Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Concerns About Comb Bindings

Red plastic comb binding on the 1947 Brown University calendar.

Rebecca Smyrl examines the calendar.
My mother never talked much about her year at Pembroke, the former women’s college at Brown University.  We know that she was briefly engaged to someone around this time in her life, but she never chose to share much about the college or the guy.  In our family collection, we have very little from that time – a few postcards, a couple of textbooks, a notebook, and a 1947 Brown University calendar.

There’s no indication that the calendar was ever used.  There are no annotations on it and no sign of a hole where it might have hung on a nail or tack.  The pages are not dog-eared.

For long-term preservation, the greatest concern of Rebecca Smyrl, Conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, is the binding.  The calendar consists of 14 pages bound together along the top edge by a red plastic comb binding.  There’s a tear midway on one of the plastic rings.  The binding concerns Rebecca:  “Every time the pages are turned, these plastic edges rub against the paper.  The tear in the plastic increases the possibility of the paper catching and tearing, especially as the paper becomes more brittle.”

Rebecca recommends disbinding the pages, storing them interleaved in an acid-free folder, and disposing of the broken comb binding.  Since we have no sentimental attachment to the binding, this sounds like a reasonable approach.

If you’d like to display it,” Rebecca adds, you could get a facsimile made.  Keep the original in storage and display the facscimile.”  I’ve never considered putting a 1947 calendar up before but I guess it might make for interesting conversation.  The calendar’s images of college life from 64 years ago look distant and strangely formal, reminding us of a time when young men commonly wore ties to class.

© 2011 Lee Price

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