My name is Kiri Douglas and I am currently a postgraduate conservation student at Camberwell College of Arts in London.

I was fortunate over the summer to volunteer at the University of Leeds Special Collections based in the Brotherton Library during their annual action week in August.

One of the projects I worked on was the preservation of manuscript books from the Phillips of Hitchin business archive. Phillips was a prominent antiques dealer for over a century. The catalogue books contain photographs and handwritten descriptions of stock, its dimensions, sale prices and dates.

Conservation work consisted of stabilising the books, so that they could be handled much more easily the future without risking further damage. Several pages had tears that needed mending, whilst many of the outer spines had pieces that were beginning to become loose.

Manuscript catalogue
Page from a manuscript catalogue showing a large tear. Image credit Leeds University Library.

Some of the book corners had also delaminated. A thick starch paste adhesive was applied between the layers, the corner re-shaped and then dried between some card, blotter and a non-stick layer.

After repair the books were put into bespoke archival phase boxes to protect them. The boxes were made from acid free cardboard.  I found the Phillips of Hitchin collection fascinating to work on and appreciated being able to see the different images of the lovely antiques.

Acid free packaging
Custom made acid free paper packaging for fragile 19th century paper binding. Image credit Leeds University Library.

I also helped in preparing printed items ready for a significant move from Special Collections to a different store room as part of a space rationalisation project. I learned that staff and volunteers had spent the summer preparing stock for the move.  My role was to create enclosures specially to fit vulnerable objects so that they wouldn’t be scuffed or damaged during transport.

It was very interesting to see how a University Special Collections team worked, especially during such a busy week. I found it very helpful to gain more experience within the conservation of books, having previously worked mainly on artworks. It was also brilliant to learn the different preparations undertaken for a major book move.

I would like to thank the entire team for their warm welcome and help throughout my experience.