The Foundation’s conservation and restoration policy

Starting in 1981, the Foundation began to take a closer look at the conservation and restoration practices being used with its documents, particularly the Papyrus Bodmer collection. Conserved between sheets of acetate up to that time, the papyri were now placed between two plates of glass. In 2007, a new campaign to remount the collection was given the support of the Loterie Romande, the lottery of Western Switzerland.

In 1985, along with the papyri, the Foundation undertook extensive restorations of numerous drawings, graphic works, and bindings. At the same time, the drawing collection was reorganized, which involved the addition of protective matting and the construction of conservation cases. Special cases were then custom built for the manuscript collections (CB), incunabula (InCB), Eastern books (MS orientaux), and finally miscellaneous objects like the papyrus codices, texts on palm leaves, clay nails, etc.

The collection of autographic documents was re-inventoried and its written items placed in protective envelopes and slip covers.

With the creation of the Museum in 2003, how objects for display in our exhibitions are mounted has also become an important concern. To this end, a great range of supports have been constructed in order to present the objects entrusted to our care in their best possible light.

Book conservation

The conservation and restoration of works in the collections, and preparation and treatment of objects on loan, are the province of Florence Darbre. We are very proud to be able to point out that Florence Darbre is in fact the leading light in Switzerland in the highly specialized domain of papyrus restoration, as Myriam Krutzsch is in Germany, Andrea Donau in Austria, and Leila Lau‐Lamb in the United States. In late 2001, it was Ms. Darbre who for four years had had the delicate task of restoring for National Geographic the famous Codex Chacos of the Gospel of Judas, a gnostic text that St. Irenaeus knew and which was written during the first period of Christianity. The manuscript is in Coptic and dates from the 3rd or 4th century. It is made up of 66 pages and contains a collection of four texts, viz., a letter of Peter to Philip, a text entitled “James,” a fragment that for the time being specialists have called the “Book of Allogenes” (The Stranger), and finally, and most importantly, the Gospel of Judas, the Bodmer copy being the only example to have come down to the present age.

The codex had met with a host of troubles since its discovery in Egypt in the second half of the 20th century and showed considerable deterioration. The restoration that Ms. Darbre carried out between 2001 and 2006, a great success we are happy to report, involved a series of actions, including the separation of the pages and fragments, cleaning, treatment of the support, reconstruction, mounting, and finally proper storage. Carbon-14 dating at the time confirmed the authenticity of the document and allows us to place its composition between the years 220 and 340.