Conserving the Campbell Citation
The Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust used a local freelance bookbinder and archive conservator – Helen – to investigate, make recommendations and proceed with the work to save the Campbell Citation for future generations. Read more about the citation on this link. Helen’s report is summarised below and makes for a fascinating read. The item was conserved during May 2019 when conservation treatment was urgently required due to extensive mould visible on the item, both on the front of the citation and mount, and on the rear of the frame.
Excerpts from the Framed Campbell Citation Conservation Report
A document on card, with an illuminated manuscript citation, set within a wide mount, the mount being variously illustrated in watercolour. The whole framed and glazed in a wide carved wooden frame, with wooden backboard and inner frame nailed into place and a hanging chain fixed to the rear. The treatment option chosen included de-framing the item, cleaning and mould removal, and re-framing to conservation standards.
The first step was to carefully clean the frame of dust, dirt and insect debris as well as mould. It was found that the backboard had bowed and split into several sections. The rusted nails holding these in place were extracted so the board pieces could be lifted away. This revealed extensive mould on the rear of the mount and citation, which was removed using brushes and a HEPA-filtered conservation vacuum. Additionally, several strips of card, presumably inserted as a compensating layer, were also cleaned of loose mould and dirt and removed. These, along with the original backboard pieces, were packaged, labelled and stored for future reference.
The citation and illustrated window mount were adhered together in places, although much of this adhesive had failed, so they were carefully lifted from the frame together and dry cleaned. After this a small amount of adhesive, in the form of cooked wheat starch paste, was used to reinforce the attachment between the citation and the mount.
As the citation itself was delaminating, wheat starch paste was also used to re-adhere the layers, and as added security, two hinges of Japanese tissue were added to ensure the citation would not detach from the mount if the remaining old adhesive failed.
The remaining rusted nails were removed to allow the inner frame and glazing to be lifted out and cleaned. The outer frame required extensive mechanical cleaning (often under magnification), using a variety of tools and materials including dissecting needles – used to carefully pick out ingrained wax polish, insect debris and encrusted dirt from the deep grain and intricately carved areas of the wood. Most of the corrosion products were lightly cleaned from the hanging fittings and the fittings inspected.
During the process of opening the frame, the corner mitres gradually parted, with one completely separating. The frame mitres were found to be held together by wooden dowels only, with no trace of adhesive strengthening. The weight of the glazing plus the inner frame, citation and mount puts strain on these joints, and therefore to strengthen the mitres and reduce any risk of them opening up in future, the decision was made to add a corner bracket to the rear of each mitre.
The inner border of the frame front had originally been decorated with a thin strip of gilded wood. Much of this strip had already become detached and lost, and the remainder was extremely worn, fragile and cracked. During the treatment of the frame, the remaining parts of the gilt strip became fully detached. Some intact sections were supported on archival tissue and encapsulated in archival polyester, for future reference.
Larvae imbedded in intricately carved frame.
Mould, rusty nails, general degradation of back of citation.
The inner frame was prepared with a lining of conservation tape and re-attached to the outer frame using brass fixing plates hand-moulded to the correct shape. Conservation glazing was used instead of the original glass to reduce the amount of harmful UV light reaching the citation and decorated window mount, and thin strips of archival board were placed around the edges as spacers between the window mount and the glass.
Next, the citation and its decorative mount were fitted into the frame, with new archival board compensating strips and rear mount, followed by a layer of archival polyester moulded over the inner frame and sealed using a conservation framing tape. This polyester layer acts as a barrier between the external environment and the object, reducing the impact of environmental fluctuations upon the citation and mount. A new backboard was fixed in place and the gaps sealed using traditional gummed framers tape.
The conserved citation was put on display in the Porthole Room following an official ‘launch’ attended by Helen and a member of the Campbell family who kindly travelled from the other side of the country to do the honours. Now, the citation has been digitally copied and is currently stored in the Pier’s Archive awaiting the end of the Covid pandemic and hopefully the chance for it to be put on more regular display within the Tollhouse.
Thanks also go to Clevedon Salesroom Clevedon Salerooms – Bristol Specialist & Fine Art Auctioneers (clevedon-salerooms.com) for their ongoing support for the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive Service – in this case with the loan of a magnificent (and heavy!) Victorian easel so that we could put the Campbell Citation on display.
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