About the Preservation Team
Meet Emma and Eleanor, paper conservators working on the Illustrations and Archives collections.
Eleanor Hasler, the archive project conservator, is currently working on two collections of letters which are in need of treatment so that they can be preserved for the future.
The first is one of the Archives most important collections - 44 letters from Charles Darwin to his mentor Professor John Stevens Henslow written before, during and after the HMS Beagle expedition. These letters, primarily written in iron gall ink on a variety of writing papers, were previously bound into a volume however due to the popularity of these items, and the inappropriate housing conditions, it was deemed necessary to separate the letters and to conserve each one individually. Iron gall ink deteriorates with age, often ‘eating’ into the paper causing disintegration of the item in severe cases. Eleanor has been stabilising the ink by washing the letters in treatment baths, and carrying out a variety of repairs to the paper.
Eleanor’s second project is the conservation of letters relating to Marianne North. Also bound in a volume these letters, varying greatly with regards to ink and paper type, need to be repaired and re-housed in a conservationally sound storage folder so that they can be safely and easily accessed by researchers.
Emma Le Cornu
Emma Le Cornu is the Illustrations project conservator currently treating various artworks in need of conservation from the Art and Illustrations collection.
These artworks include a collection of 19th century pastel portraits of Kew botanists, some of which are the only existing image. These have been adhered to a very poor quality board which needs to be removed to prevent further deterioration of the paper. The portraits can then be mounted in archival quality window mounts to protect the very fragile surface, keeping them safe whilst in storage and making them more accessible for researchers.
Emma is also treating a collection of Chinese illustrations of trees commissioned by Robert Fortune in the 1840s. These are painted on very fragile Chinese paper in watercolour with Chinese and European ink inscriptions. They have been adhered to inappropriate backing boards and have suffered various forms of damage as a result. These will require removal from the backing boards, repairs of severe tears and stabilisation of the media. Again, these can then be mounted in new mounts enabling them to be stored safely and making them available for research and exhibition.
Meet the Conservators
Eleanor and Emma talk about their work in the conservation studio during the ‘Meet the Conservators’ sessions at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.
Find out more...
- Find out more about the Preservation Team's work
- Visit the Marianne North Gallery
- Read about the Conservators work on Marianne North's paintings at Kew
- Discover more about Kew's Library, Art & Archives
- Read the Library, Art & Archives team blog
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