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Wednesday, May 15 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(Book and Paper) Unconventional Uses Of Conventional Treatments: Three Case Studies In Paper Conservation

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The challenges faced by conservators frequently call upon us to devise and execute new treatment strategies. These are the projects that conservators love the most. The excitement of bringing together all of our previous training, the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues, and the chance to discover something new, stimulates creativity. Three case studies, where collaboration and adaptation resulted in applying standard treatment techniques in unconventional ways, will illustrate how drawing upon a wide variety of knowledge and skills results in successful and satisfying treatments for difficult projects. The first example is a set of manuscript pages exposed to tuberculosis. Browned to the point where the text was illegible, and too embrittled for digital enhancement, this work by renowned Indian poet, scientist and revolutionary, Professor Puran Singh, had been deemed lost. Collaboration with Queen’s University for analytical testing coupled with research into historical disease control indicated that Camphor Oil had been used as a disinfectant and was the likely culprit of deterioration. Drawing upon past experiences with pushing heating oil out of paper, a treatment using acetone was devised and applied. The result was a brightened paper with greater contrast enabling legibility, and the ability to proceed with standard washing and lining to strengthen to paper. A seventeenth century Qur’an blocked together due to water and mould damage inspired research into middle-eastern paper, inks and bindings. It also required calling upon the knowledge of book and paper conservators at the Canadian Conservation Institute and the Library of Alexandria. The first attempts to separate the heavily sized paper proved slow and detrimental. Wetting and steaming the pages layer by layer caused uneven saturation of underlying pages and incubation of the mold. Instead, drawing from techniques used for removing prints from backing boards presented a solution that sped up the process, prevented further mould growth, and resulted in successful separation of the pages. When a nineteenth century, shellac coated, intaglio print is encrusted in dirt that cannot be removed through surface cleaning, a new approach to treatment is indispensable. The shellac coating prevented direct submersion for dirt removal, and surface cleaning caused the grime to chip taking surface layers with it. Various alcohols alone and in combination with water, which were hoped to remove the shellac and dirt together, did not dissolve, nor permeate through, the encrusted layer of grime. The only method that proved viable was spot washing with cotton pads in a way more typically employed by painting conservators. Once the layer of dirt was cleaned away, shellac removal and aqueous treatment could proceed as usual returning life to a community treasure. Finding new approaches and tactics to conservation challenges ensures that the opportunities for creativity in our field never cease. Each of these cases employed standard solvents used in unique ways to treat paper artifacts. Designed using a culmination of experience, testing, historical research, collaboration and consultation, these cases illustrate how we use creativity to adapt standard treatments to successfully tackle conservation challenges.

avatar for Kyla Ubbink

Kyla Ubbink

Professional Conservator, Archival, Books, Paper; Proprietor, Ubbink Book and Paper Conservation
Professionally accredited with the Canadian Association for Professional Conservators, Kyla Ubbink has operated a private conservation studio since 2002. A graduate of Museum Studies, Mrs. Ubbink began her career through an internship with the Library and Archives Canada’s conservation... Read More →

Wednesday May 15, 2019 2:30pm - 3:00pm EDT
Earth Ballroom A Earth Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  Specialty Session, Book and Paper
  • Track Book and Paper
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Kyla Ubbink
  • Abstract ID 18786
  • Tags Adapting Treatments,Shellac,Blocked Book,Camphor Oil,Oil Removal from Paper,Encrusted Paper,