September 2011 – Sorting commenced

The wallpaper was received on site for cataloguing and treatment but the dirt ridden, mouldy and fragile wallpaper fragments needed sorting and organisation ready for cleaning and separation.  Suitable storage solutions also had to be found for the coming year which would be better than the current polythene bags.

During the sorting process I had to consider several issues. Which of these wallpapers would I like to exhibit in the summer of 2012 and how would I choose them? How was I to identify and distinguish each one of the similar looking fragments?  More importantly much of the unseen patterns were contained within laminates (chunks of wallpaper) of up to 14/16 layers.  How was I to record the dozens of different patterns  within each of these laminates?

The most important step in the sorting process was to record exactly how many pieces of wallpaper there were, noting down each individual pattern so that I could ensure at least one sample of each pattern was conserved and none of them were lost.

This led to the beginning of a mammoth task: of creating a document that would record exactly how many different patterns existed in the Back to Back’s wallpaper collection; which house each piece of wallpaper came from,the size of the fragments, whether the piece was in layers, the physical condition and the level of dirt .  This information had to be noted for each fragment of wallpaper even if they were duplicates of the same pattern as second and third samples of the same pattern could have a different level of dirt or be more fragile and need greater care when handling. With the help of photographs I gave each pattern a unique pattern number for ease of identification and used a temporary chart to record the information.

The first stage of sorting - a temporary chart

A separate flip chart of the same structure was created to record samples of paint.

The sorting allowed me to recognise which samples needed to be given priority for conservation work since those patterns with only one sample were at greater risk of being lost.