Royal Horticultural Society Plant Hunter Collections
The RHS Plant Hunter collections consist of bound volumes and single leaf items recording the adventures and correspondence of the Plant Hunters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The aims of the project were to stabilise the objects, repair damage and reduce their vulnerability to further deterioration, loss or theft. They were also required to be robust and presentable for safe handling by invigilated researchers, display and loan. The conservation approach developed sought to preserve original formats where possible, keeping evidence of earlier bindings and arrangements being as reversible as possible.
Over the last 4 years, this ongoing conservation project was developed in consultation with RHS staff and their requirements for this incredibly interesting collection. The aims, as outlined above, have been met using a consistent approach to conservation treatment and developing a preservation storage and boxing protocol.
The bound items have been treated in situ, as far as possible, to avoid unnecessary interference. The items have been surface cleaned to remove loose dirt and repaired using low moisture techniques. The bindings have been repaired following their original structures, using the highest quality materials. The preferred method of storage for single leaf items is Fascicule pamphlets, made up to the size of the largest item, each storing approximately 30 items. They are easily annotated in pencil if required and the benefit of several well labelled folders is that fewer items are exposed to damage from handling at one time. They can also be accessed and/or displayed simultaneously. For each plant hunter’s collection, bespoke, double-walled drop-back boxes have been made to ensure their safe, long term handling and preservation. The treatment has been fully documented and copies recording the process are held by the library.