BPG Parchment Housing and Storage
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This page covers the housing and storage of parchment. See also: Parchment, Parchment Condition Problems, Parchment Examination and Documentation, Parchment Conservation Treatment, and Parchment Parchment Historic Treatment Methods and Materials.
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BPG Parchment Housing and Storage. 2023. Book and Paper Group Wiki. American Institute for Conservation (AIC). Accessed March 29, 2023. https://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/BPG_Parchment_Housing_and_Storage
Storage and Display[edit | edit source]
[Copied from original BPG Parchment page]
(See also Housing of Dead Sea Scroll Fragments for Exhibition, and Case Studies.)
The establishment of temperature and humidity guidelines for the storage and display of parchment must take into consideration many factors including the age and condition of the artifact, its previous storage environment, the format of its present housing, and the way in which it is expected to be used by curators, scholars and others.
Humidity standards for the storage and display of parchment have traditionally been set at around 55% RH, with an allowable variation of 5%. These environmental standards widely cited for parchment have generally been based on the high RH typical of Great Britain and Ireland (eg. 55–60% RH) (see Cains, Stolow and Thompson). However, more recent research by Eric Hansen and other scientists at the Getty Conservation Institute has determined that parchment is more susceptible to gelatin and biological attack at relative humidities of 40% and above. Therefore it has been recommended by these particular authors that if preservation of collagen is the primary consideration then parchment should be stored and displayed in an environment of 30% RH +/- 5%. In their published paper, however, the authors include the following caveats:
- The lower RH of 30% may be harmful to composite parchment documents which have illuminations or poorly bound ink due to the different reactions to changes in RH of the various materials.
- Parchment may buckle or curl at the lower humidities.
- An additional area of concern is if the parchment is brittle at lower humidities, such as medieval and modern vellum (from Hansen's studies), damage may occur if the parchment is subject to manipulation (such as items stored in mylar or unframed mats, or the leaves of a book).(JM)
- Careful consideration should be given to the application of rigid standards to old collections stored for centuries in the same environment which, although not perfect, seem to be working well for the artifacts. Therefore, before making storage recommendations first examine the existing storage conditions, if possible, determine how long the parchments were stored in those conditions, assess any problems and establish if, in fact, the environment caused the problems. (HS)
Relative Humidity Levels for the Display and Storage of Parchment: A Consideration of Levels Below 50%
The most often encountered recommendations for the optimum relative humidity (RH) for the storage of parchment are usually around 50%. Investigations were carried out at the Getty Conservation Institute from 1988 to 1992 to determine the basis for this recommendation; and, what further information needed to be gathered to confirm or augment this recommendation (Hansen et al 1992). The effect of relative humidity on the biodeterioration of parchment was also studied (Valentin et al 1990). A further investigation was conducted specifically for the effect of relative humidity on the Dead Sea Scrolls (Schilling and Ginell 1993).
Conclusions based upon a survey of the previous conservation literature were: 1) 50 % RH was necessary to maintain a pliable or manipulable state of parchment; and 2) that a relative humidity below 70 % was necessary to inhibit noticeable fungal or microbial growth. One noticeable exception was the preservation conditions suggested by the National Bureau of Standards for the Charters of Freedom of the United States (the Constitution and Declaration of Independence), which are maintained in a helium atmosphere humidified to 25% RH (NBS 1951).
An extensive review of the biochemical literature was conducted to determine the degradation rates and physical properties of collagen, which constitutes 95% of defatted, dehaired skin. It had been shown since the early 1940's that collagen requires a certain amount of water to maintain its molecular stability, which is present at relative humidities above 25% (Kozlov and Budygnia 1982). Thus a lower limit of relative humidity for the preservation conditions of objects containing intact collagen is 25%. This was the reasoning that was used by the NBS to set the conditions for the Charters of Freedom of the United States. Further data from the leather industry (Bowes and Raistrick 1964, 1967) indicated that relative humidities above 40% increased the rate of the conversion of collagen to gelatin (the course of denaturation for the protein collagen).
