Pilgrim Trust Conservation Grant – Little Hall Lavenham

The curator at Little Hall Lavenham returning the books to the shelves

Remedial conservation – Gayer-Anderson Library book cleaning
AIM grant: £4,750

Little Hall is a late 14th century hall house in Lavenham, Suffolk that was home to twin brothers Robert and Thomas Gayer Anderson, soldiers, collectors and benefactors. The Library contains the books collected by the brothers and is a valuable insight into their interests covering art, architecture, antiquities, poetry and the classics, some going back to the fifteenth century.

In 2018 mould was discovered on many of the 1,145 books in the collection. A survey by Lorraine Finch of LF Conservation and Preservation (LFC&P) confirmed that the outbreak was extensive, caused by poor air circulation due to the instalment of fixed Perspex security panels to the face of the bookcases.

The mould was too hazardous for the books to be handled by the volunteers so they were removed by LFC&P in sealed containers and the bookcases cleaned with a mixture of industrial methylated spirits and water to destroy the mould spores.

Within the studio each book was placed in a cleaning cabinet fitted with a suction device to gently draw the mould away from the surface of the books. They were then brushed with a natural hairbrush to remove loosened mould and dirt.

The objective was to stop further damage to the books and ensure the Library was safe again for visitors and volunteers. Not only did the AIM Pilgrim Trust grant help the museum to achieve this vital piece of work but it also prompted us to think more widely about our book collection. In advance of the conservation works the volunteers produced a collections database to enable more comprehensive management and understanding of the book collection. We are now developing plans to train our volunteers to carry out annual inspection and cleaning of the books. And as the books are returned to the shelves our volunteers are undertaking a basic condition survey which will be recorded in our database.

Graham Panton, Chair, Little Hall Lavenham

Pictured: The curator at Little Hall Lavenham returning the books to the shelves