This paper proposes a new methodology for digitally recording bookbindings. The methodology emerged from research published on bookbinding condition assessments by Prof. Pickwoad (Pickwoad, N., 2004, 'The condition survey of the manuscripts in the monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai', The Paper Conservator, volume 28.), describing the various observations made on a binding before its repair. This outcome presents a set of database design principles capable of storing and querying bookbinding data for planning conservation treatment of both individual books and entire collections. During development, the research was presented at various international conferences to the archival and museological communities (Velios, A. and Pickwoad, N. 2005, ‘The Database of the St. Catherine’s Library Conservation Project in Sinai, Egypt’, IS&T Archiving Conference and Velios, A. and Pickwoad, N. 2004, ‘Collecting Digital Data on Paper’, 2nd International Conference of Museology - Technology for Cultural Heritage, University of the Aegean, Mitilini, Greece).
The study is the first to investigate the accurate mapping of detailed conservation data to a relational database and introduces the idea of data structuring in conservation documentation. The proposed database design principles are of particular value to libraries and archives, as it allows statistical information about entire collections to be extracted. This work led to relevant articles and invited papers on long-term digital archiving in Greece, alongside the development of a major online system for conservation data management with specific focus on the manuscript collection from the world famous Saint Catherine Monastery in Sinai, Egypt which holds unique original bindings in good condition. The Saint Catherine Foundation has provided continuing support for this work and a large AHRC research grant was recently awarded for the development of a digital glossary of bookbinding terms, based on the St Catherine’s database.