Further testing (Hansen et al 1992) was done to determine the effects of maintaining different relative humidities on the mechanical properties of modern, intact parchment at different relative humidities. Standard samples of calfskin parchment were subjected to (1) tensile fracture, and (2) measurement of the force that developed when restrained samples were subjected to step decreases in relative humidity in the region between 60% and 11%. The results indicate that, although no particular level of relative humidity can be excluded in general from consideration as a storage or display condition on the basis of tensile fracture testing data alone, at 11% RH there is a decrease in both the ability to elongate and in the tensile strength. It was further demonstrated that below 25% RH large stresses could develop in restrained samples.
Valentin and her co-workers (1990) demonstrated that biodeterioration, for both aerobic and anerobic micro-organisms common to parchment deterioration, resulting from the growth of micro-organisms occurred beginning at 40% RH and increased with higher levels of relative humidity. Hansen and co-workers (1992), on consideration of the physical chemistry and chemical reactivity of collagen, the effect of RH on physical properties, and the results of the biodeterioration study, suggested that a relative humidity below 40% and above 25% should be optimum for storage or display if preservation of the collagen was the primary consideration. 30% was suggested as an optimum level, permitting a cyclic variation of ± 5% with minimal effects of swelling and shrinkage.
These considerations have been the subject of some debate and concern among librarians and archivists. Of particular concern are: 1)when these conditions might be favored as opposed to higher relative humidities around 50%; 2)what problems might be encountered with parchment in varied states of age and deterioration; and 3)what problems might be encountered with the composite nature of documents and illuminated manuscripts, particularly in regard to inks and colorants. Burns (1993) summarized a discussion held at the “Conservation of Parchment” course and workshop (held at the Conservation Analytical Laboratory, Smithsonian Institution, February 1–5, 1992), which helps clarify these issues.
Burns and Bignell (1993) stressed that the recommendations for lower relative humidities were not a blanket recommendation, but an attempt to define “the lowest amount of atmospheric moisture (above 25% RH) that will allow for mechanical requirements ... other composite elements, and aesthetic requirements” (Hanens, et al., 1993). In the discussion, it was recognized that “rather than implementing changes based upon them, archivists might use the findings to reflect upon a situation that is not as straightforward as they perhaps had thought ... Those charged with the care of collections may have other aims, such as handling and aesthetic considerations. Conservators must evaluate the specific context of individual collections - the type of parchment, historical and geographic origins, processing and finishing variables, subsequent use, storage history, present needs, media – and assess the feasibility and practicality of the recommendations of Hansen and his co-workers.”
It can be seen that much subsequent research and work needs to be done to determine adequate relative humidity conditions for the full range of types of parchment materials in archival collections. For example, Schilling and Ginell (1993) investigated the dimensional changes in Dead Sea Scroll samples and laboratory degraded parchment (partial conversion to gelatin), and confirmed the large changes associated with levels below 25% RH for historic samples. A suggested immediate concern for future research would be investigations of the effect of different relative humidities on the stability of inks on documents or paint in illuminated manuscripts.
Sealed Transport and/or Display Packages
- Framed Objects
- This system is applicable for string mats or any framed/glazed parchment housing. If the mounted parchment will travel or will be subjected to flucuations in RH, it can be placed in a sealed package to reduce those flucuations. A material like Art-sorb can be placed within the package to provide additional protection. A sealed package consists of glazing (glass or Plexiglas) on the front, the mounted/matted object and any supporting materials (Fome-core, mat or corrugated board, etc.), then polyester film on the back. The edges are sealed by wrapping a strip of pressure sensitive tape (J-Lar - a polypropylene tape with an acrylic adhesive that has good aging properties) from the edge of the glazing (just overlapping the front) and around the edge to the polyester film sheet on the back. The edges of the mount, etc. can be protected from the tape by covering them wiwth strips of 10 pt. folder stock as the tape is wrapped around the edge. Sealed packages of this design have been placed in humidity chambers of 80–90% RH for a week and have maintained an internal humidity of 50% RH. (LP)
- Another alternative backing and packaging material in use today is Marvel Seal 360. This foil barrier sheet is made by the Ludlow Corporation and sold through University Products. Note: the manufacturer's name is printed on the foil in a red ink that is soluble, for conservation use Marvel Seal 360 should be ordered without the red printing. (HP)
- For more information on the success of these systems and materials see the poster session by Hugh Phibbs of the National Gallery of Art presented at the annual AIC Meeting in Nashville, Tennesee, June 1994.
