Presenting works in a way that preserves them

Presenting works in a way that preserves them

Published on 13/04/2021 à 09:34

"Au dela des murs" designs and manufactures supports for the preservation and enhancement of heritage objects, particularly books.

Old books are very fragile. The control of several factors is fundamental for their preservation in terms of exhibition or consultation: the rate of hygrometry, the light, the harmful or aggressive agents, the good positioning of the work in exhibition or consultation.

It is essential to use supports adapted to the shape of the works, both on display and in the library.

Attention must be paid to humidity conditions: if possible, the relative humidity should be between 45 and 55% and variations in humidity should be avoided. The humidity of the rooms must be controlled or sealed display cases with humidity recorders and regulation devices must be used.

Controlling light is also important: too much light in exhibition rooms is harmful, and knowing perfectly well the nature and strength of the rays reaching the book is essential. "But old books are also at risk when handled. It is preferable to avoid touching them with the hands (which contain sweat, sebum, PH ...) which can damage the works. The solution is to use a PH-neutral sheet as an intermediary, to wear 100% unbleached or untreated cotton gloves (even if this point is now being debated), remembering to change gloves after each handling or installation, and to wash your hands without any chemical agents," emphasises Isabelle Vergnes.


When consulting or displaying books, it is important to pay close attention to how the cover and spine of the book are held. These must rest on the entire surface in contact with the support, according to the desired position of the book, so that the stresses are distributed uniformly, in accordance with its "phantom" (book template). Pressing on one part and not another can damage the binding or distort the book, especially in the case of heavy books.

"We sometimes see these problems in some cases when there are no specific supports or if readers don't know that an old book cannot be opened flat," she adds. "It is essential to use supports adapted to the shape of the books, both in exhibitions and in libraries. ".

For example, the rigid support stands offer three different opening angles, allowing the book to be opened from 90° to 150°. These supports consist of three parts that are easily assembled by velcro, which never come into contact with the book: a strip that can be adjusted to the thickness of the book's spine and two trapezoids to adjust the angulation.


Other solutions for presenting old books: the adjustable book cushion or the futon with or without a cushion for tilting towards the reader. In both cases, a soft cradle is provided for the open book. The futon (which can be rolled to either side and then turned over) thus offers a cradle for positioning books (from in-12 to small folio) with an adjustable opening of 90° to 180°. A precise angle template allows the adjustment.

The flexibility of these creations also allows for quick installation, with the book being highlighted and meeting the positioning constraints. Book cushions are also a flexible seating support, but the opening angle is suitable for older books that can be opened (from 150° to 180°) with little risk.


It is when a book is taken out of storage that it may be subject to risk. During exhibitions, or in libraries when they are loaned to readers for consultation, they may be exposed to stresses that are not without danger, especially in the case of older, more fragile works.

Readers are not always aware that touching the book or turning the pages can damage it, and rubbing the binding or its edge on the reading table can also be harmful.

A suitable presentation medium allows for spontaneous education of the reader, who, noticing that the book he or she is consulting is on a cloth or velvet cradle, will take the necessary precautions.

By making the practice of lending coincide with preservation constraints, "we note that the implementation of this methodology often generates good behaviour on the part of the reader, in perfect agreement with the staff of the reserves, the library managers and the curators".

Interview with Isabelle Vergnes, founder of the company "Au dela des murs", with her kind permission.

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