Conservation of Hans Christian Andersen's ink-corroded manuscripts and letters
The Hans Christian Andersen collection of manuscripts, drawings and letters at Odense City Museums had beeen suffering from iron gall ink corrosion. When the collection was moved and rehoused in buffered zeolite cardboard in 1998, the documents were examined. Their state of condition and need of possible preservation and connservation was noted.
During examination it was obvious that 78% of the collection was in a poor condition with a need of active conservation to prevent further degradation. In September 2004 Odense City Meseums applied for funding for the examination and development of procedure. The project started with months of literary research and planning. The aim of the project was to find a possible conservation method, to test for possible side-effects, to gather practical experience and to achieve a higher level of theoretical understanding of the chemistry underlying the degradation of paper.
The ink has etched its way through the paper
The use of Iron gall ink has a long tradition since the Middel Ages, and Hans Christian Andersen wrote with iron gall ink.
There are two main mechanisms in the iron gall ink corrosion that causes degradation of the paper. The first mechanism is acid degradation resulting from a low pH level in the paper and acids from the ink. The second mechanism is an oxidation processes that are catalysed by metal ions in the paper and the ink.
During the project five different methods of paper conservation on two different types of paper were tested. Pure linen paper with a new manufactured iron gall ink with known content, and on paper from the period (1860-80) with iron gall ink text were used. The preliminary results of the project were presented on 24 January 2006 in Newcastle at the international conferences on the chemestry of paper degradation conference '2nd Iron Gall Ink Meeting'.
After four years the treatment of the collection has finished