Analyzing Layers of Paintings with XRF

A short video from the Fitzwilliam Museum explaining XRF analysis applications in works of art on paper. The ability to view multiple layers of media and analyze their components is incredibly helpful in art conservation.

Conservation in the Era of COVID-19

Conservation in the Era of COVID-19

The viral pandemic that has swept the world has undoubtedly had an impact on everyone to one degree or another. I count myself fortunate that I have been able to continue to complete conservation treatments on client projects, although I have not been able to meet with any clients during the past five weeks. Safety is paramount, of course. In many ways, this unprecedented time has allowed me to focus my undivided attention on conservation treatments with fewer distractions. I am also in the process of updating some of the administrative procedures I use to help make business growth easier. I look forward to returning to some semblance of normalcy as soon as it is safe to do so.

Military Discharge Paper Restoration and Repair

Military Discharge Paper Restoration and Repair

I have many clients who come to me with family heirlooms, including military discharge papers from ancestors long passed. These cherished family artifacts are often acidic, yellowing, and becoming embrittled. Many of them have tears and non-archival tape repairs, and are so damaged that they cannot be safely handled. Some suffer from iron gall ink corrosion, which can irreparably damage the paper of the document, and cause loss of text over time. You can see examples of all of these conditions in the discharge paper shown above. These documents require specialized treatment, many times including washing to reduce the acidic compounds and yellowing of the paper, as well as treating the paper to reduce iron gall ink corrosion and provide an alkaline buffer within the paper substrate. Often times non-archival tape repairs must be removed, and staining reduced. After receiving treatment from a trained conservator, these family heirlooms will be in highly improved condition. They can then be safely displayed or stored and handled at the owner’s discretion. If you would like to have your document evaluated by me for treatment, feel free to submit an inquiry via the contact form on my website:

Vellum Indentures: Artifactual History Examined

A parchment family indenture from the state of Virginia.

The conservation treatment of parchment can present many challenges. You can see in the document above that multiple seals are present, either made of paper and foil or wax and cloth. Care must be taken to preserve the seals, which behave somewhat independently from the vellum substrate. In this particular historical indenture, you can see evidence that the signature and several lines of text have been retouched at some point.

A signature that has been retouched at a later point. Note the darker appearance of the ink and the staining surrounding the signature.

The likelihood is that the original signature had faded, and the owner wanted to improve the appearance. Unfortunately, the solvent they applied resulted in staining and bleeding of both the signature and the surrounding area, which left the yellow stain you now see. The signature was then redrawn, which you can determine by noting the much darker ink application in that area.

When the signature was retouched, the staining from the solvent bled through to the back of the parchment, which you can see above.
Retouched lines of handwriting. Note the differing ink colors and the apparent staining surrounding areas that were retouched.

All in all, it goes to show that vellum and parchment are extremely sensitive materials. It takes skill, care and practice to handle them successfully, and the treatment of these materials is best entrusted to a conservator. If you require assistance with the care or restoration of your vellum document, feel free to submit an inquiry via the contact page on my website:

How to Care For Vellum and Parchment Documents

How to Care For Vellum and Parchment Documents

Many of my clients come to me for help preserving their historic vellum and parchment documents. One of the questions almost all clients ask is how they can care for their documents to preserve them for many generations to come, whether they are manuscripts or scrolls. My first recommendation is to be certain your vellum is stored in a climate-controlled environment. It is worthwhile to invest in a hygrometer and monitor the relative humidity of the environment. Since vellum and parchment are hygroscopic, meaning they will easily absorb moisture from the air, it is very important to keep the relative humidity within the 25-40% range. Maintaining a steady relative humidity is helpful as well, as this will help prevent expansion and contraction of the vellum, which can result in warping and cockling. Keeping the relative humidity below 40% also prevents potential mold growth.

If you are having your vellum manuscript framed, it is advised to locate a framer who will use the Chicago String Method, or related specialized framing methods, to help prevent warping and distortion of the vellum in the framing package over time. It is worthwhile to shop around and find a framer who is well-versed in handling vellum materials.

Lastly, I also recommend avoiding direct light or UV exposure. If you choose to place your document on display, please consider placing it in a room that does not have direct sunlight exposure. LED lighting is ideal, as it has the least impact on the vellum, but will still allow the needed light to view your historic artifact.

If you have questions about the care of your parchment document, or are wondering about what conservation treatment can do to preserve your historic manuscript, please submit an inquiry via the contact page on my website: