Unrolling and documenting

Unrolling and documenting, Max Gill, Sirpa Kutilainen, University of Brighton Design Archives
Documentation of one of the Gill items to be exhibited

Yesterday I spent the entire day going through the pieces delivered at the end of February for documentation purposes. This was also a really nice way to familiarise myself with the objects prior to taking them to the conservation studio for the planned dates early April. The decision to document the objects before delivery to the conservation studio was made to save time on the two days of conservation that are budgeted into the exhibition plan.

There were 31 pieces in total to go through and to document these in one day was no mean feat! Prior to starting to unroll the objects, I had to make sure I had a table space large enough to do this in comfortably and that the surfaces were thoroughly cleaned. The documentation requires cross-referencing the numbering system created by the collection owners to make sure that the pieces are named properly. I then measured and dated (where known) them, after which each of the items were examined carefully to document any issues with the paper and/or the inks and other media used in them.

Unrolling and documenting, Max Gill, Sirpa Kutilainen, University of Brighton Design Archives
An example of a part of a documentation sheet (work in progress)

Diagrams and photography also support these notes. This is to make sure the condition of each individual object is documented thoroughly before any conservation and framing takes place. It is also important to document both the recto and verso of the piece.

There can be conditions on how much conservation actually takes place. These conditions can be dictated by owners of collections and even by the piece itself. As an example an object that has lived its life being folded, the folds become a part of its history. They might need to be strengthened by adding support to prevent any damage and tearing happening in the future but flattening the object entirely may not be the best treatment for it. Just as with surface cleaning pieces with pencil marks on them, great care needs to go into the planning of conservation treatments, which also emphasises the importance of thorough documentation.

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