Monday, June 13, 2011

Bug Nests, Spiders, and Silverfish

The bug nest!

I don’t know where my parents stored the rolled nudes while I was growing up.  I have a feeling they were kept discreetly out of sight of curious children (that would be me and my sister) and their friends.  Wherever they were stored (basement, garage, or under bed), I’m afraid they suffered some indignities.

As Soyeon Choi, Senior Conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, unrolled the first of the oversized artworks, she exclaimed, “Oh, a bug nest!”  Quickly, she used a natural rubber sponge to delicately brush off the little nest of cobwebs.  I asked her if there were any signs of active pest infestation and she said no.  These cobwebs could easily be decades old.

Later while unrolling more of the pieces at home, I discovered more cobwebs, as well as a few dead spiders and silverfish, buried within the rolls of artwork.  Fortunately, the pests appear to have done little damage to the paper.

CCAHA Senior Conservator Soyeon Choi
examining an oversized charcoal work
on paper.
But while these individual pests may be responsible for only minor damage, the rolled nudes as a whole could really benefit from a little loving care.  According to Soyeon, they exhibit surface dirt, foxing, acidic tape mends, and tears.  However, Soyeon assured me that a good paper conservator can address all these problems and make them look nearly as good as new.  Six decades of neglect can be largely reversed if the problems are properly and professionally addressed.

© 2011 Lee Price

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