Making the Sword of Justice fit for show

Making the Sword of Justice fit for show
A closer look at the conservation treatment of the 'Take up the sword of justice' recruitment poster
29 January 2015

Take up the Sword of Justice is a commanding recruitment poster, and after its treatment in Preservation Services, makes a great addition to the Library's current exhibition Keepsakes: Australians and the Great War. This large colour lithograph by Bernard Partridge (1861-1945) was printed in England in 1915 by David Allen & Sons for the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. It features a classical representation of the figure of Justice. The RMS Lusitania can be seen in the background, listing to one side, with her passengers struggling to stay afloat in the water, after the British liner was torpedoed by a German submarine on 7 May 1915.

The poster measures 152 x 102cm and makes for an imposing and memorable example of recruitment marketing campaigns typical of the world war era.

This recruitment poster came up to the lab with extensive tears and areas of skinning possibly due to being folded before the oil-based ink was completely dry. The front of the poster was covered with a very fine black powder which may have been soot or other residue.

poster with visable tears

The poster arrives in the laboratory, ready for treatment prior to the exhibition.

close up of tear on posterclose up of poster damage

The damaged areas were visually distracting.

The poster is an example of the dramatic and colourful imagery used in wartime recruitment posters. One of our paper conservators, Sara Freeman enjoyed the chance to spend time on bringing this poster back to some of its former glory.

The treatment involved gently prising off skinned sections of the image that had adhered to other parts of the poster. These sections were set aside. First the surface needed cleaning, and this was done by gently wiping over the whole surface several times with a latex 'soot sponge', which picked up a lot of fine black particles. Skinned areas of the poster were brushed over with a soft brush. Tears were aligned by hand and then repaired with starch paste and Japanese repair tissue. Then the salvaged pieces were re-adhered where they belonged. Small pieces of tinted Japanese repair tissue were scored and cut to fill larger losses, and secured with starch paste. Other small areas where ink was missing were first sealed with methyl cellulose paste then retouched with small dots of watercolour paint until they ceased to catch the eye. The entire treatment was undertaken in five hours.

treated poster

Treatment complete! Ready for display!

Take up the Sword of Justice can be viewed and enjoyed as a part of the Keepsakes: Australians and the Great War exhibition until 19 of July 2015.


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Thank you for posting. A stunning poster, beautifully conserved. So often poster dealers end up linen-backing lithographic posters, which to my mind creates a very artificial flattened surface.
Thanks Nick. We do get some lovely things to work on here, and this was a beauty. It was good to be able to leave it showing it's history of folding and handling while preparing it for exhibition.
These are great posters, thank you for posting too. I think it's so useful.