Conservation of Photographs

In our last blogpost we highlighted the re-publication of a subject bibliography which had been previously published when the library was managed by ICON. In this blogpost we would like to draw attention to another subject bibliography which we are re-publishing, ‘The Conservation of Photographs’ by Susie Clark ACR.

Susie Clark has over three decades of experience in the conservation of photographic material. Her experience and expertise in this field has led her to teach across the world and work on some of the most historically important photographic collections. For a more detailed biography please see

Susie’s Subject Bibliography is primarily focused on publications found in the Chantry Library, which has a particularly rich collection of books and publications relating to photographs. Susie highlights some of the most important and ground-breaking publications in this field and provides clear comments on the topics covered in each publication.

The image below shows a few of the books mentioned by Susie which can be found in the Chantry Library.

Stephanie Jamieson is a paper conservator who completed a 12-month internship at the National Library of Scotland specialising in photographic materials. She summarises this Subject Bibliography in the following words:

This subject bibliography includes key publications considered essential reading by those working with photographic collections. Many of the publications listed are regularly consulted reference material, invaluable to have to hand when identifying processes and for informing preservation and conservation decisions. There is a wealth of resources here, suitable for the novice as well as the experienced professional and covering a wide variety of collection and material types. The web resources listed are particularly useful, ideal for when you need to quickly look up a specific process.

We are proud to re-publish this important bibliography for the benefit of students, curators, scholars and conservators with an interest in photographic collections.



The Library is currently closed, but we’re taking this time to do some much needed maintenance and project work. One of the things we have been meaning to do is make available on our website an archive of earlier Chantry Library Subject Bibliographies.  

We have several bibliographies which we plan to share online, starting with ‘Conservation of Japanese Prints’ by Celia Bockmuehl, Pamela de Tristan, Robert Minte, Shiho Sasaki, and Pauline Webber. This bibliography has not been updated, but we feel there is a timelessness to it and the choice of sources still stands. We at Chantry do not want to see this information lost and are pleased to share it with those looking to learn about Japanese prints and drawings.  

One of the original contributors, Pamela de Tristan, wanted to share a few additional sources that delve more deeply into the treatment of Japanese prints and drawings, an area she has specialised in since 1981. We’re very happy to give Pamela Chantry airtime to share her knowledge and expertise with you, and if you have anything to add please respond to her post.  

Military Men by Yoshitoshi (1839-1889) Synthetic aniline colourants and Prussian blue © P.deTristan 

I wanted to bring readers’ attention to several articles that focus on treatments that I have carried out on Japanese prints. I hope that along with the Subject Bibliography now online, this will be a good source of information for conservators with an interest in Japanese prints and drawings. 

‘The conservation of nine sumi drawings (c. 1833) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi the Japanese Ukiyo-e artist’, Conference Papers Manchester 1992, ed. Sheila Fairbrass, pp.24-29.  

This paper discusses the problems involved in the separation of brush drawings which were on very thin kozo paper, laid down in album form and stuck back to back. The drawings had some fugitive colourants and numerous pentimenti. Due to the fragility of the paper Gore-Tex was used in the humidification process. Consolidation of the degraded areas are described together with a comparison of methods for flattening heavy creases. Finally, the reattaching of the drawings to new secondary supports for storage are described. 

‘Analysis and conservation of aniline-dyed, nineteenth-century Japanese prints’, IPC Conference Papers London 1997, ed. Jane Eagan, pp.107-117.  

Aniline dyes discovered in 1856 by William Perkin in London were introduced into Japan for textile printing in the Meiji Period (1868-1912). These synthetic dyes replaced the natural dyes which had been used in the production of the woodblock Japanese print. The major conservation problem of the aniline-dyed print is its sensitivity to moisture; this paper presents three case studies that explore this problem. The majority of these prints were backed and placed in albums, and it is necessary to use water in conserving and unbacking these prints. In order to understand how best to conserve the Meiji prints, ten sample woodblock prints and ten colour swatches using aniline dyes were made by printmaker Paul Binnie for analysis and destructive testing. Our findings were that use of a gel of SCMC or MC produced enough moisture to unback a print so that no colourants bleed.  

