Herat - National Museum, Conservation of collections and conservation training: Technical research and conservation of manuscripts Part I (Herat NM I)
Herat has an important tradition in calligraphy, miniature painting, colouring of paper and book making starting in the 15th century. Although most of the art work produced in the book academy of Heart are spread all over the world, there is an admirable and interesting small collection of artistic works still left in the archive that is now part of the museum.
After a long period during which an adequate care for the collection was not possible, all the 400 books are very dirty and partly degraded by the influence of mostly damp and water as well as fire in some cases. Required repairs have been made with very thin mending papers of high quality; later stripes of natron kraft paper and of transparent cello tapes have been used.
The aim of the project in spring 2010 was to find methods for the conservation of some important examples of this collection and, as far as possible, to train some of the museum staff in basics of manuscript conservation, especially in measures for their documentation and preventive conservation.
Before the beginning of the project 15 important manuscripts had been chosen for conservation by Prof. Dr. Peter-Claus Haase, Museum for Islamic Art, PK, Berlin. During documentation work this books showed to have very interesting technological aspects of paper made, of colouring of papers and of the art of bookbinding and the make of covers.
Of all these 18 books – 3 had been added during the stay of over Peter-Claus Haase in Heart – most of the documentation work and the complete cleaning could be done during the three months of the project.
Unexpected was the presence of several dangerous insecticides in the books which can cause severe health and also genetic problems for people contacting the poison continuously. Thank to analysis by a specialised laboratory in Germany the problem could be handled quite safely after a while.
Before the beginning of the campaign it was planned to try to find methods easy to teach for the stabilisation and filling in of degraded paper and missing areas. The method foreseen with pre-prepared hand made thin Japanese papers turned out not to be the adequate method. Neither the technical stability nor the aesthetic aspect was suitable. Possible changes in colour and brilliance did not help to change the situation. So the technical concept of the whole conservation and restoration part had to be changed to the much more complicated and time consuming infibrillisation technique.
- Prof. Ruth Keller (Projektleitung)
National Museum of Afghanistan
National Archives of Afghanistan