The Center for Tebtunis Papyri logoAncient Lives-the Tebtunis Papyri in Context header

 

This is an archived exhibit of The Bancroft Library, University California, Berkeley.

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Conservation

 

In 1940, the American papyrologist Edmund Kase Jr. took a large number of papyrus fragments from the tin boxes and put them between two sheets of a plastic material called Vinylite. The two sheets were then heatsealed.

Although at the time the Vinylite seemed to have nothing but advantages, time has shown that is also has numerous disadvantages which could even harm the papyrus. The flexibility of the Vinylite caused fragments of papyrus to break off inside the frame. Due to the static electricity occurring between two sheets of Vinylite, these papyrus fragments then started to move around.

Glass is still the best material in which to store papyrus. Over the years, several papyri from the collection had been remounted between sheets of glass, but it was only with the beginning of the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS) in 1996 that the remounting of papyri in Vinylite began in earnest. Since the beginning of APIS, more than 1000 papyri have been remounted into glass.

One of the major problems to arise during remounting was the presence of static electricity. Papyrus fibers might stick to different sides, causing the papyrus to be torn into pieces. With the help of the Berkeley Engineering Department, a solution was found: the de-ionizing fan, which blows charged air over the papyrus to remove the static electricity.

The two images below show the same papyrus: first in its Vinylite casing and then mounted on glass, following the work of conservators. Clicking on the images reveals a larger image and the dramatic difference in the condition of the papyrus.


papyrus before glass Before (Vinylite)...

 

papyrus after glass ... and after (glass)