Skills for the Future traineeship placement

Helena Robson began a two week placement in the Library’s Conservation Unit on 16 April. Helena had worked with the conservators as a volunteer in 2015, and she is about to complete her Skills for the Future traineeship on collections digitisation, as part of the programme run jointly by the National Galleries of Scotland and the Library. Helena’s previous experience of conservation volunteering fuelled her interest in conservation, and she is now considering this profession as a potential career path. She therefore requested her current placement as a way of gaining some additional conservation experience.

During her placement Helena has been assisting Library conservators Shona Hunter and Claire Thomson with a number of remedial treatments and preventive conservation tasks. For example, she helped to survey and condition-check a collection of deposited maps; she has assisted with the preparation, washing pressing and repair of several outsized film posters from the 1950’s and 1960’s; and she is rehousing some of the newspaper clippings which form part of the Miners’ photography collection and archive.

Helena’s experience illustrates the impact the Library’s conservation volunteering programme can have in inspiring future career choices, and we are delighted to have her back and to be benefiting from the expertise she has developed during her Skills for the Future placement.

The following photographs depict a few of the treatment steps involved in the poster preservation project.


Poster for film ‘Trouble in the Glen’, after unrolling, ready for examination and treatment


Helena spraying ‘Trouble in the Glen’ with a Dahlia sprayer filled with water & IMS, prior to washing


Poster for film ‘Geordie’, after unrolling & unfolding, ready for examination & treatment


Close-up of blue ink annotation on verso of poster – prior to solubility testing



Helena applying a fixative called Cyclododecane to the ink inscription in order to protect it during the washing process
Close-up of blue ink annotation on verso of poster – after application of fixative


Helena and Shona removing the film poster ‘Tunes of Glory’ from the water bath, with the aid of some non-woven polyester support layers



Helena and Shona preparing poster ‘Tunes of Glory’ for drying and pressing, using blotter and weighted boards



Pressing the posters under weighted wooden boards


Helena reinforcing weak creases and carrying out tear repairs, using Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste, over the light-table



Helena also helped to tone some Japanese tissue for another project, using Yasha cones to make a direct dye