Or.8210/S.766 is a letter in the scroll format written in Chinese on both recto and verso. It was acquired by Sir Aurel Stein during his second expedition to the southern Silk road between 1906-1908 (see British Collections). The object was originally found in the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang.
The paper is coarse and fairly thick, possibly made of mulberry fibres mixed with bamboo fibres. It is brittle at touch and it has evidence of past repairs on the top and bottom edges. The scroll is also missing the two original end panels, which had been substituted with the modern addition of two thick paper panels. These 'new' panels have now deteriorated and are contributing to damage the scroll further. Generally all past interventions are now failing to fulfil their original scope and indeed are causing more stress to the object.
Furthermore, the scroll is also missing a roller and it has been rolled quite tightly and stored without further protection. This has caused creasing and folds in the paper often resulting in splits and tears along the length. There are a few missing areas and the edges are frayed and damaged.
The scroll was carefully cleaned of superficial debris using a soft brush. The object was not cleaned further to avoid erasing evidence which could be valuable for future investigations.
The scroll was placed in a humidification chamber and thoroughly humidified until it was possible to remove old repairs without the direct introduction of moisture. The procedure took two hours at 85/90% humidity.
The modern end panels as well as the repairs on the top and bottom edges were removed with the aid of a spatula. Adhesive residues were also mechanically removed using a spatula. When the adhesive proved too engrained into the fibres, a poultice of methylcellulose was applied and left to soften the residues to aid its removal.
The edges of the scroll were repaired using wheat starch paste and previously toned Japanese paper. Japanese paper was water-cut to match the contours of the scrolls as to create a window around the object. This repair was applied dry. Subsequently, the scroll with the new contour was humidified and drummed out on a drying board. It was left to dry on the drying board for several days. It was then removed from the drying board using a spatula inserted between the board and the repair paper. This treatment ensured that once removed the scroll was flat and that the repair paper did not create cockling near the original paper.
The excess repair paper was trimmed leaving a few millimetres around the edges for added protection. Panels were also added at each end to match the average length of the original panels. A new thicker roller made of acid free board and lined with acid free paper, was inserted and the finished scroll was placed in a box made of Paulownia wood.
Below: Or.8210/S.766 before, during and after conservation