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Cambridge University Library

Throwback Thursday: The conservation of a Genizah fragment

Mosseri IXa.1.28
Left: Mosseri IXa.1.28, before conservation. Right: After conservation, the Masoretic Text of Leviticus 9:4-6 is revealed.
Melonie Schmierer-Lee
Thu 27 May 2021

Our Throwback Thursday this week is taken from issue 63 of the printed edition of Genizah Fragments, published in April 2012, by the conservator Lucy Cheng:

Mosseri IXa.1.28 is a paper fragment, which was crumpled and exposed to dust due to less than ideal storage in the past. After testing the stability of the inks, the fragment was cleaned by gentle brushing, and encrustation of dirt or dust was broken down with pressure from a small spatula and the debris brushed away. To remove creasing, moisture was applied with a damp brush and then the area was first covered with a sheet of blotter, then a small square of glass and a light weight. The light pressure helps the crease to relax into a flat surface. Tears along the edges of the fragment were either repaired with direct application of a 16% wheat starch paste or by using a re-moistenable mending paper, made with a 2.5 gsm Japanese paper (German-made Gossamer Paper) and a 50/50 mixture of 3% DOW Methocel A4M methylcellulose and diluted wheat starch paste. 

What happened next? The techniques of the Genizah conservators were featured in our short (10 minute) 2017 film ‘A Brush With History: Conserving the Genizah Collections’. The Mosseri collection (on long term loan to Cambridge University Library) is still in the process of conservation. Around half of the Mosseri fragments are yet to be conserved, and funding is needed to complete the work.

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