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A Wet and Mouldy Chemistry Set

Inventory No. 92768 – A Wet and Mouldy Chemistry Set

Added by Cheryl Wolfe on 29/07/2008

The Chemistry set was manufactured by F. Kingsley of London and consists of a compartmentalised cardboard box with wool pads in the two small rectangular compartments and has cotton tape hinge supports. It contains 14 small round tubs of common chemicals, a glass test tube, blow tube, stirring rod and a cork bung, also four glass phials containing chemicals and two rectangular boxes also containing chemicals. The accompanying booklet of instructions describes forty easy experiments. Chemical cabinets were commonplace by the middle of the nineteenth century, with this particular set dating from around the 1920’s.

Due to the adverse conditions and a series of events this object had been subjected to, the cardboard box is in very poor condition. The cardboard is delaminating and falling apart with white mould growth between the lifting layers of cardboard and paper. Added to this, one of the tubs containing carbon powder had leaked all over the interior; covering all the contents. The glass stirring rod had been broken with two pieces remaining but it would appear a small section of it was actually missing. The contents hadn’t been affected so much by the water ingress, but one particular pot containing iron filings had been, resulting in the majority of the filings corroding into a solid mass and those, that were still loose, were falling out of gaps in the base of the tub. The glass phials, other glass apparatus, rectangular boxes and the cork bung were also soiled with the carbon powder.

92768-51 before - interior of box with contents

Fig 1. Condition of object on receipt.
92768-40 before - damage to lid exterior 6

Fig 2. Before, showing the delaminating pasteboard and paper hinge to box lid.
92768-43 before - detail of compartments 1

Fig 3. Before, showing mould growth and carbon powder spillage.
92768-28 before - close up of delaminating base

Fig 4. Before, delaminating pasteboard and lifting and torn paper on the base of the box.
92768-23 after - interior of box 1

Fig 5. After conservation.

The contents were removed and the loose carbon particles removed first using a micro-vacuum, and then further cleaned using a vulcanised rubber sponge. Areas of mould were removed using the same process after donning a suitable face mask.

Repairs to the box were then undertaken using appropriate repair materials and adhesive, using glass and lead shot weights to keep the treated areas flat until the adhesive had dried. Repairs had to be staged so one side was attended to first, weighted if necessary until dry, and then the other side attended to. This ensured a solid and close repair. Any exposed repair materials were toned down using gouache pigments. Finally, the loose piece of cotton tape was repositioned back into place on the right hand side of the box.

Damaged tubs were emptied of any remaining contents and cleaned and repaired in the same manner as the main box, whilst the glassware was cleaned using a solution of water and alcohol.

Finally, to prevent further soiling from the carbon powder, the powder remaining in the appropriate tub was removed and placed within a twist of acid free tissue. The interior of the tub cleaned out, and the tissue twist inserted into the tub.

All the contents were replaced into the box and the object returned to storage.

For further information, see the complete conservation report