Monday, June 6, 2011

Damage from Improper Storage

CCAHA Senior Conservator Soyeon Choi examining a
charcoal sketch on oversized rolled paper.

Back in 1949, my mother drew approximately 50 charcoal sketches of nude models for one of her fashion school classes.  The sketches were done on oversized flat paper.  At some point, these pieces were rolled up like scrolls for easy storage.  Then, perhaps a decade or two later, these rolled papers were shoved into a too-small plastic trash bag, crushing and deforming the artwork to an even greater degree.

I brought six of these rolled nudes into the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts for professional examination by Senior Conservator Soyeon Choi.  Soyeon and I carefully unrolled the first of them on the accession table.  She used heavy transparent acrylic blocks to hold the paper down, preventing it from scrolling back up.

“This paper is significantly scalloped,” Soyeon said.  “It’s become very distorted from being stored like this.”  We looked at each of the six oversized pieces in turn.  Some have retained a neat tube shape while others were somewhat crushed in storage.  It was discouraging to see the damage.

I asked Soyeon if anything can be done to return these pieces to their original appearance.  “To a great degree, yes,” she said.  “We could remove much of this distortion by humidification and flattening.  We would use the vapor chamber for the humidification.  I think we could make them look very nice.”

But I expressed my concern that it would be expensive to have 50 oversized pieces treated in the lab – more than we could afford.  Soyeon thought about this, then reasonably suggested:  “I would recommend picking your favorite for a full treatment.  Then you can store the others and maybe treat some more in the future.”

© 2011 Lee Price

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