‘The Japanese print: Re-integration methods’, The Postprints of the Image Re-Integration Conference 2003, ed. A. Jean E. Brown, pp.135-140. 

Four case studies are presented in this paper which deals with damage that disturbs the harmony of a print so that it cannot be appreciated without attention being drawn to visually distracting areas of staining or loss of image. This paper explores the role of re-integration in allowing the viewer to appreciate aesthetically a print, which was the artist’s intent. The first two case studies deal with comparative approaches to the reversal of oxidation on two prints, one from 1922 the other from 1889, with the aim of returning them to their former visual balance. The next case study deals with a print by Ando Hiroshige with considerable damage needing consolidation, repair and facsimile work which are described in detail. The final case study deals with mould damage to the support and image of a mica-ground Sharaku print dating to 1794-95. All facsimile work was undertaken with reference from an actual-sized reproduction of this important print. 

Pamela de Tristan ACR  

Chantry Library: A Reader Reports

To start the new year, we’re pleased to have a brief report from Heritage Scientist, Tea Ghigo, who writes:

‘Tiny Tea and the Great Bookcase’, not the title of a fairy tale, although to me it feels a bit like a dream come true!

This year, I joined the conservation team at the Ashmolean Museum as a member of the European Research Council (ERC) project CHROMOTOPE, a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional project based at the Sorbonne University in Paris. The project investigates developments in colour during thenineteenth century. The Victorian Age was a flourishing period in the production of pigments and, more specifically, the 1850s saw the beginning of a ‘chromatic turn’ or colour revolution. After the discovery of mauveine — the first synthetic dye — in 1856, the chemical industry developed a plethora of new pigments and dyes which soon started colouring textiles, food, billboards and paintings. CHROMOTOPE aims at casting light on the impact this change in attitude to colour had in literature, art, science and technology.

My work at the Ashmolean Museum centres around the characterisation of the pigments used on the Great Bookcase, designed by the Architect William Burges and painted by 14 different artists for the London International Exhibition of 1862. The Bookcase is one of the most important pieces of Victorian painted furniture and is now a symbol of its time period.

The different panels of the bookcase show a certain level of chromatic correspondence, and it is possible that the same set of colours was used for the whole piece. However, the myriad of pigments available on the English market of the 1850s makes the identification of the painting materials more challenging, especially as our analysis will be carried out mostly using non-invasive analytical techniques. To narrow down the range of possibilities, we realized it would help to know which colourmen supplied the pigments used for the bookcase.

The Chantry Library holds a copy of a valuable resource for our research: an index of the account books of renowned artists’ colourman Charles Roberson & Co., active from 1820-1985 and one of the most important colour houses in Victorian London.1 According to the index, Burges himself held an account at Roberson’s from 1865, three years after the completion of the Bookcase. However, five of the fourteen artists who painted the Bookcase held accounts at Roberson’s while working on the panels.

Does this mean that Burges bought the set of colours for the Bookcase elsewhere? Or, did the artists each provide their own painting materials which some of them purchased from Roberson’s? The further we will progress with the analysis of the Bookcase, the closer we will be to answering these intriguing questions. In the meantime, we would like to thank the Chantry Library for allowing us access to this resource despite the constraints imposed by the COVID pandemic.

1. Woodcock, Sally., and Judith. Churchman. Index of Account Holders in the Roberson Archive, 1820-1939. (Cambridge: Hamilton Kerr Institute : University of Cambridge, 1997).

Tea Ghigo is a Conservation Research Fellow at the Ashmolean Museum, working on the CHROMOTOPE project since November 2020. Her research interests include the analysis of inks and pigments from manuscripts and paintings. She is particularly interested in their manufacturing processes, deterioration patterns and in the reasons why certain materials were chosen over others.

For more information on Chromotope see here .

For more information on the Great Bookcase, see here .

Stop Press: Essential Reading for Book Conservators – Article on using Woven Fabrics in Book Conservation!

We are delighted to announce that the latest issue of Studies in Conservation features research from conservators at the Oxford Conservation Consortium – now out in print! 

