We have been working hard for the last week, installing the exhibition – Merchants of Print: From Venice to Manchester, which will run from 29th January to 21st June to celebrate the life and work of Aldus Manutius and five hundred years of collecting his books.
The Collection Care department is responsible for condition checking all the books going on display in an exhibition held in the galleries and creates custom made cradles built to support them, even if if the book in question is being displayed closed.
Condition checking consists of the examination of the book, recording the details of its construction, the materials used and the condition. Particular attention is given to the specific opening for the exhibition, and an assessment is made on whether the item will be safe on display for the period of exhibition. This is especially important for tightly bound/damaged books or openings with light sensitive inks and pigments. The book cradle is generally custom made and it supports the spine and boards of the book so that no strain is placed on its structure.
Traditionally the collection care department makes each cradle by hand from museum board using an archival adhesive. Every cradle is unique to its book and its opening. During the planning of an exhibition many cradles can be made and can take up space whilst waiting for exhibition installation. At the end of the exhibition a small amount of material is recoverable.
Following in the innovative steps of Aldus himself, and as part of a project named Project Cradle, Elaine Sheldon, Conservator at the University of Manchester Library, worked with Mark Furness, conservator and specialist in using the department’s Kasemake Box-making machine to find an alternative method.
Following months of design tweeking and testing a new style of cradle has been introduced.
The design creates five interlocking parts that can be assembled to support the book whilst on exhibition but also can be stored flat. The time taken to produce each cradle has been reduced dramatically and so reduced the overall cost of putting on an exhibition. Measuring, cutting and assembling each cradle takes about 10-15 minutes, and is adhesive free!
Once cut out, the book cradle can be easily transported, stored and assembled at the exhibition venue. When it is no longer needed, its boards can be reused, and/or recycled. CHICC, The Centre of Heritage Imaging and Collection care hope to roll out this product as an addition to their current service offer.
The entire team in Manchester have been working in earnest to get the chosen items displayed to their beautiful best and we hope you will all agree.
You may have worked out by now that we are a very particular bunch and are very ‘hands on’ during the installation process.
Tomorrow is the last day for installation and then we open the doors. The question is have we done you proud Aldus?