Conservation and Preservation Explored in TCD Library Exhibition

Posted on: 14 May 2013

An analysis of Old Library dust and how to best preserve photographic collections are just some of the intriguing exhibits featured in a new exhibition in Trinity College Library, which runs until September 2013.

Entitled Preservation & Conservation, What’s That? the exhibition invites the public into the world of conservators at Trinity College Library and explores the treatment and care of the college’s eclectic collection of over six million items – from Greek papyri to parchment scrolls from Ethiopia; from manuscripts to printed books; and from glass-plate negatives to twentieth-century travel diaries.

The exhibition promises a rare glimpse of items not usually on public display while offering an introduction to the hidden work of conservators. The exhibition investigates what happens when collections are not looked after, how best to conserve manuscripts and early printed books and the care of photographic collections and unusual items such as papyri and Sumerian cuneiform.

Other exhibits include an analysis of the constituents of the dust found in the Old Library and an examination of pigments used in medieval manuscripts. In addition, the exhibition showcases the work of TCD’s conservation students and interns and the impact of the Save the Treasures campaign, which has resulted in the preservation treatment of over 90,000 bindings in the Long Room collection.

Speaking at the exhibition opening, Keeper of Preservation and Conservation at Trinity College Library Susie Bioletti said: “Preservation is often thought of as a passive act, one of just keeping things for the day when they can be ordered and used. Unfortunately what usually follows is that the collection is forgotten or neglected and importance evidence from our past can be irretrievably damaged.”

“This exhibition sets out to illustrate how quickly precious collections can decay when items are damp, dirty, poorly housed or handled and exposed to damaging levels of light and heat. It also showcases the work of conservators, who with their expertise in both the humanities and sciences, can stabilize damaged items, slow down the deterioration of ageing collections and ensure our ancient books and manuscripts remain intact and in use for future generations.”

The exhibition features a range of rarely seen items from the early printed books and manuscript collections including:

  • A volume of Roman Inquisitional papers, which is currently not available for consultation due to extreme fragility
  • An analysis of the dust found in the Old Library
  • A study of pigments used in a beautifully illuminated 15th-century parchment manuscript
  • Fragments of Greek papyri, Egyptian funereal figurines, Ethiopic scrolls, and Sumerian cuneiform
  • A satchel, associated with the ninth-century Book of Armagh, embellished with expertly created relief patterning

 Media Coverage:

RTE 1, Six One News, Thursday, May 9th, 2013