Cradle Making at the V&A Dundee

Friday 23 February 2024

In this blog Conservation Technician Gemma Kelly from the National Library reports on a recent exhibition cradle making course hosted at the V&A Dundee.

In December last year, I had the pleasure of attending a course on Cradle Making for the exhibition of books. The course was hosted by curator James Wylie at V&A Dundee, organised by University Collections Conservator Erica Kotze ACR from the University of St Andrews and run by the Icon Scotland Group. Delegates attended from private practice and institutions including V&A Dundee, University of St Andrews, The Abbotsford Trust, The National Library of Scotland, and the McManus Museum.

Book Cradle design by Brannah MacKenzie

There were two tutors and two different styles of book cradles taught in this full day course. The first tutor was Brannah MacKenzie, Book Conservator at Museums and Special Collections, University of Aberdeen. This course was in person and taught us how to make a non-adhesive boxboard book cradle. We were instructed on how to draw a profile of a book and how to construct a cradle at various angles and for different opening profiles. The methodology used to calculate the angles and measurements needed for a tilted cradle was particularly interesting and accessible. The cradle design as well as being non-adhesive, which alleviates the need to allow for off gassing, has the further advantage of being easily disassembled to be stored flat. The cradle design has clear benefits for storage, transportation, and recyclability.

Book Cradle Design by Abigail Bainbridge

The second tutor was Abigail Bainbridge ACR, Director of Bainbridge Conservation who taught a mountboard cradle design using adhesive. The session was delivered online, where the use of large screens, multiple camera angles and efficient moderation allowed it to run smoothly and effectively. This course covered the measuring of volumes, different opening profiles and display angles. The design was interesting as we first made a flat cradle, then constructed a wedge adapted to the preferred display angle. One of the benefits of this design is that the book cradle could be made in advance, even if the display angle or case layouts have not been finalised. As the cradle can be made from one piece of mountboard, the tutor gave useful advice on scoring the board and the application of paste.

Both cradle designs offer aesthetic and durable options to support open volumes on display. Both tutors gave handouts with diagrams outlining their methods, which will be a useful reference guide. At the end of the sessions there was a Q&A which garnered interesting conversation about using the cradles for loans, the choice of cradle material and strapping, and importantly the sustainability and reuse of book cradles.

Attendees to Cradle Making Course

Gemma Kelly
Conservation Technician
National Library of Scotland

1 thoughts on "Cradle Making at the V&A Dundee"

  • Mary Wootton
    Mary Wootton
    Friday 23 February 2024, 9.19pm

    This looks like such an interesting workshop! I'm so envious! I make a lot of cradles also for exhibits where I work. I wondered if there was any chance you could share the handouts. I understand if not, but they would be very interesting to look at! Thanks for writing this up!


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