Cleaning the English Rare Book Collection

A team of four conservators from the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation recently completed comprehensive cleaning of the English Room Rare Book Collection at the Baillieu Library.

The collection comprises around 8,600 works from an array of 18th and 19th century British authors, including 2,500 volumes by Sir Walter Scott. While much of this collection is in excellent condition, collection maintenance and regular cleaning is essential to ensure it remains that way. Over time, dust and dirt build up on the cover, spine and textblock of a book, as well as on the surrounding shelves. Recent graduates of the Master of Cultural Materials Conservation program: Adele Barbara, Lois Waters, Mar Cruz and PhD candidate Sadra Zekrgoo, set to work on the cleaning process.

To clean this collection, each book was removed from the shelf, and the text block vacuumed with a HEPA filter vacuum, using a soft brush to loosen dust and dirt. To clean the leather or cloth covers, each book was gently wiped down with a microfibre cloth. Each shelf was also wiped down with a separate microfibre cloth, before every book was returned to its place. This method ensured that any dirt or dust could be removed without disturbing any elaborate gold tooling, or reducing the colour of the fine leather bindings. More

Image: Book text blocks being vacuumed with the aid of a soft brush to loosen dust and dirt