- Anecdotal information from Portland, OR picture framers who used gray conservation corrugated on my recommendation. On large framed pieces, the cardboard would bow out, pushing the art work away from the wall. (JT)
- Plexiglas Sandwich
- A “Plexiglas sandwich” is a housing for a matted object. It is made by sandwiching the matted object between two sheets of acrylic that are then taped together, around all four edges, with polypropylene tape (J-Lar). This sealed package system provides both a rigid structure and a relatively constant microenvironment. Parchment or paper artifacts are often placed in Plexiglas sandwiches particularly during transport and exhibition. However, in many cases, especially for moisture sensitive parchment, these temporary housings are often retained for permanent storage.
- To construct a Plexiglas sandwich place the matted object between two sheets of 1/8–1/4 inch acrylic, which are cut to the same outer dimensions as the mat. Place the assembly face up on a clean table allowing one edge to extend beyond the table top in order to tape the sides of the sandwich unit together. It is helpful to place a weight on top to keep the stack properly aligned.
- Using 1-inch wide clear polypropylene tape, start at the corner (allowing some overlap around the corner) align the tape along the edge so that there will be a 1/8 inch of tape over-lapping the top acrylic sheet. The remainder of the tape wraps around the side edges overlapping onto the bottom acrylic sheet. Rotate the unit until all edges are sealed. Repeat this step for the added protection of a second layer of tape. Finish by burnishing the tape to obtain the most effective adhesion possible.
- When weight, cost or additional protection from moisture is a concern corrugated polypropylene (Coroplast) has proven an effective substitute for the acrylic back panel. The polypropylene material is lighter in weight and costs less than acrylic sheeting. Furthermore, a simple experiment at the Library of Congress revealed that the corrugated polypropylene panel was actually a more effective moisture barrier.
- To gain a better understanding of the moisture barring qualities, as well as, to compare the effectiveness of various sandwich materials the following experiment was conducted in the Paper Section of the LC Conservation Lab. Three 11" × 12" sandwich units were assembled according to the instructions above the only variation being the back panel material. Each unit had a different back panel of either 1/8 inch thick acrylic; five mil polyester film (Mylar), or five an corrugated polypropylene. A humidity indicator strip, mounted in place of an artifact in each window mat was used to monitor the internal humidity which was approximately 35% RH. All three of the units were placed in a 100% humidity chamber for 19 days. Within four days the Mylar backed unit registered a 5% RH increase and ultimately registered 50–55% RH.
- After 15 days, all of the acrylic sheets became warped from their one sided exposure to the humidity. The two acrylic sheets in the one unit bowed away from each other causing the tape seal to break and allowing humidity to enter the package. The Mylar and Coroplast backed units remained intact as they moved with the warping acrylic.
- After 19 days the corrugated polypropylene unit registered an internal RH of 40–45% and a small area of the tape had begun to loosen. In summary, of the three backing materials the Mylar allowed the most moisture to pass through. The corrugated polypropylene panel provided an equally effective moisture barrier as the acrylic sheet backing and in contrast was also able to accomodate the warp of the acrylic top sheet preserving the tape seal. (HW)
Display of Parchment Documents[edit | edit source]
Supports for Parchment Codices[edit | edit source]
Matting and Framing Parchment Folios and Fragments[edit | edit source]
See: Arias and Arcá (2018); Bloodworth and Parkinson (1988); Duqueyroix et al (2015); Hansen et al. (1992); Pickwoad (1992); Pickwoad (2016); Puglia and Mayer (2017).
Long Term Storage Containers[edit | edit source]
Environmental Requirements for Display and Storage[edit | edit source]
Humidity[edit | edit source]
Temperature[edit | edit source]
Light[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
Arias, Teresa Espejo, and Luis Crespo Arcá. 2018. "The Experience of Matting and Hingeing Single Parchment Documents for Their Exhibition: The Case of the Capitulaciones de Almería (Spain)." Care and Conservation of Manuscripts 16: 171–84.