The article presents findings on the strength and durability of cotton and linen woven fabrics typically used in conservation. It derives from a collaborative project, discussed in an earlier blog post, between the Oxford Conservation Consortium and Bodleian Libraries Conservation and Collection Care, with materials scientists from Cranfield University.  So congratulations to the authors, especially our own Celia Bockmuehl and Nikki Tomkins!

You can read the full article here online, or contact the Chantry Librarian for information about our scanning service.

The citation is: C.R. Bockmuehl, N. Tomkins, J. Keiding, R. Critchley, A. Peare, D.J. Carr, “Woven Fabrics in Book Conservation: An Investigation into the Properties of Aerolinen and Aerocotton”, Studies in Conservation (2020), volume 65, issue 7.

Also if you are interested in the subject do read Celia and Nikki’s contribution on Woven Fabrics to our series of Chantry Subject Bibliographies

#AskAConservator day 2020 on 18th November!

As we mentioned in our recent post on the 1966 Florence flood the 18th of November is Ask a Conservator day. Use the hashtag #AskAConservator on social media platforms (like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram) with questions for conservators – or to help spread the word about conservation and what conservators actually do. There is more information from ICON and on the AIC/FAIC website. The day is being held in remembrance of the 1966 flood, a terrible event that – as a spur to innovation – helped make the conservation profession what it is today. So please do get involved tomorrow with #AskAConservator.

Experiments in Parchment

OCC/Bodleian parchment-making course of 2013

Chantry blog readers might be interested in the experimental parchment-making activities held at the University of Namur, Belgium, last November, part of the ‘Physics of Parchment’ symposium exploring parchment through both practical and theoretical approaches. Details can be found here plus the abstract book and post-workshop article.

This symposium was organised by the Pergamenum 21 project, an interdisciplinary research project dedicated to parchment studies and more particularly answering questions about species identification, choice of parchment, impact of material on manuscript production, etc.

Visit their website for further information about the project.

Florence 1966

In England, early November is usually associated with fire: 5 November, Guy Fawkes, gunpowder, treason, and all that. From a conservation point of view 4 November marks a more recent – and sombre – anniversary due to another ‘element’: water. On that date the River Arno inundated the city of Florence, with flood-waters reaching nearly 7m in some places. As well as killing over 100 people, the 1966 flood also did massive harm to the rich cultural heritage of this famous centre of the Renaissance. Collections particularly badly affected included the Archivio di Opera del Duomo, the Biblioteca del Gabinetto Vieusseux, the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, and the Archivio di Stato di Firenze. Hundreds of thousands of records, books, and other art and artefacts were damaged prompting a huge international conservation effort. Volunteers were known as ‘mud angels’. The challenge of this immense operation prompted innovation, and the flood became a key moment in the development of modern conservation, with new concepts like ‘phase conservation’ and methods such as mass deacidification deployed.

The Chantry holds the proceedings of a symposium to mark the 40th anniversary of the flood: Conservation legacies of the Florence flood of 1966 (Con/Spa).

If this might seem a grim moment to commemorate such a disaster; perhaps it can serve as a reminder of the cooperation and innovation that these sort of events can prompt. The next ‘Ask of conservator day‘ on 18 November is being held in remembrance of the Florence flood, following in the ‘spirit of that international collaboration and exchange of knowledge’. Use the #AskAConservator hashtag on social media platforms then to engage with conservators in the 21st century.

Review of the IPM Chantry Bibliography

If you want to get an independent opinion on the latest Chantry Subject Bibliography on Integrated Pest Management by Amy Crossman and David Pinniger, beyond our own earlier blog post, then a solution is at hand.

The latest issue of Icon News (89, August 2020) contains a review of the bibliography contributed by Catherine Harris, Assistant Preventive Conservator at the Bodleian Libraries. This number of the magazine can be found here and the review itself it on pages 26 and 27.

Illustrated by an up-close-and-personal microscope image of an Anthrenus, Catherine in the review describes the IPM Subject Bibliography as “an excellently written curated bibliography, clearly presented and with a logical and user-friendly flow” that “will prove to be an extremely useful tool to heritage professionals of all disciplines” – whether beginners in the field or more experienced practitioners.

So don’t just take our word for it. And appreciative thanks to Catherine for the nice write up!

