A lockdown is kind of stopping any activity, and that is precisely what I have done: a stop-motion paper conservation video:
And no, conservation is not a kid’s game, nor does the video intend to encourage people to try themselves at home. It’s just a divertimento for conservator friends and colleagues, and I did not want to hide how passionate we are about our profession, which we enjoy as much as it makes us suffer.
Dissemination of our work is not only necessary in a scientific context, we also need it in plain terms, and this mini-conservator shows the general conservation treatment of a printed document for those who are not familiar to it. It is a fiction in the sense that by no means road rollers take part of the process, nor we take baths ourselves with the paper, but the several stages of the treatment are quite trustworthy, although it has been very much shortened and simplified.
And, if not a conservator and curious about it, find below the few processes that take place during the video (you can activate the subtitles to have them simultaneously):
- Previous analysis:
Checking stains and discolouration, tears and other physical and optical features, in order to better understand the damages. pH is measured to check the degree of oxidation the paper has undergone, how much acidic it is. The more acidic the paper is, the worse ageing it shall have.
- Surface cleaning:
Dry surface cleaning removes dirt, but we could of course not do that with a pencil drawing or a watercolour paper artwork.
- Wet cleaning
We cannot just wash papers without checking how sensitive the inks are to water. Usually prints (newspaper) can be washed without any damage for the ink. We use a non-woven synthetic tissue to handle the paper during the bath, and prevent it from breaking.
- Drying out
- Other analysis:
If a deacidification has been done (adding a chemical to increase pH during bath) then the pH is checked again in order to measure the improvement. A pH around 7,5 – 8,5 is within the values of an enduring paper.
Mending tears involve choosing a paper with good ageing features, good flexibility, long fibres and a similar colour to the original. The adhesive needs to have a good ageing as well, and also be flexible enough.
Most of the times flattening is done by wetting the paper, allowing it to swell, and putting weight on it until it is dry. In the video, a felt is used to remove damp from the paper.
Acknowledgement and dedicated to:
- Private collection March i Moles, owner of the restored newspaper.
- Gemma Ventura, voice of the mini-Rita conservator.
- Dedicated to my dearest nephew Alvaritu, who inspired me because he is very fond of watching Lego stop-motion videos on YouTube (and I thank him for letting me play with his toys as well!).