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Thursday, May 16 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(New Tools and Techniques: Let’s Talk about Gels!) Gel as an Alternative to Immersion for Light Bleaching Works on Paper

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Since the introduction of low-acyl gellan gum to the field in 2003 by conservators and scientists at the Conservation Department of the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro del Patrimonio Archivistico e Librario (ICRCPAL) in Rome, Italy, this gel has proven an extremely useful tool for controlled bathing of works of art on paper. A growing body of literature on the subject attests to the numerous benefits of gel washing: virtually no manipulation of the object during treatment, reduced swelling of the paper support, and even and efficient cleaning owing to the capillary action of the gel. This technique has made it possible to impart the benefits of an aqueous bath—strengthening by removal of acidic materials and improved aesthetic appearance—by gel washing objects that cannot withstand traditional immersion for various reasons (e.g. embrittled paper, lamellar supports, objects with sensitive media). Given the demonstrated success of gel bathing, the authors wondered whether or not the benefits observed in a routine gel wash could be translated to light bleaching, another conservation treatment that traditionally requires immersion of paper objects. During the summer of 2018, a series of studies were conducted at the J. Paul Getty Museum to test the efficacy of gellan gum as a water reservoir for light bleaching. Utilizing the abundant sunshine of Southern California as a light source, experiments investigated the following: light bleaching on gel vs. immersion in free water, light bleaching on alkaline gel vs. pH-neutral gel, and light bleaching with gel on one vs. both sides of the object. Later, at Library and Archives Canada (LAC), similar experiments were performed using artificial, high-power grow lights as a point of comparison to natural sunlight. This presentation will review the promising results of the light bleaching experiments described above. It will also summarize several case studies including overall light bleaching of a lithographic print and selective light bleaching of a foxed, photographic mount with locally applied gel. To the authors’ knowledge, this will be the first public presentation to explore the use of gel in light bleaching works on paper and photographs.

avatar for Michelle Sullivan

Michelle Sullivan

Assistant Conservator, Department of Paper Conservation, J. Paul Getty Museum
Michelle Sullivan is Assistant Conservator of Drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum. She holds an M.S. and Certificate of Advanced Study in Art Conservation from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation and a B.A. in the Art History and Studio Art from the... Read More →

avatar for Anne Maheux

Anne Maheux

Conservator, AFM Art Conservation
Anne Maheux is former Head, Conservation of maps, manuscripts, and fine art on paper at Library and Archives Canada, and former paper conservator at the National Gallery of Canada. She holds a Masters in Art Conservation from Queen’s University (1981), and earned a certificate in... Read More →
avatar for Sarah Freeman

Sarah Freeman

Associate Conservator of Photographs, J. Paul Getty Museum
Sarah joined the Paper Conservation Department at the J. Paul Getty Museum in 2006. She earned her M.A., C.A.S. in art conservation at the State University College at Buffalo, and a B.S. in art history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her interests include preventative care... Read More →

Thursday May 16, 2019 3:00pm - 3:30pm EDT
Nehantic/Pequot/Paugussett Rooms Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  General Session, New Tools and Techniques: Let’s Talk about Gels!
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Michelle Sullivan, Anne Maheux, Sarah Freeman
  • Abstract ID 19122
  • Tags gel,gellan gum,light bleaching,paper,photographs