BPG Exhibition, Supports, and Transport
Book and Paper Group Wiki > Exhibition, Supports, Transport
This page addresses the physical support of books, including reader use, reformatting, temporary displays, longer-term exhibition considerations, and transport. Techniques, guidelines, and bibliography of major contributions regarding supports for various forms of dimensional books, in various states of condition, are offered. See also the Exhibition, Handling, and Support section on the Materials, Equipment, and Tools page, as well as the Housings page.
Books and historic works are very popular artifacts for public display and exhibitions in museums and libraries across the world. Ideally, many of these books and other paper materials can be copied or reproduced to place on display, so conservators are able to safely store the original piece in an ideal storage location. Unfortunately, this ideal situation is not always available, and the original historical work has to be placed on display. When this occurs, there are many considerations that have to be addressed, such as light, humidity, and protection from visitors (Glaser, 2007). Thus, special care must be taken when placing these one of a kind works on display in a museum or library.
Light Exposure Concerns
Light is one of the most detrimental environmental factor to a historical book collection. High levels of UV, or ultraviolet light, can cause fading, darkening of light paper, embrittlement and weakening of the paper’s fundamental structure. The adhesive in the book’s binding and cover can also be affected by high levels of UV light, causing its deterioration. The higher the UV levels, the more deterioration the light causes, though even low levels of light can have an effect over long periods of time (Glaser, 2007). Natural light is considered the worst type of light for preserved books. Because of its high UV levels, natural sunlight causes much more damage than artificial lighting. Books should never be displayed in areas with high levels of natural lighting, such as by doors or windows. This can lead to rapid deterioration of the book and fading of the material on its pages (Library of Congress Preservation, 2013). Low levels of artificial light are recommended for use in displays containing books, though even this can be harmful. This is why many conservators recommend that books should not permanently be kept on display (Glaser, 2007).
Display cases for book exhibitions are an important part of the preservation of historical volumes in a collection. Properly contained and sealed, cases can prevent most outside contaminants from reaching a book, and can help a conservator regulate the environment in which the volume is displayed. If a case is tightly sealed, small amounts of silica gel can regulate the relative humidity, keeping most of the moisture that would lead to deterioration away from the books (Glaser, 2007). Although cases are meant to help preserve the volumes contained within them, museum staff must be careful with the type of materials used for the construction of display cases. While aesthetically pleasing, wood is one of the worst materials for displaying books and other paper materials. As wood degrades, it gives off gasses that can hasten the deterioration process of paper materials. To avoid this, wood types with low rates of hazardous emissions can be used, but they tend to be more expensive. Paper materials must also never be displayed directly on wooden surfaces due to the damaging effects the wood can have on the fragile paper (Ogden, 2007). Paints, sealants, adhesives, and fabrics can also be harmful to the preservation of books on display, so caution must be used when using these materials. Book supports and other barrier materials lining the case must be used to prevent some of the deterioration processes (Hatchfield, 1994).
- See also: Materials, Equipment, and Tools
There are many different types of supports for books displayed in museums. Historic books should always be displayed horizontally or at a slight angle. If a volume is displayed at a near vertical angle, there is a threat of the book warping or the binding breaking. Especially with fragile volumes, this would be detrimental to the preservation of a historic work. There are two ways a book can be displayed in a horizontal position: open or closed. If the book is shown open, supports are needed beneath the covers to prevent the binding from being placed under strain. Most museum supports are custom made to fit the particular book they will be exhibiting. Some supports are made to cushion only one side of a book’s cover, while others support the entire book. The latter type of support, or cradle, is generally used when pages near the middle of the book are displayed. One sided supports, or wedges, are only used when displaying a page near the front or back cover (Glaser, 2007). Most of the books supports used in exhibitions today are made out of molded acrylic, Plexiglas or polyester. Another type of material currently used by the Folger Shakespeare Library is Vivak, a co-polyester material designed to be more visually appealing for the library’s displays (Baier, 2004). Folded acid free museum board or polyethylene foam wedges are inexpensive alternatives to the more rigid acrylic and Plexiglas supports (Glaser, 2007).
When a book is opened on a cradle or other support for viewing, if does not rest open easily at the desired opening page due to the opening angle or stiffness of the spine, or must be additionally raised at an angle to the deck toward the viewer, sometimes restraints are used to strap the books’ pages or flyleaves to the book support. Generally, clear plastic straps of polyethylene, woven polyester, or polyester terephthalate, or paper are used, fixed to each other at the ends with double-sided tape (Glaser, 2007). Occasionally it is necessary to put to the side an original tipped-in overleaf or interleaving over a print so as to be able to view the image of interest. In these cases, if the overleaf resists being turned to the side, sometimes the overleaf is rolled carefully onto itself over a rolled core of preservation quality material and weighted in place with a small glass rod or other inert material.
In the videos below, conservators demonstrate safe handling of Chinese and Japanese handscrolls.
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art. 2010. "Safe Handling Practice for Chinese Handscrolls" and "Safe Handling Practices for Japanese Handscrolls."
Storage and Transportation
- See also: Housings
There are many different suggestions for the proper storage and packaging of historical books. Good storage locations for books and other paper materials are cool, dry, stable locations off of the floor with minimal chance for the interaction of insects with the artifacts. A stable temperature and relative humidity is imperative for the successful storage of these materials, thus attics and basements are not ideal locations for book storage. For the same reason that wooden display cases are not recommended for the exhibition of books, wooden shelving units are also considered a poor environment for the storage of these materials. Books should also be stored away from direct sunlight and lying horizontally. Books can be stored vertically but with that, there is increased chance for warping (Library of Congress, 2013). Another difficult aspect of having books in a museum or library collection is the transport of these materials. Perhaps it is a traveling exhibit, or an artifact is simply being moved from one museum or library to another, either way, the proper packaging and handling of books is very important. Before packaging, books should be clean and dry, and free from any insects or insect eggs. When packaging the books, heavier books must be placed on the bottom, working up to the lightest books. Padding around the books and between each book is important so the books do not shift during transport (State Library of Victoria, 2013).
Baier, R. 2004. “Vivak: An Alternative to Conventional Plexiglas and Museum Board for Exhibition Mounts”. The Book and Paper Book Annual, Vol. 22, The American Institute for Conservation of Historic And Artistic Works, pp. 109-110.
Glaser, M. T. 2007. “Protecting Paper and Book Collections During Exhibition”. In Preservation Leaflets. Northeast Document Conservation Center. Accessed May 13, 2015. <https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/2.-the-environment/2.5-protecting-paper-and-book-collections-during-exhibition>.
Hatchfield, P. 1994. "Choosing Materials for Museum Storage." In Storage of Natural History Collections: Basic Concepts. Carolyn L. Rose and Catharine A. Hawks, eds. Pittsburgh, PA: Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.
Ogden, S. 2007. “4.2 Storage Furniture: A Brief Review of Current Options”. In Preservation Leaflets. Northeast Document Conservation Center. Accessed April 11, 2013. <https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/4.-storage-and-handling/4.2-storage-furniture-a-brief-review-of-current-options>.
“Packing and Storing Books”. 2013. In Conservation Guides. The State Library of Victoria. Accessed April 11, 2013. <http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/explore/conservation-guides/packing-storing-books>.
“Care, Handling, and Storage of Books”. 2013. The Library of Congress Preservation Directorate. Accessed April 11, 2013. <http://www.loc.gov/preservation/care/books.html>.
History of This Page
This page was originally created as the "Exhibition, Supports, Transport" chapter of the Book Conservation Wiki's Preservation section. It was moved into the Book and Paper Group Wiki as part of a reorganization in 2016.
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