News from the Conservation Studio - Printed Ephemera Treasures from the Archive

01/09/2016 13:48:35

Printed Ephemera Treasures from the Archive: A number of bound volumes from our archives have been conserved to reveal beautifully illustrated P&O and B.I. brochures...

News from the Conservation Studio - Printed Ephemera Treasures from the Archive



A set of 16 large bound volumes came to our attention during a recent survey of our archive collection (which is on loan to and normally housed at the National Maritime Museum, NMM, in Greenwich)



The very generic catalogue title “Ships' Movements (Handbooks and Sailing Lists)” did not really describe the actual contents. Instead, what we discovered, were some beautiful colour illustrated P&O and B.I. cruise and sailing brochures dating from 1924 to 1939, some not seen before. Each volume was a record of a full years advertised sailings.

Something that we wanted to explore and investigate further...

Sadly these volumes were in quite a poor and unstable condition, and could not be handled safely without causing further damage, so it was decided to withdraw the set from the NMM for conservation.



The volumes were very large and too tightly bound, making them hard to handle and access safely without causing further damage. The brochures were either stitched or pasted to paper guards (folded paper strips) and bound together. Some brochures were folded to fit in, these had often been torn or become loose during previous handling. The sheer size and weight of the volume had also contributed to further distortion and damage to the papers, leaving the edges creased and torn. The volumes were covered in dark layers of surface dust which have contributed to further ingrained dirt and staining.


The current state was no longer suitable and prohibited safe access the contents, so we decided to break-up the binding structure and remove the individual items from the volumes to rehouse them in individual sleeves in a box, which could be stored flat. This would benefit the long-term preservation of the brochures and it would improve access and ensure safe handling.

It would also allow the items to be assessed and treated individually before they are catalogued and digitised.

 (All information from bound format will be recorded and a sample of the cover will be saved for future reference.)



Prior to the break-up of the binding each brochure was numbered with an insert paper strip to keep track of the sequence.

Step 1 Breaking-up the binding structure and removing the individual items from the volume

The boards were loosened, the spine cover peeled off and sewing threads and tags cut open, and removed section by section.


Step 2 Removing the brochures from the paper guards and localised adhesive removal

The majority of the brochures were adhered to a folded paper strip (guard) which was removed with gentled localised humidfication or an applications of a polutice gel (methylcellulose). This helped to soften the adhesive and eased the removal of the guard from the brochure.


Step 3 Surface Cleaning

Extensive surface cleaning was required to remove and reduce surface and ingrained dirt. This was carried out with chemical sponges, erasers and a soft brush.


Step 4 Flattening

The folded brochures were flattened out with localised humidification using fine mist and damp blotters.

Note: The second phase of this large conservation project will be to secure the brochures for future handling, e.g. repairing any large tears and stitching the individual brochures together (which now have no staples holding them together) before rehousing them in polyester sleeves.



Once the individual brochures had been removed from the binding and guards and cleaned, they were ready to be digitised. These high resolution scans now give greater access to the contents of the brochures and the beautiful illustrations will soon be available to purchase online in our P&O Prints shop.

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