Conserving Malory Towers

These photographs show Peter, our conservator, removing an original illustration for Last Term at Malory Towers from its frame.  The artwork was framed when we bought it, but had to be removed from the frame for conservation reasons.  The material used for framing, particularly the mount board and backing board, are not conservation grade materials – they have a highly acidic chemical make-up (as most paper does) which, over time, will degrade and cause damage to the artwork itself. 

So Peter had to remove the artwork from the frame and detach it from the mount board.  A small amount of solvent was then used to remove all glue residue from the artwork, along the top edge where it was taped to the mount.  Glue residue, over time, will also degrade and cause staining and further damage to the paper.  The illustration will now be wrapped in acid-free tissue paper, and Peter will make a made-to-measure folder using acid-free board in which to store it.  All of this conservation work slows down the natural process of degradation in the paper, ensuring the preservation of the artwork for as long as possible.

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4 Responses to Conserving Malory Towers

  1. Anita Bensoussane says:

    Reading about this process is quite enlightening. It’s good that the picture will now be better preserved, but a little sad that it has had to be removed from its original frame. I was wondering how it will be displayed if you ever decide to put it on show in an exhibition. Would it be reframed for that, or put in a display case or something without a frame?

  2. Hi Anita,

    It’s difficult to say for sure if this was the original frame, if by original frame you mean one that Blyton had the artwork framed in. The framing appeared to have been done relatively recently – the quality and condition of the framing tape used certainly didn’t date back as far as the 1960s. However, the more recent work may simply have been a tidy up of an earlier framing job. It is impossible to be certain.

    If this artwork were used in an exhibition, it would certainly be re-framed by Peter, following very strict procedures to ensure minimal risk to the artwork. Peter does all the framing for our exhibitions, and uses materials which are all conservation grade. He uses small Japanese paper hinges to attach the artwork to the mount board using starch paste, which is very easily removed without any damage to the paper or any residue being left behind.

    Hinging the artwork, rather than taping it directly to the mount, ensures that the artwork has some room to move within the frame. Small changes can occur in the paper while an artwork is framed, for example changes in temperature or humidity can cause the paper to expand or contract. If the artwork is taped to the mount along its full width, this holds one edge rigid when the paper is expanding or contracting, which can lead to warping and damage to the paper. Small paper hinges, one in each top corner (what’s called a floating mount), allow the paper to adjust to such changes without damage, because it’s not rigidly fixed to the mount.

    Peter will also create a buffer between the artwork and the glass of the frame, using thin strips of mount board, to ensure that the artwork does not make contact with the glass while framed. Again, if there are small variations in temperature or humidity and the medium of the artwork is in contact with the glass, this has the potential to cause damage.

    A lot of work goes into the framing for our exhibitions, as you can probably gather! But everything we do is done to minimise risk to material on display, so it’s always worth taking the time to do it properly. Had we left the artwork in its frame, all of these risks would have been permanently present, and the chances of damage to the artwork even while in storage would have been significantly increased.

  3. nobodyjones says:

    This is a really fascinating post – I’m loving this blog. Thanks for your efforts in keeping us updated with the progress of the collection. I can’t wait to visit!

  4. Anita Bensoussane says:

    Thanks for the very detailed explanation, Hannah! It’s interesting to learn something of what is involved in conserving artwork.

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