Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Translating the Condition Reports

Earlier I wrote about the accession process, where I brought in approximately 80 family collection items to the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts for preliminary examination.  At the end of the session, I left 20 items at the Conservation Center to receive condition reports, treatment plans, and cost estimates.

I got the reports last week – over 50 pages of detailed information, including (gulp!) the cost estimates.

The condition reports are amazingly thorough and filled with lots of impressively technical sounding terms.  Here are a few rough and unprofessional translations to help those who may not be fluent in “conservator-speak”:

Recto = front side of the paper
Verso = back side
Planar distortions = curved or warped paper (it doesn't lie flat)
Cockles = ripples or crimping on the paper surface
Media loss = it’s missing some of the writing or artwork
Friable media = pastels, charcoal, and soft pencil (the stuff that rubs off)
Brittle paper = the paper threatens to flake or crumble when touched
Pressure sensitive tape = probably scotch tape, sometimes masking tape
Soiled, grime = dirty paper

Apparently, my collection items exhibit the full range of these bad things:  planar distortions, cockles, media loss, and brittle paper.  There's acidic pressure-sensitive tape on some pieces, and the paper is often soiled and grimy.  And then there are easier to understand (yet still ominous) terms like tears, folds, discoloration, and staining.

Fortunately, there are treatment plans which address nearly every problem listed.  We'll turn to the proposed solutions in the next entry.

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