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Library move and book cleaning at Arley Hall, October 2017

The majority of books in the historic and highly significant library at Arley Hall needed moving so it was the perfect opportunity to check and clean them.

Books are made to be read and loved, but, sadly, anything other than the most careful handling is one of the greatest enemies of any book collection. It therefore makes sense to do any condition checking and cleaning when the books are already being handled rather than subjecting them to additional risk. Hog & Fitch were called in to work with the busy Arley team to help organise the move and ensure that preventive conservation concerns were top priority.

It was a mammoth task and we loved every minute of it.

After training the team in handling and supporting the books correctly, Hog & Fitch set up documentation procedures to ensure that every book could be tracked during the move and replaced in exactly the same position. It was also essential to assess the levels of dust on the shelves, to help ascertain future cleaning frequency.

Once the books were in safe temporary storage, the team checked the bookshelves for problems and cleaned them thoroughly. After a training session on book cleaning and condition checking, the painstaking task of checking, cleaning and documenting the books themselves began.

We dealt with mould, structural issues and substantial accumulations of dust. We ended with a list of recommendations and priorities for monitoring and conservator attention. In any space that is actively used on a regular basis, monitoring for physical damage or structural deterioration really is essential.

Returning clean books to clean shelves was gratifying, as was making minor changes to improve air circulation and support. The best thing was knowing that they had been checked and will be actively monitored– and that there was no accumulation of damage silently occurring in dark hidden corners or between the boards.

It was a pleasure to work with the Arley team again and to spend time in this beautiful room with such a collection.


Main header image: Detail of one of the elaborate carved letters on the library shelving bays Remaining images from top: Margaret preparing documentation before the move; the shelving bays are already identified by these lovely carved letters; detail of books on shelves; location identification; discussing the project; image during packing; temporary book support to prevent damage during packing; assessing dust levels (2 images); book cleaning and checking for mould (3 images) ; tying tapes on damaged books; shelving (2 images) and image during reinstatement

All photos by Hog & Fitch reproduced courtesy of Arley Hall