Georgia Iona: The devastating effect of adhesive tape: Literature research in context with scientific analysis applied for the conservation of a 19th-century Ottoman manuscript.

This paper mostly deals with the devastating effect of adhesive tape on a document. But it also provides an opportunity to describe the investigation into the object not only from the preservation point of view but also as a work of art that required further identification. Consequently this research combines conservation issues that rose from the request to preserve the manuscript and literature research in context with a technical examination, which aimed to retrieve further information about the artefact.

At first, the manuscript was received simply as an object that required immediately preservation treatment. Information about its origin and its background was limited to a short letter from its current holder, being accompanied with a couple of business-cards and the death certificate of its original owner. The document itself was written in Ottoman script, so not even the text was at the beginning understandable. Extended literature research was required in order to identify the object, as an artwork and as a document with historic value.
Directly after the translation of the document, the research focused on the retrieval of information regarding its original owner and its historical significance as an official certificate addressed to a British citizen from highest ranks of the Ottoman State.

The artefact itself was a rather unusual object that not many people have the opportunity to see often in European museums and archives. In Ottoman terms, the artefact is called  "Firman", which relates to official certificates granted from the authorities of the Empire and being made following certain rituals, protocols and traditions of document producing and calligraphy directed by the State.

It was also interesting to study the actual document-producing procedures of the Ottoman State, that involved obtaining and preparation of the paper, preparation of inks, the use of very specific tools for calligraphy and the application of a very precise sort of script as well as techniques to prove originality and to prevent forgery. Signatures also had a specific significance and could provide information about the date of the document and about the addressing authority. Besides its function as an official award granted from the Ottoman State, this document was also a classic example of Islamic calligraphy. Similar items were popular among 19th century European collectors, who expressed a particular interest in Oriental culture, art and traditions. Further research focused on the Ottoman and Islamic calligraphy in context with the production of official documents by the Ottoman Empire.

Technical analysis of the artefact aimed to retrieve as much information as possible about its construction and its material structure, in order to decide for the optimal conservation procedure. In addition, technical analysis assisted to provide evidence for the already existing information, which had been obtained from the literature search, regarding the paper and the media of the manuscript.

The preservation section of the project involved documentation and conservation treatment of the document. Damage caused by adhesive tape was the main problem of the artefact. Pressure sensitive tapes have been extensively used in the past to repair physical damages on paper objects. They are found very often on paper artworks as well as on archival documents.

Further literature research investigated the composition and aging characteristics of commercial adhesive tapes available at the first half of the 20th century and the potential of different solvent applications in removing aged adhesive residues. Adhesive tapes are complex materials, which are made up of a variety of components. The degradation of these components results in significant problems to paper artefacts since it endangers their longevity and reduces their aesthetic value. Understanding of the composition of adhesive tapes and their degradation processes is essential for the selection of the optimal cleaning technique. As many conventional methods have been employed in the past for the removal of adhesive tapes, the use of poultices and solvent gels has been suggested as an alternative to those techniques of tape removal. Therefore, the experimental part of this research assesses the effectiveness of different tape-removal techniques. There was also some concern as to the extent of non-volatile residues remaining in the paper. The effectiveness of aqueous treatments for the removal of adhesive residues has also been assessed.

Technical analysis of the adhesive tape from the artefact provided all the required information about its composition. Removal with mechanical means and overall application of solvents was selected as the safest method to clean adhesive residue from the paper support of the document. Reduction of discolouration, repair and restoration procedures have further improved the physical condition and the aesthetic appearance of the artefact.
Decisions regarding the conservation treatment of the manuscript were taken considering its originality and its historic value, trying to minimise intervention and addition of foreign material that may obscure its original appearance.