Monday, August 29, 2011

Love that Dirty Water? Not Quite

Earlier this year a library staff member brought me a badly water-damaged item. What follows is a photo essay of the preservation process. Here's how the item looked when it first arrived in the preservation lab:
It kind of looked like a topographic map had been added to the cover. The item was dry when I received it, and my best guess is it had been in the path of a periodic leak. The drying and subsequent wetting of the item could cause rings of varying sizes. A close up of the title and images:Sediment from the water was left at the edges of the puddles as the water dried, creating dark rings of hardened sediment. The rings from a slightly different angle:

The cover of the book has a glossy finish which both saved this item from being destroyed and allowed for cleaning. Using a cotton swab dipped in distilled water, I carefully tested one small area of the cover to see if it would come clean. This test showed positive results and I began slowly cleaning the entire cover. After a bit of cleaning, this was the result:

The top layer of dirt was removed from the majority of the cover and many cotton swabs were used in the process. Blotter paper was put on both sides of the front cover and the item was placed under weights overnight. This process helped to draw out any remaining dampness from the cover and help prevent further warping from water absorption.

After the remaining area of dirt had been cleaned, I was left with only the toughest areas of residue to clean.
The first layer of dirt had been easy to lift with just a damp cotton swab. However for this next phase of cleaning, I swabbed on a bit of distilled water and let it sit for about one minute before I began lifting the dirt with a damp cotton swab. This technique proved quite effective, though I was careful to keep the water used on the item to a minimum. If I had to leave the item for any substantial amount of time I would sandwich it between blotter paper and put it under weights.

The result of this detailed work is an item that looks remarkably beautiful when compared to its pre-preservation state:
There is still a bit of staining along the top edge where the water was able to migrate between the glossy top layer and the backing paper. Removal of a section of the glossy layer might aid in further cleaning, however I am reluctant to remove it as it includes the grid design seen throughout the cover. A custom phase box will be the last step in preserving this item. I leave you with one final shot of the title and images:

- Lacy Stoneburner, Preservation Librarian