January 2019

This month we have an update from our Conservator, Cath Mayo, about the latest project receiving care and attention in our busy Conservation Studio.

The 'Art of Selling' Project, supported by the Archives Revealed programme, is now well underway and Katie Finn, our Project Archivist is steadily working her way through and sorting all of the sales and press boxes in the archive. A lot of the material hasn't seen the light of day for a long time and there is no list of what each box contains. Katie has come across some fascinating things on her sorting adventure... some of which have not been in the best of condition, and therefore get handed on to me in the Conservation Studio.

The story I want to share with you this month is about one of Katie's finds. It is a large, rather sorry looking scrapbook; stuffed full of newspaper cuttings relating to the Morris Marina. The interesting thing about this scrapbook is that it covers the first year in the production life of this important car and demonstrates how well promoted it was.

The original sales brochure for the Morris Marina which was launched in 1971

The Morris Marina was launched by British Leyland in 1971 and was a steadfast product throughout its production years up until 1980 when it was discontinued. It was exported worldwide to places such as South Africa, New Zealand, North America and parts of Europe. British Leyland at this point was only three years old and the Marina was therefore its first all-new car. This explains why it was so keenly promoted, but it was also reason enough to earn it a bad reputation in subsequent years among those who dismissed anything and everything which came out of British Leyland. Yet it sold well throughout its production life, and did the job it was intended to do as basic family transport rather than posing as a 'supercar'. Today it enjoys a large following and has earned its place as a '70s classic.

The scrapbook as it arrived in the Conservation Studio. Many of the cuttings are falling away from the pages, and the damage caused by ancient glue is clear to see!

On to the scrapbook. As I mentioned earlier, the book wasn't in the best of health. Pages were loose from the post binding, it was dirty, cuttings had fallen away from the glue and some were very fragile. Newspaper is a nightmare for conservators as it is very low quality and, as a result, acidic. It is highly susceptible to damage from its environment, more so than good quality paper, which means it needs to be stored very carefully. Yellowing of the pages and the fragility of the paper itself are tell-tale signs that all isn't well and this damage has a knock-on effect when old glues have been used, as they had with this scrapbook. So... I was faced with a massive book full of cuttings that were partly stuck down, some not in order and generally just a mess.

Preserving the scrapbook was a balance between rescuing damaged individual items while retaining the integrity of the overall piece which had been assembled with such thoroughness five decades earlier to tell its story.

The book was failing anyway and wasn't providing any sort of protection to the cuttings so I decided that the best way to preserve them was to take them out. I got to work removing each one (there were a lot!). These were then placed into polyester enclosures, making sure that I kept them in page order so that they could continue to tell their story.

I always struggle with this kind of artefact, but only because I find them so interesting and can't help having a little read. One story really stood out; it was from The Yorkshire Evening Post, May 1971; a mother of three from Leeds took part in a 'Pick the Spot' competition, winning £10,500 and a brand new 1300 Marina. She was over the moon about her winnings in the article and very excited about booking a 'slap-up' holiday to Majorca… but doesn't even mention the car. 'Marina's Champagne Welcome' is the title of another story, with an image of two women dressed in hotpants, wearing 'Miss Marina' sashes and quaffing champagne with a 1.8 TC model. These sashes, which were distributed to the dealerships, were another of Katie's exciting finds as she went through the Collection!

In the centre, Project Archivist Katie models the 'Miss Marina' sash which was worn by models in the showrooms back in 1971 as the clippings on the right demonstrate. On the left is the story of the 'Pick the Spot' winner from Leeds.

Although the Marina had its problems over the years and did tend to get a bad press (if you will excuse the pun) this wonderfully comprehensive album shows that its first year of production was one full of excitement, and that the journalists of the time had plenty of praise for British Leyland's efforts to produce an affordable family car. It is marvellous to have a such complete record of the contemporary press coverage, it's just a shame that other models didn't receive the same treatment.

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