The restoration activity began in March 2020 and it was carried out until the opening of the exhibition. The project partner, the National Union Museum in Alba-Iulia, has fully assumed responsibility for the restoration activity. It has the necessary experienced personnel and resources in its role of National Centre of Old Book Restoration and Preservation.
Selected manuscripts were given priority for restoration and that endeavour marked the first stage of the project. The main selection criteria were both the loss of integrity, as well as the importance of the manuscript. The restoration operation is conducted by two Experts in Old Book Preservation-Restoration, together with an Expert in Old Book Binding Restoration. They are employees of the National Union Museum in Alba-Iulia. The Experts suggest restoration techniques for the work in progress. Each manuscript received specific restoration techniques. Depending on individual findings, the restored manuscripts were subjected, as needed, to: physical and chemical analysis (solubility test, pigment analysis, pH level), mechanical cleaning (removal of impurities with soft brushes), reattaching colours and soluble pigments, wet cleaning with hydroalcoholic substances (rehydration), crack consolidation, substrate regeneration, volume restoration, text insertion/other gaps, making of board covers and their attachment to the book itself, tailoring leather/parchment wrappages for the covers, manufacturing special protecting boxes with neutral pH. The Assistant Expert in Old Book Preservation-Restoration, an employee of National Union Museum in Alba-Iulia, participated in each stage, as well as in the operation of digitizing the manuscripts.
Up to this time, both independent manuscripts and certain parchments have been restored. The latter require laborious restoration works, such as: removal of the parchment from the book with or without seam detaching, rebinding the book with prior checking of pagination, as well as, making board covers and their application by extension of the ribs, tailoring leather/parchment wrappages for the covers (highlighting the ribs and protecting the existing decorative elements).
The project considered twenty-one manuscripts to be restored. Seventeen units have been restored so far.
The classification activity followed the complete restoration of the first manuscripts. It continued in parallel with the restoration works. The filing process consists of drafting necessary documentation for describing each restored manuscript. Thus, seventeen “Filing Applications” have been submitted for approval to the Cultural Heritage Directorate, Ministry of Culture. The identification records have “standard sheets”, which include: the description of the assets (materials, techniques, measures and other identification parameters), reference documents, antecedents, conservation status, quantity, specific data – signatures, inscriptions, brands etc. Moreover, there are supplementary “analytical sheets” that describe detailed information (the owners, the title, the catalogue description, illustrations, decorative elements, the alphabet, general notes, binding and preservation state, ex-libris, bibliophily criteria, principal headline, the title page). Some attached photographs would show essential aspects (the cover, the first page etc.). Additional “conservation records” include descriptions regarding: the author, the owner, the category, the date, the inventory number, measures and the number of pages. Thus, the Analysis Report includes all the above-mentioned documents, as well as an exhaustive description regarding the loss of integrity of the asset: defectives, stamping, damaged pages, text additions, annotations, rebounding, usage of materials, restoration works, storage conditions and conservation suggestions. Photographs of the manuscripts are also enclosed. All manuscripts were thoroughly analysed in order to be considered cultural heritage. The Indexing Expert calculated the classification score for each manuscript in compliance with the criteria established by the Cultural Heritage Directorate. All indexing suggestions were based on certain considerations, such as: age, frequency, state of preservation, historical value, memorial value, authenticity, formal quality.
The training and professional development activity aims at developing the skills and the expertise of five people from the project team in areas related to librarianship. This activity was carried out in all stages of the project`s progress. The training activities cover four different areas related to the intervention on old books: expertise, restoration, classification and exhibition and, involving the Norwegian institution, support international cultural cooperation in the field of cultural heritage. Job-shadowing activities were used for restoration and exposure. Formal training and non-formal mentoring were used as learning tools for the expertise concerning old manuscripts and classification. Both types of training were carried out in parallel with the intervention activities on the 21 fragments, and the beneficiaries were involved in all stages of these intervention actions. This activity started in the second month of the project and has involved, so far, several sub-activities: training and professional development in the field of restoration and conservation of old books, in the field of classification, in the field of codicology (expertise of old books). The training in exhibition design and for gaining curatorial skills begins in the months leading up to the opening of the exhibition.
