The art of conserving paper

Paper is not just paper. It contains much of our history and our collective memory. So conserving paper is an important part of passing on our cultural heritage to future generations.

Paper conservation mainly pertains to paper stored in libraries, archives and museums.  The aim of the conservation work is to extend the life of the paper by slowing down its degradation. But to conserve paper, it is important to understand the material. Paper may be made of wood pulp or textiles and therefore different paper needs to be treated differently. Objects may have damage from moisture, dirt, animal infestation or have been treated negligently, all of which affects their durability. Printing inks and printing techniques also vary, and as a conservator you must take this into account when working with the material.

The University of Gothenburg has the only conservation programme in Sweden. During the programme, students learn about different materials, ranging from textiles and leather to paper, metal and stone. For a conservator, all materials are equal, and an object may consist of several different types of material. The conservation programme collaborates with a number of other parties, including Gothenburg’s University Library, which lends works to the programme.