours are used when removing more than one shelf at a time. This means that the volunteers don't have to worry about what order they are cleaning books in. The books are also much easier to re-shelve in the correct order, rather than trying to follow often obscure classmarks.

If the boards are detached or detaching from a book then it is necessary to tie them to the book using specialist cotton tape (more of this in a later blog post).

The volunteers seem remarkably unfazed by the amount of dirt! All of the equipment being used is quite inexpensive and readily available. The most valuable thing is the volunteers' time spent on carefully cleaning and recording the books.