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Cambridge University Library


We are delighted to announce that Emma Nichols, a Book and Paper Conservator at Cambridge University Library, has recently been awarded a Research Bursary from the Wellcome Trust. Emma has been the conservator for the WWII Changi Internment Camp Archives from Singapore, which form part of the Royal Commonwealth Society collections, since October 2015 thanks to a Wellcome Trust funded project to catalogue, conserve and digitise the collection.

The bursary will enable Emma to carry out crucial research and treatments on one of the Nominal Rolls from the Changi Archive. The Nominal Rolls are unique historical documents of international significance, recording the personal information of individual internees, who came from over twenty countries. One of the Rolls suffered extensive moisture damage at some point in its history, leaving its paper leaves very weak and at high risk of irreversible damage from handling.

Emma’s research will run alongside her continued conservation of the Changi collection and aims to develop an in-situ treatment method for the moisture damaged leaves of the Roll. She will be reviewing existing conservation literature and testing conservation repair techniques, materials and adhesives on artificially moisture damaged substrates, together with characterising the leaves of the Roll using optical microscopy, Near Infra-Red spectroscopy and Ultra Violet imaging in collaboration with University College London and the Hamilton Kerr Institute. Specialist UV imaging equipment is also being purchased for Cambridge University Library by funds from the bursary, which will both aid Emma’s research and be a permanent investment in the informed analysis and conservation of the Library’s wider collections.

This is, we believe, the first time the Wellcome Trust has awarded a research bursary to a conservator, a considerable achievement for Emma, and it will enable her to build on her previous collaborative research with the Books and Beasts Project. The development of a successful treatment will not only ensure the long term survival of the Nominal Roll, but will also inform the conservation of significant collections of similarly damaged twentieth-century material within the Library and the wider archival community.

Emma will be blogging about her experiments throughout the project on the University Library’s Special Collections Blog and publishing an article on her final results and methodology in the Institute of Conservation Journal. She will be speaking about the project at the 2016 ARA Conference and the Researching FEPOW History Group Conference in 2017.

Wellcome Trust