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Love That Dirty Water

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Believe it or not, paper can be washed. It is a controlled process that must be monitored closely. As the chemical components within paper naturally decompose over time, it can become more acidic. Washing acidic paper in an alkaline solution draws those destructive acids out. This has two important benefits: first, it makes the paper less acidic, and therefore less brittle/more stable. Second, the acidic byproducts that are being drawn out in the wash water tend to be yellow, so removing them lightens the color of the paper once it dries.

A large, torn, and very discolored drawing recently came into the studio for treatment. Jamye laid the piece out in an oversized washing tray, submerged the paper in a shallow layer of alkaline water, allowed it to steep for several minutes, then carefully drained the (now yellow) water. She repeated the process several times before she was satisfied that a sufficient amount of acidic material had been removed. Now that the paper has been successfully washed, the processes of flattening, drying and mending (see below) can begin.

Mending

Tape Removal

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One of the services commonly requested of paper conservators is adhesive tape removal. The piece shown above came into the Jamison Art Conservation studio covered with aging and discolored pressure-sensitive tape, originally used to secure it to a matboard.

The process of tape removal is delicate, and therefore time-intensive. Every tape is different so there is no “one way” to remove it. Removal can be mechanical–i.e. done by hand–or a conservator may have to use solvents to dissolve the adhesive. For this piece, the tape was removed by hand. The image below shows the removal process in progress, as Jamye moves slowly up the edge of the object, using a scalpel to gently peel away the old and discolored adhesive layer.

For more information, check out conservator Beth Heller’s blog, #TapeIsEvil.

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Lights, Camera, Action!

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Jamison Art Conservation is officially up and running! The first step in any conservation treatment is the full examination and documentation of the object “before” treatment. Now that our camera equipment is assembled, we spent yesterday photographing all the projects already queued up in the studio. Every piece has its recto (front) and verso (back) shot in standard light, and we also take raking light images (shots illuminated from one side only) to show texture and detail. Once each treatment is complete, the same set of “after” images will also be taken.