Saturday, October 30, 2010

Common Problems with Letters

I told Samantha Sheesley, Conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, that I found a paper clip on one of the June and Art love letters.  When I removed it, the reddish-brown image of the paper clip remained.

“That’s typical,” she said.  But I did the right thing in removing it.  Rust will discolor and weaken the paper.  You carefully slide off the paper clip, throw it away, and live with the stain.

Another common problem – although only found in one instance in the June and Art letters – is pressure-sensitive tape.  These scotch tapes and masking tapes are the bane of conservators.  The adhesive penetrates through the paper, leaving an ugly yellow scar.  As for the tape itself, it doesn’t even do its job right.  Eventually, it dries out and falls off, leaving nasty adhesive residue still on the paper.

According to Sam, you shouldn’t attempt to remove the tape yourself.  The risk of tearing or skinning the paper is considerable.  She recommends either leaving it alone or taking it to a professional conservator to remove.

Pressure-sensitive tape attaching a
feather to a card.
And the last problem is (thankfully!) one that we didn’t find at all in the June and Art letters.  Sometimes letters are stored in warm, damp, dark places that breed molds.  You’ll probably see it if it’s there – sometimes they can be quite psychedelic, Sam says – and you may smell it, too.  It’ll have a mildew scent.  If that’s your problem, don’t mess around with it.  Either throw it out, or schedule a visit to take it to a conservator.  It’s not something to keep around the house.

Thanks so much to Samantha Sheesley for her gracious consulting on letter preservation this past week!

© 2010 Lee Price

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