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Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Toronto Area Archivists’ Group’s Fall Workshop: Simple Preservation Treatments for Flat Records. Rose Newlove, a freelance conservator whose work focuses on paper, archival materials and books, led the workshop. Her work focuses largely on preventative conservation rather than restorative work – the goal of this is to stabilize archives to prevent further damage. I attended the workshop with two of my colleagues from the heritage community, Amber Mandich and Alyssa Reynolds. This full-day, hands-on workshop taught basic treatments for the care of archival collections. Various techniques, including surface cleaning, fastener removal, opening of folded and rolled documents, releasing simple creases, and stabilizing tears were covered. The workshop also discussed workstation set up, methods to fully support records, how to keep a record of work done, and various materials and resources. Each participant was given a personalized folder, full of useful information. This includes a list of preservation materials, and where to purchase them, but also “cheat sheet” notes for flattening folded or rolled papers, humidification, and proper cleaning techniques. As the workshop was hands-on, it will be great to have written reminders of all that we learned. After the workshop, Rose also emailed all the participants an extensive list of quality preservation and conservation materials, along with helpful info like cost, size and where to purchase. The workshop started by discussing basic concepts such as preparing your workspace, the proper handling of archival materials, removing fasteners and staples, and writing condition reports.

Rose Newlove demonstrating proper cleaning techniques

Rose Newlove demonstrating proper cleaning techniques (photo from AAO’s Facebook page)

Next we got into cleaning documents. Depending on how dirty your document was, there were a variety of cleaning steps you could try, with each step increasing in aggressiveness. The obvious place to start is to gently brush the item. Then you can try a variety of materials such as Absorene, conservation erasers or a Magic Rub. While I had heard of Magic Rubs before, I had never used them. After this workshop, I can truthfully say that they deserve the name magic – they work amazingly well. The real fun came towards the end of the day. Rose showed us how to use humidification (a scary thing when dealing with documents!) to release creases and flatten folded and rolled documents. It was really interesting to see how a little water in the right place with the right materials could transform a problematic document.

A conservator uses a wide variety of tools in their work

A conservator uses a wide variety of tools in their work

Then we learned how to fix tears. This is a treatment that really requires you to have the proper materials. First you need wheat starch gel, which you can either buy or make yourself. Next you need Kozo tissues – this is a really cool type of thin paper that when torn into strips, has little caterpillar fibers coming out the sides. Your Kozo tissue strip should be a little longer than your tear. Brush some gel on a “pasting surface” – something like frosted glass, formica, etc. Use tweezers to place your strip into the gel, and allow it to soak some up, than carefully place your strip over the tear. Using a small brush, brush out the fibers to the side so they spread out and bind with the paper. Then, use some proper weighting materials to ensure the tear dries flat. And voilà! The tear will be completely fixed. It’s surprisingly simple. All of the participants in the workshop were gifted with Carr-McLean swag bags, and Carr-McLean even donated two raffle prizes! My colleague Amber Mandich won a set of archival-grade storage supplies. Overall, the workshop was a very rewarding experience, with lots of new and interesting tips learned.

Swag from Carr-McLean

Swag from Carr-McLean

A huge thank you to the Toronto Area Archivists’ Group for hosting such a wonderful workshop, and thank you as well to the instructor, Rose Newlove.

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