The condition reports on our family collection items were a bit scary. The artwork, period photos, and letters from the June and Art collection were—to varying degrees—soiled, discolored, stained, warped, rippled, and torn.
But these are problems with solutions, and the solutions are provided in the treatment plan sections. As with the condition report, the language of the treatment plan is highly technical. I’ll hazard a few interpretations here, pulled from the many steps involved in each treatment:
From the treatment plan for a love letter:
-- Test the support and media for stability and sensitivity prior to treatment.
The support is the paper. The media is the ink. So this is a test to make absolutely sure that the ink isn’t going to dissolve and spread when exposed to any water or chemicals involved in the proposed treatment. The conservators will cautiously test first before starting the treatment. I appreciate the caution!
-- Consolidate lifting edges and areas of cracking emulsion with a gelatin solution.
-- Mend the tears and re-attach fragments with wheat starch paste and mulberry paper.
This poor beat-up photograph is obviously in need of some loving care. The picture is cracking up and there are tears breaking the image into fragmentary pieces. While gelatin, wheat starch, and mulberry may sound like the ingredients of a snack food, these are important tools found in the arsenals of all paper conservators. Mulberry paper is a particular favorite among conservators—it's strong and lightweight. Wheat starch paste does the job of scotch tape, attaching one thing to another but without the inevitable long-term damage of the tape.
-- Realign tears and mend from the verso with wheat starch paste and narrow, torn strips of Japanese paper.
The verso is the back of the paper, so the conservator is flipping the piece over and lining up the pieces like puzzle. The Japanese paper has extra long fibers that hold everything together for a strong repair, plus it doesn’t discolor. Only the best for our family artwork!
© 2010 Lee Price
© 2010 Lee Price