Sharing a Sister's story of survival
Preparing the Sister B.M. Williams autograph albums for exhibition
24 November 2014
I recently received two autograph albums requiring some particularly tender love and care before going on display as a part of the Library's new exhibition Keepsakes: Australians and the Great War. These autograph albums, now held as part of the National Library of Australia's Manuscripts Collection at MS 9461, were the property of Sister B. M. Williams. Sister Williams worked at Beaufort War Hospital, Bristol, England during the First World War, nursing wounded allied forces soldiers. The albums are a snapshot of a time and place represented in a personal collection of wartime humour, military insignia, country scenes, still life and buildings as well as a sketch of Beaufort Hospital.
Within the bound albums are snippets of original poetry, quotations and humour including To my masseuse, a poem dedicated to Sister B.M. Williams by wounded soldiers she nursed and cared for. The albums are a precious addition to the Library's collection, as they reflect and record a tragic era in such a human way. Many of the album entries express appreciation and a genuine affection for Sister Williams.
Both albums were suffering from disrepair and were tearing away from their covers, with torn gutters of sections due to loose sewing and having no original spine linings to hold them into the cover. I disbound both albums, repaired the torn folios, re-sewed them, and cased the text blocks back into their covers.
The photographs below show the text blocks after sewing, with new linings and the addition of a spine hollow. A lack of a strong spine attachment, their age, and fragile binding structures all contributed to the text blocks tearing away from their original beautiful marble end-papers. A full disbinding with multiple repairs was needed.
Keepsakes: Australians and the Great War, National Library of Australia, Exhibition Gallery, Ground Floor, runs from open 26 November 2014-19 July 2015, 10.00am-5.00pm daily, free.
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