Ink From Ancient Egyptian Papyri Contains Copper

Does your collection include papyrus artifacts?  Until recently, the inks used to write on ancient papyrus were assumed to be carbon-based.  Researchers have discovered that the inks in this papyrus manuscript actually contain copper, which will affect the methods of handling and repairing the artifact.  The conservation and repair of paper-based collections (manuscripts, documents, books, works of art on paper) is widely understood within the conservation community, but the repair and conservation of papyrus presents specific concerns and requires skilled care.

Conservation, Restoration and Repair of Circus Posters

The history of circus posters is a fascinating one.  The vast majority of the time, these posters were intended to be ephemeral, posted on building walls and in windows as an advertisement.  About a week before the performance, the circus would send out crews to plaster posters around town.  Many times, the posters were so large that they were printed in multiple pieces, then oriented together as they were pasted into place on a wall.  The conservation and repair of this art genre presents its own unique considerations and challenges.  Below is an engaging video featuring conservator M.J. Davis and a collection of circus posters she is conserving.

Cleaning Stained and Yellowed Works of Art On Paper

Cleaning Stained and Yellowed Works of Art On Paper

A Charles Hamilton Smith engraved illustrated print prior to washing and stain reduction.

The same work of art on paper after treatment, which involved washing, deacidification and treatment with stain reducing agents.

Do you own a work of art on paper that is yellowing, acidic, foxed or stained?  Over time, paper can become yellowed, stained and acidic.  The causes of staining and discoloration vary from item to item.  In many instances, there were impurities present when the paper was originally produced.  These impurities, such as metal ions, chemical constituents and fungi/microorganisms can create foxing, staining and discoloration over time.  Printmaking methods may also introduce stains and discoloration.  Oils from the inks and environmental pollutants introduced during the printmaking process or during storage can cause yellowing and discoloration.  Many times, what was thought lost can be saved and restored to its former beauty.  The conservation treatments we offer can provide you with a variety of approaches and levels of care to preserve your artwork for many more years of enjoyment.  Visit the contact page to arrange a complimentary evaluation of your artwork.

Bible Repair & Restoration

Bible Repair & Restoration

Do you have a family bible that has become worn or tattered over the years?  Are there loose or torn pages?  Is the sewing structure or cover coming apart?  Most people don’t realize that in many instances, these treasured family volumes can be restored to their former glory.

Submit an inquiry via the contact page to arrange a complimentary consultation.

Conservation and Repair of Civil War Era Newspapers

Conservation and Repair of Civil War Era Newspapers

The following is a video created by my colleagues Leslie Courtois and Audrey Johnson at the Library of Virginia.  In it, Leslie and Audrey detail and illustrate the treatment concerns related to Civil War era newspapers.  They address the issue of inherent vice, which is an especially urgent concern for papers created after the advent of wood pulp paper production.  The benefits of having your precious documents treated are also illustrated.  I encourage you to take a look!

Recovering Books and Works of Art on Paper From Fires

Notes from Carteret County Fire Recovery Workshop

Burnsville Museum, June 2, 2014

In this workshop, the Cultural Resources Emergency Support Team created a mock museum, and set it on fire.  Workshop participants were then brought in two days later, and the museum was used as a disaster recovery training opportunity.  Below are notes to bear in mind should you be faced with a fire recovery scenario involving books, works of art on paper, etchings, birth certificates, diplomas, lithographs, or other paper-based manuscripts.

  1. In a disaster situation, you typically only have 15 minutes to go into the building & attempt to retrieve items before the fire crew shuts you out.
    1. It is strongly recommended to create a floor plan and priority list for firefighters, in case the building is deemed unsafe and the firefighters must retrieve artifacts themselves.
      1. Make contact with your local fire department & invite the Fire Chief to take a tour of your facility. During the tour, take time to explain where high priority items are stored, as well as where solvents & any other flammable materials may be stored.
      2. Your institution may wish to consider having a Knox Box installed. This is a metal box attached to the outside of the building, which contains keys to every room in the building.  You can also include a copy of the floor plan and priority list.  Typically, the head of your organization and the Fire Chief are the only two people who have keys to the Knox Box.
  2. Keep inventories up to date and duplicated. Store a copy off-site on a flash drive.
  3. Have a disaster preparedness kit stored nearby, but off site. This kit includes items like tarps (to spread items out on & prioritize), dry cleaning sponges, vinyl gloves, respirators, aprons, pens, etc.
  4. Collections Storage: when storing items, keep in mind that the higher they are on a shelf, the more heat & smoke damage they would be exposed to in the event of a fire.  You may wish to store items on lower shelves, if possible, keeping them at least 6” above ground level in case of a flood.  Weigh the likelihood of fire or flood, and decide accordingly.
  5. In the event you are helping retrieve items after a disaster, you will need to triage items. CREST recommends using an item ID sheet.  On site, you can categorize items, sorted out on separate tarps, for treatment or disposal.  The categories on the sheet include:
    1. Minor – a small amount of unskilled attention can restore the item to usable condition. Examples include rinsing or dry cleaning.
    2. Delayed – perhaps the item is still drying, and it is unclear how much damage there will be. Wait until it is stable, and evaluate.
    3. Conservation –  The item will require the attention of a skilled professional before it can be returned to the collection.
    4. Disposal– the item is damaged beyond repair, or has such little value, it is not worth providing conservation treatment for.
  1. Triaging & categorizing items proved to be one of the most difficult aspects of this workshop. In a disaster scenario, you are pressured to make decisions quickly, sometimes with very little information.  It’s important to discern which items are high-priority, and which hold little value for the institution.  Otherwise, precious time can be wasted evaluating items of little value, or quibbling with others over how to categorize and treat low priority items.
  2. If there are items you are completely uncertain about, create a Black Zone category for items that will need to be reviewed by the institution’s committee before disposal.
What Causes Foxing Or Staining In Paper?

What Causes Foxing Or Staining In Paper?

The sources of stains on paper can vary widely.  Today, I will focus on foxing specifically. Does your document or work of art on paper have small, ovular stains or spots? These discolorations are commonly referred to as foxing. The source of these blemishes has been researched since the 1930s.

Potential causes are often theorized to be impurities residing within the paper and present during paper production. These impurities include a variety of metal ions, such as copper and iron. The oxidizing of these metal inclusions is what causes the discoloration. Another potential source of discoloration is bacteria or fungi. These could be introduced during the creation of the paper sheet, or during the creation of the work of art. For instance, many printmaking methods involve dampening the sheets of paper prior to printing on it. Engravings, etchings, lithographs, mezzotint and aquatint are some examples. The practices of the artist and cleanliness of their work environment, tools and materials can impact the possibility of the introduction of mold spores or bacteria. For example, if the dampened paper was left overnight, or in a contaminated vessel, bacteria or fungi that can cause foxing may be introduced to the work of art on paper or paper-based document. There may be other potential causes of foxing, yet to be discovered by conservation scientists. In the meantime, there are a variety of methods a trained conservator can use to reduce and eliminate these undesirable paper stains. If you have a paper-based artwork or manuscript that requires stain reduction, visit the contact page to arrange an evaluation.

The History of Military Camp Photographers

The History of Military Camp Photographers

I just read a very illuminating article by Ron Field regarding the history and practices of military camp photographers. Although I am quite familiar with the variety of photographic processes that evolved from the mid 1860’s through the late 20th century, this is one of the first articles I have found that explores the lives of travelling photographers in detail. It makes for a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it.