The Rocque map of London 1749 – Transportation, Preservation, Installation and CELEBRATION!

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.

Lovingly cared for by Keith and Betty Stewart.  Paper signs stating " PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH" did the trick since 1996.

Lovingly cared for by Keith and Betty Stewart. Paper signs stating ” PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH” did the trick since 1996.

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 at UC - Removing Beva film originally used to stretch the map over the stretcher.  Beva is heat activated – the film was in excellent shape and easily released using a tacking iron.  The same existing Beva film was later used to re-adhere the map once moved.

Now at UC – Removing Beva film originally used to stretch the map over the stretcher. Beva is heat activated – the film was in excellent shape and easily released using a tacking iron. The same existing Beva film was later used to re-adhere the map once moved.

Beva film was adhered to both the front and back of the frame.  Kathy Lechuga releasing the Beva from the front after the back was released.

Beva film was adhered to both the front and back of the frame. Kathy Lechuga releasing the Beva from the front after the back was released.

Holly Prochaska getting ready to roll, literally and figuratively.  With the map released from stretcher, the linen backed sheets are rolled onto a supportive structure for transport.

Holly Prochaska getting ready to roll, literally and figuratively. With the map released from stretcher, the linen backed sheets are rolled onto a supportive structure for transport.

After the map was removed, the muslin lining was removed from two sides of the stretcher –the right side and the bottom.  Then the stretcher was unscrewed, top right and bottom left and collapsed, forming a large right triangle.  This made the stretcher small enough for transport without disassembling the whole frame.

After the map was removed, the muslin lining was removed from two sides of the stretcher –the right side and the bottom. Then the stretcher was unscrewed, top right and bottom left and collapsed, forming a large right triangle. This made the stretcher small enough for transport without disassembling the whole frame.

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.

Putting the muslin lining back on the frame.

Putting the muslin lining back on the frame.

Getting ready to re-adhere and re-stretch the map.

Getting ready to re-adhere and re-stretch the map.

Carefully placing the stretcher on top of the map.

Carefully placing the stretcher on top of the map.

Using tacking irons, the Beva film was reactivated and the map was re-adhered to the muslin lined stretcher.  The original Beva was in most cases reactivated, very little new Beva film was necessary.

Using tacking irons, the Beva film was reactivated and the map was re-adhered to the muslin lined stretcher. The original Beva was in most cases reactivated, very little new Beva film was necessary.

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. 

The map sections back together and being admired by our carpenter, Alan, and library facilities coordinator, Joe Volker.

The map sections back together and being admired by our carpenter, Alan, and library facilities coordinator, Joe Volker.

The oak frame after assembly with framer Bill Renschler, left, and his assistant Mark.   The frame was brought up the library disassembled and assembled onsite.  The frame pieces were carried up a stairwell where the stairwell windows had to be opened and the frame pieces slipped out the window to clear the stairwells’ hairpin turns.

The oak frame after assembly with framer Bill Renschler, left, and his assistant Mark.
The frame was brought up the library disassembled and assembled onsite. The frame pieces were carried up a stairwell where the stairwell windows had to be opened and the frame pieces slipped out the window to clear the stairwells’ hairpin turns.

The unrolling of the Plexiglas, the map’s new protective glazing.

The unrolling of the Plexiglas, the map’s new protective glazing.

All hands on deck to roll out the Plexiglas.  Kevin Grace, center, Head of the Archives and Rare Books Library.

All hands on deck to roll out the Plexiglas. Kevin Grace, center, Head of the Archives and Rare Books Library.

The frame, spacers, and glazing…weighing in at a whopping 250 lbs

The frame, spacers, and glazing…weighing in at a whopping 250 lbs

Eagerly awaiting its new home.

Eagerly awaiting its new home.

And here we go!

And here we go!

Joining the two map sections together.

Joining the two map sections together.

Skipping ahead a bit, voila!  Dust cover and additional frame supports in place.  We are now ready to hang!

Skipping ahead a bit, voila! Dust cover and additional frame supports in place. We are now ready to hang!

Alan hanging the cleats.

Alan hanging the cleats.

1, 2, 3 and here we go.

1, 2, 3 and here we go.

Just a little bit higher...

Just a little bit higher…

Mark and Bill removing the protective plastic from the glazing.

Mark and Bill removing the protective plastic from the glazing.

Thanks to a large cast of characters, the map will be protected and enjoyed for years and years and years to come!

Thanks to a large cast of characters, the map will be protected and enjoyed for years and years and years to come!

Holly Prochaska — Head, Preservation Services and Lab (UCL)

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