Current Project in the Bindery

'Africa' before

Asian RhinoThe art collection of the library is currently undergoing conservation treatment. The collection was surveyed and those works of art that were in need of attention were identified. Given the size of the collection, a treatment plan was created to cater for the number of artworks and general good condition of the art works. The approach taken in the treatment plan is that of minimal intervention, in other words, the conservator mainly tries to stabilise the work of art in its current condition through proactive treatment of harmful ancillary materials (acidic backing boards, sellotape, masking tape, acidic mounts, etc.) and the introduction of quality archival materials and storage.

CatsAn art work that is currently being treated is an interesting engraving (dated 1775) entitled Africa. The engraving depicts a jungle scene in Africa with numerous animals. Out of the ordinary animals include the Indian elephant, an Asian rhinocerosBirds and the strange wingless birds in the sky. I love the almost human faces that the cats have and the fact that in the background a North African city complete with pyramid and camel are shown so close to the jungles of central Africa. The engraving is on good quality handmade paper. Machine made paper started to be made in the 1800s.

Bad repair on bottom left cornerTear down centreThe condition of the artwork was reasonable. The main concerns were the tear down the centre of the paper, the bad repair in the left bottom corner, the sellotape and glassine repairs on the back and the non-archival paper hinges on the back. The artwork also had moderate surface dirt which was giving the paper a grey appearance. The artwork had been stored archivally so there was no discolouration or embrittlement of the paper which meant that there was no need for wet treatments (such as washing) to be undertaken.

Grated eraserThe first treatment carried out on the artwork was surface cleaning. A soft bristled brush was used to gently remove any loose surface dirt on the front and back. Grated eraser was then used around the edges of the image and on the back to remove more engrained dirt. As you can see in the photograph the paper was relatively dirty.

Glassine repairsFollowing surface cleaning a heated tool was used to separate the sellotape from the artwork. Unfortunately the stains left by the sellotape could not be removed although a scalpel was used to scrape them down and reduce the intensity. A poultice was then used to remove the old glassine repairs and hinges. A poultice helps introduce moisture in a controlled way so as to soften the adhesive used in the repair. Once softened the repair/hinge is easily lifted off.

Once all the non-archival ancillary materials were removed the conservator set about repairing the tears and areas of loss with archival materials. Repairs are done with Japanese paper which is acid free and very strong yet thin. The adhesive used is wheat starch paste which is considered archival and used by conservators around the world. Once the repairs were done the artwork was humidified and pressed between silicon release and blotting paper.

The conserved artwork was then placed in a Melinex´┐Ż envelope for storage with the rest of the art collection.

Claire Forrester
Paper Conservator

'Africa' after