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The aim of this study is to provide an overview of the classic technology which is habitually applied in the conservation of graphic documents and to deal, at the same time, with the advances in techniques and materials which have become common practice in the most up-to-date laboratories over the last decade.
For reasons of scientific method, our remarks concerning the treatment of a specific material will be preceded by some preliminary considerations concerning its physical components, for we believe that the choice of the most appropriate treatment is governed by the nature of the support to be preserved, by the causes and effects of the deterioration and by the future behaviour of the document in question in a given environment.
Among the range of materials to be conserved, reference is made to cellulose-based supports - paper, papyrus and amate and protein-based supports - parchment and tanned leather - as well as other more heterogeneous materials which frequently complement the functional nature or condition of the documents, as in the case of bindings and seals. However, attention is focussed principally on paper - the support most commonly found in libraries and archives throughout the world - and the problems of paper conservation are the main subject of these pages, which also provide a necessary reference for the understanding of the information contained in the chapters devoted to other materials.
Bearing in mind that the study by C. Crespo and V. Viñas The Preservation and Restoration of Paper Records and Books was published in 1984 and in this RAMP series, we have avoided reiterating points already dealt with and have omitted or simplified certain data, for the present study, while developing a number of additional themes, follows the same lines as the previous work.
The space available limits a more detailed account of the human and economic resources required to carry out the processes concerned. In general terms, any of the treatments mentioned, except those which require specialized techniques in other branches of conservation, can be carried out by a single person although, logically, the volume of work and the time-limits involved mean that team-work and the most appropriate methods are necessary to make any laboratory-workshop function efficiently.
As we are aware that economic resources are frequently very limited, low-cost or 'household' treatment is sometimes referred to as a substitute for other more inaccessible or sophisticated processes but we have not been able to establish a precise scale of costs in order to recommend the most inexpensive; obviously the price of any product depends on questions of supply and market considerations. Each centre must look at its budget possibilities and select those solutions which, apart from their suitability, will not impose restrictions on the schedule of work to be undertaken.
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