Saving all that glitters

Working to preserve historic material isn’t always glamorous but sometimes there is glitter.

 

'A Gay Lib Party Synthetics' poster, 1977

While busily preparing for the Library’s new exhibition Coming Out in the 70s we were confronted with a rather unusual dilemma. A fluorescent pink bedazzled poster titled ‘A Gay Lib Party Synthetics’ was shedding glitter!

As conservators, before we can put any collection item on public display, we must make sure it is in the best condition and will stay that way throughout the exhibition. We approached the treatment of this truly fabulous poster with the same focus and methodology we bring to all our work.

Starting with testing, we first checked how ‘waterproof’ the fluorescent ink used on the poster was. We call this solubility testing. We then tested different conservation grade adhesives. We were particularly interested in their reflective qualities. We had to ensure that whatever we added wouldn’t change how the poster looked it in any way.

We chose a cellulose ether-based adhesive in water, as it caused no visible change to the fluorescent ink or glitter.

Now for the fun part. Using small brushes, we applied the adhesive to every piece of glitter on the poster. Next, we had to re-adhere the loose glitter we found in the storage folder. Looking for clues like spots of missing ink, we were able to reattach all the loose glitter and return the poster to its sparkly glory.

Lifting the poster up was the true test and we were pleased to find all the glitter remained securely in place.

With a job well done, the poster was mounted and prepared for display. It can now be seen alongside other posters, photographs, personal papers, oral histories, badges and ephemera that tell the story of how gay and lesbian life went public in the 1970s.

Coming Out in the 70s is on show in the Library’s galleries from 28 November 2020 to 16 May 2021.

 

Trish Leen and Kate Hughes, State Library conservators