The activity concerning describing and cataloging the fragments of medieval manuscripts involves the formation of beneficiaries in several directions: 1. Latin paleography, to decipher the texts and the correct framing of the writing (most often textual Gothic) and its variants (textus praescissus, cursiva libraria, bastard, etc.); 2. Codicology – for the description of codicological elements (dimensions, pagination, lines, etc.); 3. Elements of musical paleography – for dating and locating manuscripts with musical notations; 4. Elements of liturgy and initiation into the use of the Cantus database, etc .; 5. Elements of art history – for the description of decorated initials; 6. Introduction to the use of databases and secondary literature to identify texts; 7. Introduction to the codicological nomenclature – for the correct description of the relevant elements.
The training and professional development in the field of restoration and conservation of old books is carried out at the National Museum of Unification Alba-Iulia through job-shadowing and one-on-one tutoring. Two trainers, enjoying massive experience in the field of old book restoration, introduced the two beneficiaries – an employee of the Library of the Romanian Academy Cluj-Napoca Branch, and the other, an employee of the National Museum of Unification Alba-Iulia – in all the stages implied by the field related to the preservation of old books. Thus, the beneficiaries of the training activities went through a stage of theoretical preparation, learning how to elaborate conservation and restoration documents, then to the stages of solubility testing, pigment analysis, pH setting, so that, later, they learned different methods of mechanical cleaning by removing impurities with a soft brush. Thereafter, the two members of our project learned the techniques of fixing soluble colors and pigments, wet cleaning with hydro-alcoholic solutions, consolidating cracks, filling in gaps in material, softening and making protective folders.
As the classification of movable cultural assets is a thorough activity, which involves several stages, the two beneficiaries of these training programs will be involved in the stages involved in the classification of the manuscript fragments restored through the project. The beneficiaries were initiated in the correct and detailed completion of the Application for classification, addressed to the Ministry of Culture, through the Heritage Department, and elaborated, together with the trainer, “Standard sheets”, which included a description of cultural assets, “Analytical Sheets” and “Conservation Sheets”. Beneficiaries will be involved in the preparation of the “Classification File”, which verifies and summarizes all the information mentioned above.
The theoretical training in the field of classification of heritage objects was carried out through mentoring since the beginning of the project. The classification expert assumed, within the project, the role of trainer in the field of classification, in order to initiate two assistants, permanent employees of the Library of the Romanian Academy, Cluj-Napoca Branch, in all the work of classifying old books and manuscripts in the National Patrimony. As the classification of movable cultural property is a thorough activity, which involves several stages, the two beneficiaries of these training programs were involved in all stages of classification of the manuscript fragments restored within the framework of the project. The two members of the project’s team were, thus, involved in the preparation of the “Classification File” and were initiated in the correct and detailed completion of the Classification Application Form addressed to the Heritage Directorate of the Ministry of Culture. Together with the trainer they filled in all “Standard Sheets” related to the restored manuscripts, including the series of descriptions regarding each of these cultural objects. They have also been involved in filling in the detailed “Analytical Sheets” and the “Conservation Sheets”.
The non-formal training in the field of exhibition design, facilitation of activities and exhibition workshops is addressed to two other people temporarily employed in the project. This training activity is undertaken by the Norwegian partner institution, Bjerkaker LearningLab, with the purpose of training beneficiaries in the field of new non-formal education methods that can be used in exhibitions and can be adapted both for groups of youngsters and groups of adults. The two assistants are trained using non-formal education, to learn modern techniques in order to facilitate the processes of working with heterogeneous groups, methods that take into account, for improving training efficiency, both the emotional state and individual learning needs, as well as the specificity of the environment and context.