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6 Jun 2019

Eddie’s caring for our collections

Written by Eddie Abrahams
Eddie Abrahams holding an omega-shaped sign. He is standing in front of some book shelves.
Eddie Abrahams volunteers at the Trust's Collections Conservation Workshop
In celebration of Volunteers’ Week 2019, we’re highlighting the work of our volunteers. Eddie Abrahams volunteers at our Collections Conservation Workshop. Here he tells us about how the work he does helps us to care for our collections.

At the beginning of 2010 I took early retirement after 34 years working for a bank. My partner was working for the Trust at that time and she suggested that I could volunteer to assist Stewart Colquhoun, Collections Conservation Workshop Technician. He was packing up the workshops in Charlotte Square – where the Trust’s Head Office was previously based – prior to its move to Hermiston Quay.

Eddie and Stewart Colquhoun, Collections Conservation Workshop Technician, demonstrate the art of bookbinding.
Eddie and Stewart Colquhoun demonstrate the art of bookbinding

Once I’d assisted Stewart in packing up and moving, he then asked me if I could help him set up his new workshop, which is based in the National Libraries of Scotland in Sighthill, Edinburgh. After this, he then asked if I would like to continue to volunteer with him and offered to teach me conservation picture framing and bookbinding skills. Nine years on and I’m still here!

Eddie demonstrates bookbinding stitching techniques.
During one of the Conservation in Action days at the workshop

The workshop supports all National Trust for Scotland places, and although the main work is framing and bookbinding we can get other jobs to challenge us! Two of the more interesting objects have been a whale-skin doll from the Angus Folk Museum and a small cabinet containing an egg collection.

We don’t always know what a job will entail until we actually get the object into the workshop. However, part of the ‘fun’ is using our initiative to repair the object (remembering the conservation principles!) and return it to the property so visitors can enjoy it.

One example of this was a badly damaged ornate frame from Culzean. The surface detail on the bottom part was totally missing but I was able to re-create it (by chance I found plastic stars which exactly matched). As I mentioned above, we adhere to conservation principles – all the work I did on the frame is reversible and could be removed in the future without causing any damage. In addition, we record all work we undertake on objects for the benefit of future conservators, so in this case they would know that the bottom of the frame is not original.

The frame from Culzean, which Eddie helped to conserve.
The frame from Culzean, which Eddie helped to conserve
“The workshop also makes the visitor comments books for the Trust’s holiday accommodation, using traditional bookbinding processes and tools. I must admit that this is my favourite activity, especially as my mother was a book binder so there's a family tradition there!”
Eddie Abrahams
Collections Volunteer, Collections Conservation Workshop

Stewart has recently run several open days in the workshop so that volunteers and staff can see what we do and these have been well received with lots of positive feedback.

As well as enjoying helping (or sometimes probably hindering!) Stewart in the workshop, I have made many friends throughout the Trust and would definitely recommend the National Trust for Scotland as a good place to volunteer.

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