Imagine a finely engraved map of London, circa 1749. The map is comprised of separate sheets that are mounted 8 across and 3 down. The 24 sheets are printed on cotton rag paper and mounted on coarsely woven linen. The map has been repaired, mounted, and framed by professional conservators. Though the conservation work was done over 20 years ago, the work is in-line with current best practices and the map has lovingly been cared for by the owners in the intervening years.
Fast-forward to this year (2013). The map owners, Keith and Betty Stewart, have generously agreed to donate the map to the University of Cincinnati Libraries’ Archives and Rare Books Library. An amazing map, in good condition, that matches the collection development priorities of the institution. Plans are made to have professional movers relocate the map, UC’s preservation department confers with the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) on the best way to transport and frame the map, CAM recommended framers are employed to reframe and add protective glazing to the map, and wall space has been cleared and prepared to hang the map. A good plan, what could go wrong?
Perhaps I didn’t mention that the map is in two section of 6’ x 6’6” and is moving to the top floor of a university building that opened in 1928. With no freight elevator, multiple staircases all with a clearance less than 6’, and narrow doorways there is basically no way to get the map to the floor in its current condition – framed and stretched.
So with heavy hearts the Preservation Librarian, Holly Prochaska, and Preservation Lab Conservator, Kathy Lechuga, removed the map sections from their stretchers, rolled them up, collapsed the pair of stretchers, and gingerly hand carried the treasure up to the 800 level of Blegen Library. Below is a photo narrative of the process and the happy result!
Now that we have the process down, let’s do it again! The same process was completed for the second map panel. Total time to remove the map and collapse the frames – approximately 6 hours.
Once the map sheets were transported to the 800 level of Blegen, home to the Archives and Rare Books Library, we began the process of putting them back together.
Light tension was employed to reduce some of the sagging in the map wrought by gravity. However, because the map was adhered to a sturdy linen using animal glues (how the map was originally purchased by the Stewarts in 1958) the map was not flexible and could not be brought taut.
Holly Prochaska — Head, Preservation Services and Lab (UCL)