AICCM Symposium 2006, Conservation of Paper, Books and Photographic Materials. Post-prints and Posters. 19-21 April 2006, Wellington, New Zealand. p254-264
In March 2005 the State Library of Victoria’s curators presented its conservators with a wish-list of 254 items for display in the new level of the Dome Galleries. The exhibition, Mirror of the World, showcases rare, beautiful and historically significant books from the Library’s heritage collections. The vision for this exhibit was that it would be long-term or permanent, which highlighted the vulnerability of placing open books on display set within the environmental limitations of a heritage display space. Through the planning process the concept of an ‘exhibition life’ of a book evolved, based on the number of page-turns a book could sustain. This paper will describe processes established to manage the assessment, treatment, support construction and display of a large-scale book show. Discussion will focus on the inherent challenges of controlling the environment and light exposure in a heritage space, and of sustaining over 194 books on display at any one time. Equally important was the development of the book monitoring project, established to assess the impact of display on book structure. With little published research available on the effect of extended display of books, items considered to be most at risk were chosen as ‘guinea pigs’ to be more closely observed. The project aims to gather data which can inform future display decisions and confirm or challenge current notions surrounding book display, which often seem purely intuitive.