Bloodworth, J. G., and M. J. Parkinson. 1988. "The Display of Parchment and Vellum." Journal of the Society of Archivists 9 (2): 65–68.
Duqueyroix, Nadège, Laurianne Robinet, and Coralie Barbe. 2015. "Expandable Polyester Hinges for Parchment Mounting Performance in Fluctuating Environmental Conditions." Journal of Paper Conservation 16 (1): 18–28.
Hansen, Eric F., Steve N. Lee, and Harry Sobel. 1992. "The Effects of Relative Humidity on Some Physical Properties of Modern Vellum: Implications for the Optimum Relative Humidity for the Display and Storage of Parchment." Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 31 (3): 325–42.
Pickwoad, Nicholas. 1992. "Alternative Methods of Mounting Parchment for Framing and Exhibition." The Paper Conservator 16 (1): 78–85.
Pickwoad, Nicholas. 2016. "The Lanhydrock Pedigree: Mounting and Framing an Oversize Parchment Document." Care and Conservation of Manuscripts 15: 233–48.
Puglia, Alan, and Debora D. Mayer. 2017. "The Challenge of Scale Revisited: Lessons Learned from Treatment and Mounting an Exhibition of 160 Illuminated Manuscripts." Book and Paper Group Annual 36: 59–68.
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
[Copied from original BPG Parchment page.]
Storage and Display[edit | edit source]
- Armstrong, Jim. “How Do You Mount an Old Wrinkled Sheepskin?”Framing, Fine Art and Wall Decor (Amersham/April/May 1977): 55-59.
- Bloodworth, J.G., and M.J. Parkinson. “The Display of Parchment and Vellum.” Journal of the Society of Archivists 9, no. 2 (1988): 65-58.
- Ciccarini, Letizia Montalbano. “Il Sistema Giapponese dei ‘Falsi Margini.’ Applicazioni Tradizionali e Nuove Proposte di Intervento,”Kermes 5, no.14 (1992): 18-26.
- Clarkson, Christopher. “Preservation and Display of Single Parchment Leaves and Fragments,”in Guy Petherbridge (editor) Conservation of Library and Archive Materials and the Graphic Arts, London-Boston, 1987, pp. 201-209.
- Glaser, Mary Todd, Steven Weintraub and Ellen Marlatt. “The Bill of Rights Goes to Spain,”The Book and Paper Annual 12 (1993): 20-23.
- Peterson, Dag-Ernst. “Notes on the Binding and Storage of Vellum-Leaved Books,”in Guy Petherbridge (editor) The Conservation of Library and Archive Materials and the Graphic Arts. London: Butterworths, 1987, pp.211-217.
- Pickwoad, Nicholas. “Alternative Methods of Mounting Parchment for Framing and Exhibition,”The Paper Conservator, 16 (1992): 78-85.
- Rekrut, A. “Parchment Mounting Methods Experiment: A Self-Study Project,”unpublished. Kingston: Master of Art Conservation Program, Queen's University, 1993.
- Terrell, Christopher. “A System for the Storage and Display of Manuscript Charts on Vellum,”in: Ligue des bibliotheques europeennes de recherche (LIBER): Bulletin 1984, S. 20 ff.
- Valentin, N., M. Lindstrom and F. Preusser. “Microbial Control by Low Oxygen and Low Relative Humidity Environment,”Studies in Conservation 35 (1990): 222-230.
- Woods, Maria. “The Case for Casing,”Library Conservation News 14 January (1986): 1, 6.
Environment[edit | edit source]
- Androes, G.M., H.R. Gloria, and R.F. Reinisch. “Concerning the Production of Free Radicals in Proteins by Ultraviolet Light,”Photochemistry and Photobiology 15 (1972): 375-393.
- Anonymous. “Fungi Not Fire Damaged Aleppo Codex,”Nature 355 (1988): 203.
- Armstrong, Jim. "How Do You Mount an Old Wrinkled Sheepskin?" Framing, Fine Art and Wall Decor, Amersham (April/May 1977): 55-9.
- Bloodworth, J. G. and M. J. Parkinson. "The Display of Parchment and Vellum." Journal of the Society of Archivists 9:2 (1988): 58-65.
