Tag Archives: Roberta Mazza

Rehousing Greek Papyri

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Greek 19 & 20 are 2nd and 1st century respectively papyri fragments which had been rendered illegible by surface salt ‘bloom’. The items were required for study by Dr Roberta Mazza, Lecturer in Ancient History in The School of Arts Histories and Cultures. Roberta asked us what could be done to enable study of the pieces (Greek 20 is in 3 parts).

Advice about the reasons behind the salt bloom and apparent high moisture content (moisture droplets were visible on the inside of the glass) was sought from Bridget Leach papyrus conservator at the British Museum.

After consultation a treatment plan was proposed by Collection Care to re-house the fragments.

Prior to the re-housing work taking place, the Imaging Team were approached to see if they could capture images of the moisture and also to see if there was any way the text could be made more legible using digital technology.

The papyri fragments were digitised using the IQ180 and 120mm macro lens to obtain the highest quality images. Using careful focus control, it was possible to clearly see the water droplets as soon as the images appeared on the computer screen. We experimented with the levels and contrast settings and were able to very quickly render the text legible (however it must be noted that these adjustments produce inaccurate colour information).

The papyri were successfully re-housed using techniques used during a separate Arabic papyrus re-housing project.

When the two sheets of old glass were carefully separated the salt bloom remained on the surface of the glass. Samples of the bloom have been taken which will be sent for scientific analysis. We expect it to be sodium chloride. We suspect the high moisture content in the original glazing was probably due to “wet” paste used to adhere the leather strips which were used to seal the edges of the glass.

The fragments were then placed onto a sheet of UV filtered conservation grade glass, the edges of which are lined with 10mm wide acid-free paper of similar thickness to the fragments. This will ensure the glass is not pressing directly onto the fragments.

2mm wide strips of Japanese tissue are used to ‘tag’ the fragments onto the glass using a reversible adhesive.

The sandwich is then sealed around the edges using Tyvek tape and new identifying labels are adhered to the outside of the glass.

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Infrared Imaging Workshop with George Bevan

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On Monday 20th Feburary 2012 the John Rylands Library welcomed a visit from Dr. George Bevan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Classics at Queen’s University, Canada.

The visit was arranged by University of Manchester Academic and Papyrologist Dr. Roberta Mazza, Lecturer in Ancient History and Early Christianity, School of Arts, Histories & Cultures.

The workshop was incredibly informative and interesting and comes at an excellent time for CHICC as we are starting to think about developing other kinds of imaging techniques, such as Infrared Photography (IR). Dr. Bevan demonstrated his techniques using kit which can be packed down and transported around inside in a single camera case.

At one time IR photography was very costly, difficult and time consuming, however Dr. Bevan convincingly demonstrated that with the development of digital technologies this is no longer the case.

Following an introductory presentation, members of the workshop got involved with imaging some items from the Rylands’ Collections. Using the Infrared equipment we worked with three very different items – some glazed papyri, ostraca and a page of a water-damaged manuscript. We saw the most impressive results from the ostraca, and learned a lot as we came across challenges in imaging the papyri and ‘missing’ text on the manuscript page.

The workshop was very successful and have given us a lot of food for thought. We are looking in to the possibility of adapting and acquiring some new equipment to carry out Infrared Imaging here at the Rylands.


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