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19

Jul

Corian® helps the University of Southampton to take good care of the Wellington Papers

Corian® helps the University of Southampton to take good care of the Wellington Papers

The Conservation Department at the University of Southampton have long understood the benefits of Corian®. Ever since Corian® worktops were installed in their studios, the team have been delighted with how well the material copes with the demands of an environment which needs to be kept clean at all times.


At present the team are working on a project to conserve some of the very badly fragmented papers of the first Duke of Wellington. The Wellington Papers are an archive from the great age of government by correspondence. The collection contains some 100,000 letters to and from Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington (1769’“1852).

When the papers were allocated to the University in 1983 under the national heritage legislation, it came with a major burden of conservation: some 10% of the archive was too fragile to handle. Paper is susceptible to many hazards ’” water, mould, vermin, all have made an impact on the collection. As early as 1815, part of the archive was damaged in a shipwreck in the Tagus, when the vessel bringing back Wellington's papers sank as it crossed the bar leaving Lisbon. Many parcels of letters were delivered to George Canning, the British ambassador in Portugal, and other British officials, and Canning ’˜endeavoured to quicken the zeal of finders by promises of reward'. One package had passed through the hands of the Portuguese government, although the ambassador was unclear whether it had contained anything to gratify their curiosity. Seawater is not the best preservative of paper: many items were either completely lost at that stage or have become more susceptible to deterioration because of the damage they sustained in 1815.


Corian® helps the University of Southampton to take good care of the Wellington Papers

Corian® to the rescue


As well as Having Corian® worktops, the Department discovered that Corian® is a useful product to use for pressing manuscripts, prints and drawings and maps that have been conserved and given aqueous treatments so need controlled drying. The documents are leaf cast and pressed between 2 Corian® sheets in a nipping press.

In the words of Anne-Marie Steel from the Special Collections team, *‘Corian® is such a great material, much better than traditional wooden boards.’* The fact that Corian® is completely inert, does not off-gas and is relatively heavy means that the team can use it with the most fragile of documents, certain in the knowledge that it won't cause further damage.


Whilst it is often the designability of Corian® that we shout about, this unique application emphasises just how practical it can be as well.


All photos are courtesy of the University of Southampton.

Corian® helps the University of Southampton to take good care of the Wellington Papers

 


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