- Bowes, J.H., and A.S. Raistrick. “The Action of Heat and Moisture on Leather. Part V. Chemical Changes in Collagen and Tanned Collagen,”Journal of the American Leather Chemists Association 59 (1964): 201-215.
- Bowes, J.H., and A.S. Raistrick. “The Action of Heat and Moisture on Leather. Part VI. Degradation of the Collagen,”Journal of the American Leather Chemists Association 62 (1967): 240-257.
- Chahine, Claire, Leroy, Martine. “Effet de la Pollution Atmospherique sur le Cuir et le Parchemin,”in ICOM Preprints of the 6th Triennial Meeting. Ottawa, 21-25 September (1981) (81/14/6): pp. 1-12.
- Chieffo. C. T. "Miniatures on Ivory: Their Care and Storage." Art and Antiques 6: I (1983): 42-3.
- Ciccarini, Letizia Montalbano. "II sistema giapponese dei 'falsi margini': applicazioni tradizionali e nuove proposte di intervento." Kermes 5:14 (1992): 18-26.
- Clarke, Bryan. "A Study of Traditional and Contemporary Techniques for Mounting and Assembling Prints at the Fitzwilliam Museum." Historic Framing and Presentation of Watercolors. Institute of Paper Conservation (1996): 33-42.
- Clarkson, Christopher. "Preservation and Display of Single Parchment Leaves and Fragments", in Guy Petherbridge (ed.), The Conservation of Library and Archive Materials and the Graphic Arts. London: Butterworths (1987): 201-9.
- Derrick, Michele, Eric Hansen, and George Rogers. “Research Proposal for the Effects of Moisture, Light and Heat on Proteinaceous Materials: Part I. Recommendation for the Display and Storage Conditions of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Part II. Factors Affecting the Degradation Kinetics of Proteinaceous Materials,”Getty Conservation Institute (1988): 1-16.
- Erhardt, David and Marion F. Mecklenburg. "Relative Humidity Re-examined", in A. Roy and P. Smith (eds), Preventive Conservation: Practice, Theory and Research, Preprints of the llC Congress, Ottawa (1994): 32-7.
- Florian, Mary-Lou E. “Conidial Fungi (Mould) Activity on Artifact Materials - A New Look at Prevention, Control and Eradication,”ICOM Committee for Conservation, Preprints of the 10th Triennial Meeting, Washington, D.C. 22-27 August 1993: 868-874.
- Glaser. Mary Todd, Steven Weintraub and Ellen Marlatt. "The Bill of Rights Goes to Spain." The Book and Paper Annual 12 (1993): 20-3.
- Grattan, David W. “The Oxidative Degradation of Organic Materials and Its Importance in Deterioration of Artifacts,” Journal of the International Institute for Conservation - Canadian Group 4, no. 1 (1980): 17-26.
- Haberditzi, Anna Therese, Bauer, Friedrich, Stachelberger, Herbert, Banik Gerhard, Mairinger, Franz. “Characterization of Storage-Dependent Structural Damage in Parchment Samples by Means of SDS-PAGE.”Electrophorsis '86, 5th Meeting of the International Electrophoresis Society, London, 1986, 3S.
- Hansen, Eric F., Steve N. Lee and Harry Sobel, “The Effects of Relative Humidity on some Physical Properties of Modern Vellum: Implications for the Optimum Relative Humidity for the Display and Storage of Parchment,”Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 31, no.3 (1992): 325-342.
- Henderson, Cathy. "Environmental Standards for Exhibiting Library and Archival Materials: The Work of NISO Committee MM." International Conference on Conservation and Restoration of Archive and Library Materials, Erice, 22-29 April (1996): 107-11.
- Huxtable, Merryl, Victoria Button, Danny Norman and David Ford. "Improving and Monitoring the Condition of a Collection of Illuminated Parchment Manuscript Fragments - at Home and in Transit." ICOM Committee for Conservation, Preprints of the 11th Triennial Meeting, Edinburgh, 1-6 September (1996): 523-32.
- Kowalik, Romauld. “Decomposition of Parchment by Microorganisms.”Restaurator 4, no. 3-4 (1980): 200-208.
