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Curatorial Centre -
Conservation

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Conservation Case Study -
Auto Parts Catalogue


By Conservation Technician Mark Anderson
2012

Before and after photos of the Auto-Lite parts catalogue 

A number of documents in the George Shepherd Library of the Western Development Museum are machinery parts catalogues used in machine shops for decades. Many are covered in soot from the exhaust of vehicles. To enable the library to use these resources, the layers of soot must be removed without damaging the underlying paper substrate. A system of removing the soot was developed and is outlined here.

Click on photos for larger images. 

Cover of Auto-Lite parts catalogue showing soot damageSoot covers the front and back edges of the booklet and a number of the pages. The acidic nature of the soot is breaking down the paper.

Inside page of Auto-Lite catalogue showing soot damageThe soot also transfers onto anything the booklet comes into contact with.

Inside spread of Auto-Lite catalogueThe inside pages have soot along the edges. The binder ring holes have discoloured each page.

Using small brush to clean catalogueThe first step in removing the soot was to brush off the loose soot, page by page. Small brush strokes were used to prevent scratching the surface with the ash.

Outline of booklet in sootA discernible outline of the booklet was left behind on the blotting paper. The paper was changed frequently to prevent transferring the removed soot back onto the document.

Cleaning catalogue with spongeUsing a document cleaning sponge, each page was cleaned with small strokes to remove more of the loose soot.

Cleaning catalogue with eraser crumbsAfter each page of the document was cleaned with the sponge, eraser crumbs were used to remove ingrained stains on the pages. Using small circular motions, the entire booklet was cleaned with the small granular crumbs.

Brushing crumbs away from catalogueAs the crumbs were used they became discoloured. The document was then brushed again to remove the crumbs.

Cleaned cover of Auto-Lite catalogueThe cleaned document was given a final brushing to remove any remaining loose cleaning crumbs.

Open Auto-Lite catalogue showing cleaned pagesInterior of the booklet with all of the soot removed.

Back page of the Auto-Lite package with cleaning completeBack of the booklet with all of the loose soot removed. Some staining is still present but is the booklet is much more stable than before. The booklet is now ready for return to the library.