Proclamation saved in delicate process

Monday January 26, 2015 Written by UNESCO news Published in Local
David Ashman and Jean Mason with the Cook Islands proclamation after conservation. David Ashman and Jean Mason with the Cook Islands proclamation after conservation.

 “Painstakingly delicate,” explains Cook Islands Library and Museum Society secretary Jean Mason, of the recent preservation treatment to The Proclamation ‘E Tuatua Akakite 1891’ document that saw her accompanying the historical document to New Zealand in order to prolong the document’s shelf life.

“Getting it registered was one thing; getting it restored was another.”

The Proclamation, the original document recording the British declaration of a Protectorate over some of the Cook Islands, was successfully registered on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in early 2014 and in its decaying condition was identified by a Memory of the World Committee for Asia/Pacific (MOWCAP) panel expert as needing restoration treatment. 

“Our tropical climate is devastating to old books and documents and The Proclamation was no exception,” says Mason, “It was brown with age, crumbling when handled and the text on it was fading away.”

Frail and nearing extreme deterioration, The Proclamation document underwent over eight hours of intense restorative treatment in the hands of New Zealand-based archives conservator David Ashman, to ensure it would last well into the next century. 

“If looked after and kept out of UV light, water and fire, the document should last another 200 years,” says Mason.

The process began by first removing the document from its highly acidic backing board, to which it had been glued over 60 years ago. Then the document was soaked in a solution of calcium hydroxide. 

After that it had to be very carefully removed from the solution.

“This is the most delicate part of the process,” says Mason.

The document was then repaired using hand-made glue, applied to fine tissue, and using fingers and tweezers, was attached to the document’s gaps and tears. 

“This too is an awkward stage as some of the pieces of tissue are tiny. Also, further moisture is being added to the document so application is very delicate.”

The document also underwent a dry cleaning process of light brushing and delicate sponging to remove any loose particles. 

This was done using a soft brush and vulcanized rubber sponges. 

After the dry clean process the embossed stamp on the paper appeared more visible.

Ensuring one of the few surviving rare articles of the Cook Islands is properly preserved has been an integral step in ‘bringing the project over the MOWCAP finish line’, says Mason. 

“The document is not only significant because it formalises the beginnings of our acceptance as a nation, it is also significant because it reveals to us today the difficult choices our then leaders had to make to protect their people.” 

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  • Comment Link Tihau Bishop Monday, 26 January 2015 23:04 posted by Tihau Bishop

    Kia Orana Jean,

    Thank you for your efforts to ratify and preserve this very important document for many islands in the cook islands..

    I was told of this document many years ago, i now know of its importance, however i know very little of its content and who the authors / signatories were.

    Are you able to help me in this regard.. perhaps a link to a virtual copy??..

    Kia Kaha,
    Meitaki Karereka,
    Atawai Wolo,
    Tihau Bishop

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