Treatment of Vellum Certificate
Commission appointing Benjamin Rhodes as First Lieutenant in the Reserve of Officers from 3 October 1896, issued 7 October 1896. PR03369.
This certificate is one example from a series that came into the Paper Lab for flattening earlier this year. Printed and inscribed on membrane (likely vellum), these certificates arrived with such strong fold lines that they would not lie flat and could not be photographed for digitisation. Vellum, which is similar to parchment, has been used for centuries: most frequently for important items such as official documents, illuminated manuscripts, books, etc. It is traditionally made from calfskin, and is very susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity, expanding and contracting in fluctuating conditions.
These certificates also contain a wax seal and a bright blue ribbon, which has mostly retained its colour over time probably due to having been concealed from light because the certificates were folded. The treatment involved dry surface cleaning with a sponge eraser, and light humidification to gently dampen the certificates before pressing. A template was made from blotting paper to protect the seals from the mechanical process of pressing. After light humidification the certificates were placed under weight, excluding the wax seal at lower right. The end result is a certificate that sits flat, and can be read and digitised for wider viewing. All of these certificates are treated and are now housed in an inert polypropylene sleeve which will assist in keeping the certificates flat.