Walton Burrell Photographic Album – part 2

Purchased and then deposited at Bury St Edmunds branch in 2000 by the Friends of Suffolk Record Office, this large album (K997) of 260 pages contains more than 2,000 photographs.  The collection description summarises the background of the cameraman Walton Robert Burrell.

Part 2 – putting it back together again

After the photographs had been scanned we decided to rebind them in a facsimile of the original binding to preserve the look and feel of an album but this time it would be split over two volumes. This proved to be the most difficult part of the conservation work as it was necessary to re-house the pages to give them maximum protection whilst also allowing them to move and be handled, and make sure that the binding would be strong enough to support the weight of the pages yet also be flexible.

Various problems had to be considered including that the later pages of the album seem less flexible than the earlier ones so we didn’t want them to flex too much when used; that so many photographs had been stuck into the album that additional ‘compensation’ guards were needed, and that it was undesirable that users would touch the page edges because this would once again damage them and because the photographs shouldn’t be touched anyway.

We addressed these problems through various binding techniques aiming to create a binding structure that opens well but which is strong and protects the photographs inside. To prevent handling we incorporated interleaves with an opening edge extending beyond the textblock so readers would handle these when turning pages instead of the originals; these also prevent the photographs rubbing over each other. We used Microchamber® paper for this as it will absorb any volatile compounds from the untreated acidic pages and so protect the sensitive photographs.

‘Dummy’ bindings were made up to test the binding structures before making them in earnest. Overall the binding was a hollow-back style to encourage good opening and the board attachment by textblock flange and split boards; by the second binding this attachment was designed to be reversible and the covers potentially reusable if the interleaving ever needs replacing. Various techniques were used to ensure a strong binding but with reasonable opening and textblock movement including adding vellum to the sewing supports; laced-in endbands tied down at every section with support bands, and a strong yet flexible spine lining using aerolinen and alum-tawed leather. To protect the spines of the sections from the adhesive and spine lining applied, the binding was sewn with a concertina guard. Residues of missing pages are incorporated at the end of the binding in case the matching pages are found.

The finished volumes (K997)