Conservation of Greek Papyri

Cons papyrus project workThe Manuscripts and Archives Research Library in Trinity College Dublin holds over 1,200 important Greek papyri fragments, the majority of which came from extensive cemetery excavations by Sir W. Flinders Petrie (1853-1942), a British Archaeologist and Egyptologist in Gurob Egypt in 1890. These scraps of papyrus, used as padding within mummy casings, provide a record of the social history of the ‘ordinary ‘individual in Ptolemaic Egypt. They include miscellaneous fragments of private letters, legal and financial records, bills and decrees, and agricultural transactions, ranging from 262 – 200 BC. In September 2013, the Preservation and Conservation Department commenced work on a small selection of Greek papyri housed between glass and perspex pressure-mounts.

 Cons Pap 082 verso

Cons Pap 044 recto

The project involves the documentation and conservation of 300 papyri fragments and the provision of an improved housing system for the collection. The treatment involves the removal of damaging tapes used to hold fragments together and to hinge the papyri to either the glass or perspex. Texts obscured by creased and folded fibres are being revealed, and fractured areas are being consolidated, prior to remounting. The specialized skills required for the conservation of papyri have been introduced to the department by Clodagh Neligan, who is assisted by Rebecca de Bút. The goal of the project is to establish procedures that will be followed for the conservation of the entire collection of papyri fragments, with this small sample serving to tease out treatment methodologies and housing issues. Once remounted the collection will be ready for digitisation, which will increase access to this relatively unknown yet remarkable resource. This project is kindly funded by the University of Dublin US Trust fund.

Clodagh Neligan and Rebecca de Bút