29-30th June 2017: The Third Papyrus Curatorial and Conservations Meeting at the University of Cambridge Library
The Special Collections Centre at the University of Aberdeen has an extensive collection of papyrus fragments dating as far back as 1 BC. Due to current packaging and condition issues, the text on many fragments is not clearly visible to interested scholars. The collection is therefore undergoing treatment and re-housing as part of a long-term conservation project led by our Paper Conservator, Louisa Coles. Louisa recently attended the Third Papyrus Curatorial and Conservation meeting held at Cambridge University Library.
The event, held over two days, is aimed at a wide range of people who work with papyrus. The attendees included curators, librarians, academic staff and conservators. In addition to a full programme of papers, it provides a valuable forum for specialists from a range of backgrounds to discuss all things papyrus, with a particular focus on conservation, preservation and access. The value of such events often lies in the discussions following papers and the informal chats between the sessions, which allow attendees to share new ideas, thoughts on presentations and tentative treatment proposals for challenging projects.
There were a few treats too. A private showing of the Book of the Dead of Ramose (see image below) followed a presentation by Julie Dawson on its conservation and mounting at the Fitzwilliam Museum. This was a particular pleasure as access is strictly restricted due to the sensitivity of some of the pigments to light. The last time it was out on display was 10 years ago.
The event also provided an opportunity to visit the fascinating Cambridge University Library exhibition “Discarded History: The Genizah of Medieval Cairo” https://exhibitions.lib.cam.ac.uk/discardedhistory/case/discarded-history/ which although primarily included objects on paper and parchment, provoked some useful ideas for exhibition mounting (which may feature in one of our exhibitions over coming months!).
This was the first time our Paper Conservator had attended the meeting, and it surpassed expectations. Conservation presentations and feedback on proposed treatment and housing methods will feed into our papyri conservation and rehousing project, and discussions concerning, for example, terminological difficulties in cataloguing and the challenges of digitisation, provide a helpful insight into issues that are of relevance to the wider work of the Special Collections department.
19th-21st July 2017 – George MacDonald’s Scotland conference
The Special Collections Centre hosted two workshops for around 20 delegates from this international academic conference devoted to the poet and novelist, an alumnus of King’s College, which was held in the Sir Duncan Rice Library. Attendees included Mr Christopher MacDonald, a direct descendent of the author. Keith O’Sullivan’s introductory presentation placed MacDonald in the context of the University’s historic collections. Fran Kohlt, a DPhil candidate in English from Brasenose College, Oxford, then examined what the writer’s surviving archives could reveal for researchers. Participants were shown an array of original documents, including literary manuscripts, from both the Special Collections Centre and, on loan, from Aberdeenshire Museums. Christopher MacDonald also kindly lent for display a number of items that had belonged to the author, including a tartan plaid and a sketch of MacDonald drawn by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.