- Kowalik, Romauld. “Paper and Parchment Deteriorating Fungi Pathogenic to Man,”in Dag-Ernst Petersen (editor), Das alte Buch als Aufgabe fur Naturwisenschaft und Forschung, Bremen-Wolfenbuttel 1977 (Wolfenbutteler Forschungen 1), pp. 85-90.
- Lee, Sandra L. “Optimal Conditions for Long Term Storage of Native Collagens,”Collagen Rel. Research. vol. 3 (1983): 305-315.
- Norman, Daniel. "The Mounting of Single Leaf Parchment and Vellum Objects for Display and Storage." Conservation Journal of the Victoria & Albert Museum 9 (October 1993): 10-13.
- Padfield, Tim. "A Cooled Display Case." Museum 146 (1985): 102-3.
- Petersen, Dag-Ernst. "Notes on the Binding and Storage of Vellum Leaved Books", in Guy Petherbridge (ed.), The Conservation of Library and Archive Materials and the Graphic Arts London: Butterworths (1987): 211-17.
- Pickwoad, Nicholas. "Alternative Methods of Mounting Parchment for Framing and Exhibition." The Paper Conservator 16 (1992): 78-85.
- Rekrut, A. Parchment Mounting Methods Experiment: A Self-Study Project, unpublished. Kingston: Master of Art Conservation Program, Queen's University, 1993.
- Sadurska, Irena, Romuald Kowalik, Dawid Lipson, and Elzbieta Czerwinska. “Mikrobiologiczny Rozklad Materialow Uzywanych w Konserwacji, In: Annali della Scuola Speciale per Archivisti e Bibliotecari (SSAB) dell'-Universita di Roma 9(1969): 51-60 with Fig. 1-14.
- Schilling, Michael R. and William S. Ginell. “The Effects of Relative Humidity Changes on Dead Sea Scrolls Parchment Samples,” ICOM Committee for Conservation, Preprints of the 10th Triennial Meeting, Washington, D.C. 22-27 August, 1993: 50-56.
- Steemers, T.. "Het hoe en waarin opbergen van charters en zegels." Depot-inrichting en archief-conservering: passieve conservering. Amsterdam (1993): 55-6.
- Thompson, Gary. The Museum Environment. London: Butterworths, 1978.
- Terrel, Christopher. "A System for the Storage and Display of Manuscript Charts on Vellum", in Ligue des bibliotheques europeennes de recherché (LIBER), Bulletin (1984): 20ff.
- Valentin, N., M. Lindstrom and F. Preusser. "Microbial Control by Low Oxygen and Low Relative Humidity Environment." Studies in Conservation 35 (1990): 222-30.
- Walsh, Betty. "Salvage Operations for Water-damaged Collections." Western Association for Art Conservation Newsletter 10:2 (May 1988): 2-5.
- Wilson, W. K. "Guidelines for Environmental Conditions in Archives and Libraries." New Directions in Paper Conservation: 10th Anniversary Conference of the Institute of Paper Conservation, 14-18 April (1986): D56-D59.
History of This Page[edit | edit source]
This page was created in April 2022 when the Parchment page was updated.
|Paper Conservation Topics|
Surface Cleaning · Hinge, Tape, and Adhesive Removal · Washing · Sizing and Resizing · Bleaching · Enzymes · Chelating Agents · Alkalization and Neutralization · Humidification · Consolidation, Fixing, and Facing · Backing Removal · Mending · Filling of Losses · Drying and Flattening · Lining · Inpainting
|Book Conservation Topics|
|Structural Elements of the Book||
Endpapers · Endbands · Sewing and Leaf Attachment · Book Boards · Board Attachment · Book Decoration · Fastenings and Furniture
Washing of Books · Alkalinization of Books · Leaf Attachment and Sewing Repair · Board Reattachment · Use of Leather in Book Conservation
Animal Skin and Leather · Cloth Bookbinding · Paper Bookbinding · Parchment Bookbinding
Bookbinding Traditions by Region or Culture · East Asian Book Formats · Ethiopian Bindings · Greek-Style Bindings · Western African Books and Manuscripts