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Conservation on Papyrus Fragment (Part 1)

Numbering almost 7000 items, the Yale Papyrus Collection has a dazzling array of documentary and literary texts that span over a thousand years of history. The diverse papyri collection attracts scholars from all over the world, who not only make the journey to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library but also access the papyri images on-line through the on-going digitization project. In addition to digitizing the ancient papyri, Paula Zyats (Assistant Chief Conservator) and Tasha Dobbin-Bennett (Papyrologist) are also conserving and housing the papyri for long-term research and storage. Research conducted with the papyri not only directs scholarship in fields such as Classics, Middle and Near Eastern Studies, Papyrology, Egyptology, and Religious Studies, but also aids us in prioritizing papyri for conservation. For example, Professor Nikolaos Gonis (University College London), during a recent visit, identified two unpublished pieces (P.CtYBR inv.’s 1500 & 1505) that were of particular interest to his research. However, in the past the papyri had been housed without conservation treatment. In order to facilitate a transcription of the texts, which were written in Greek, we began conservation treatment.

After we transferred the papyri over to the Conservation Laboratory in the Sterling Memorial Library, we worked on unhousing the papyri and assessing them for conservation treatment. Both papyri underwent treatment, which allowed us to use controlled humidity to carefully smooth out any creases, folds, and unaligned fibers. During treatment, we also removed the old glassine strips that held the fragments together. Glassine strips are a type of thin, acidic paper that was generally coated with adhesive, which become discolored and brittle over time. Left untreated, the glassine strips can distort and damage the papyri.

See next post for continuation of article.

Tasha Dobbin-Bennett

Papyrologist

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

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