(Seemed slightly appropriate – though it doesn’t count as a “pest” – that this not so little visitor to the Library was climbing down the wall as this post was being drafted, perhaps looking on benignly.)

Please do explore this and other Subject Bibliographies at

Professional Development as a Conservator in Lockdown: my Lockdown Diary by Lisa Handke

In March 2020 our lives changed dramatically. Suddenly we were stuck at home, had to take on caring or home schooling responsibilities, had to work from home or found ourselves being furloughed. I, an employed book and paper conservator, couldn’t work from home while libraries and archives were closed and so I was furloughed. But to me it became very clear that I wanted to continue doing something productive, and I realised that this was the time to learn and carry on with professional development. This is my Professional Development in Lockdown Diary.

At the beginning I was only planning to read a lot as this is something I rarely have time for. So I picked a few books from the comprehensive collection of the Chantry Library and started reading. It was great to sit in the garden and read, but I also realised that I need something else – contact with people! I was very glad that our team stayed in touch, so we didn’t feel isolated and lonely, but I was wondering how we could come together as a wider community of conservators. Luckily this was when Icon started the Conservation: Together at Home Series. After the first two fantastic webinars held by fellow Oxford-based conservators Andrew Honey and Fiona McLees from the Bodleian Libraries, I stuck with it and watched most of them until the time I started preparing to go back to work. I enjoyed being part of a community that wanted to share knowledge, learn, connect and stay together while being at home. I remember the talk held by Lorraine Finch, where people shared lots of helpful tips in the chat box, and the paper presented by Fletcher Durant about Conservation not being neutral, which led to an important conversation in the chat. It was great to see so many people from all over the world united.

I also developed a deeper interest in Preservation as I was thinking about how conservators keep collections safe while not being able to be on site as much. I started looking for recorded or live webinars regarding disaster planning, mould prevention and pest management and came across some great sessions by AIC & FAIC. That was also the time when the Preservation Week was taking place, and I was able to watch webinars offered by the Library of Congress, Illinois Library and the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC). In addition, I wanted to learn more about developing a sustainable approach as a conservator, so I watched the webinars by Sustainability in Conservation (SiC) and listened to the Conservators Combating Climate Change Podcast by AIC’s ECPN.

A platform that I started to use for my professional development was YouTube. I found more and more channels and playlists and realised one can spend hours on that platform as it always recommends related videos – you could go on forever! One of my favourite series was David Mill’s Lockdown Conservation Science, which was a great refresher of my chemistry lessons at University.

Throughout the whole period of Lockdown I was tracking what I read, watched and listened to. This really helped me to remember all those great resources and it also gave me the feeling I was actually doing something useful. I ended up with a really long Excel spreadsheet and a list of resources that I’m happy to share, in case someone is looking for ideas on how to educate themself further online. There is so much to discover on the World Wide Web!


Lisa Handke

Conservator, Oxford Conservation Consortium



Reading/Chantry Library resources

Kunststoff-Folien in der Papierrestaurierung, 1950-1970 : Schwerpunkt Deutschland

Galinsky, Eva | Banik, Gerhard | Wächter, Wolfgang | 2001 | Leipzig : Zentrum für Bucherhaltung | 263 pages

The codex and crafts in late antiquity

Boudalis, Georgios, author | [2018?] | New York : Bard Graduate Center | xix, 181 pages

Gels in the conservation of art

Gels in Conservation Conference (2017), creator. | Angelova, Lora, editor | Ormsby, Bronwyn, editor | Townsend, Joyce, editor | Wolbers, Richard, editor | 2017 | London : Archetype Books | xi, 400 pages

The archaeology of medieval bookbinding

Szirmai, J. A | 1999 | Aldershot : Ashgate | xvi, 352 pages

Limp vellum binding and its potential as a conservation type structure for the rebinding of early printed books : a break with nineteenth and twentieth century rebinding attitudes and practices

Clarkson, Christopher| 2005 | Oxford : Christopher Clarkson | xii, 23 pages

Online resources:

ICON Together at HomeICON Together at Home

Other online resources LH – topics include: Preservation, Disaster Planning, Mould, Sustainability – plus miscellaneous conservation webinars, channels/playlists, and online courses