Finishing the Minton Conservation Project

August sees the end of the Minton Conservation Project, which has been ongoing for the last year. Funded by the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust and the Art Fund, with contributions from the Wolfson Foundation and the Pilgrim Trust, the project enabled conservator Jess Hyslop to work full-time conserving a selection of books and artworks from the Minton Archive.

So here we are: my final post as Minton Project Conservator! The last year really has flown by, and I’m very sad that the project has come to an end. It’s been a real privilege to conserve some of the wonderful books and artworks in the Minton Archive. Overall this year, I have conserved 22 items (where an item is a book, lever arch file, or group of artworks under the same ‘MS’ number). Unfortunately I don’t have space here to go through them all, but I thought that for this last blog post I would try to pick out some particular highlights of my year conserving this beautiful material.

Minton Pattern Book No. 1

It’s a no-brainer to begin with the earliest Minton pattern book (SD1705/MS2287). This lovely little volume is bound in beautiful red goatskin, and contains a series of charming teacup designs. It was also particularly satisfying to conserve, as I was able to successfully free the book of a covering of self-adhesive library film. You can read more about how I treated this volume in my two-part blog posts here and here.

Removing library film from the boards of Pattern Book No. 1 using a heated spatula
Early Minton Pattern Book No. 1 after treatment

Green Parchment Binding

You may have already read my post about this green parchment binding (SD1705/MS1583). Most of the other books I treated during the project were covered with leather, so working with this parchment binding was particularly interesting. Parchment has different properties to leather, and is on the whole rather more challenging to work with. I had fun dyeing new parchment to match the original, so that I could apply this as a new spine covering where the original had been lost.

Dyeing a piece of new parchment green (those are magnets around the edge, to keep the parchment under tension as it dried)
SD1705/MS1583 after treatment, with the new parchment applied to the spine

Rebinding a Pair of Ornaments Books

SD1705/MS1585 and SD1705/MS1591 are both Ornaments Books in the same series, which in the past had both been rebound in unsuitable case bindings covered with a rather nasty plastic-coated cloth. These bindings had failed so that many of the pages were falling out and becoming damaged as a consequence. It was hard work to bring these books back to a stable, usable condition: they needed extensive repairs to the text block, resewing, and completely new bindings. But because of this, they were also arguably the most satisfying treatments I completed during the project. It was a pleasure to be able to take these books from a very fragile state to one where they can now be used safely by readers—not to mention giving them more appropriate springback bindings that are more sympathetic to what the originals would have been.

SD1705/MS1591 before treatment – you can see how many of the pages are falling out and have torn at the edges
Both MS1585 (pictured) and MS1591 were given new leather springback binding. They’re much happier now!

There are so many more items I could mention here – but I shouldn’t go on too long! Suffice to say it’s been a real pleasure to be the Minton Project Conservator this year, and I do hope that you take the opportunity to visit the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives and see some of the lovely Minton Archive material in person.

The treatments described in this blog post and others in the Conservation series are carried out by a qualified conservator. If you have an item in need of conservation, it is always best to ask a conservator for advice. In the UK and Ireland, you can find a conservator through the Institute of Conservation’s Conservation Register.

The Minton Archive one-year conservation project is funded by:
Logos of the Art Fund, The Pilgrim Trust, The Wolfson Foundation, and the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust