42nd Annual Meeting — Book and Paper Session, May 30, "The Conservation of Tiffany Studio Drawings: Finding New Ways to Reconstruct Complex Paper Loss," by Marina Ruiz Molina

Two of the motifs in the book and paper presentations and posters this year were 1) paper pulp, for example in Debra Evans and Victoria Binder’s poster “Pulp Addiction: The Use of Dry Cast Pulp,” and Renate Mesmer and Jennifer Evers’ poster “Cast Paper Pulp,” and 2) flood and mold damage, which were represented in Katherine Kelly and Anna Friedman’s presentation “Conserving the Iraqi Jewish Archive for Digitization” and Fernanda Mokdessi Auada’s “Salvage of Paper Materials from the Flooding of Saõ Luiz do Paraitinga.” Marina Ruiz Molina’s presentation united these themes, in using paper pulp to conserve mold damaged items.
Marina Ruiz Molina’s case study objects were part of a collection of drawings used as guides in the Louis Comfort Tiffany studio in manufacturing stained glass. The firm went out of business in 1924, and the drawings were later found in an attic room of a marble dealer in Long Island. The collection entered the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1960s but they have been inaccessible due to their extensive mold damage from water damage, as seen in this combined before and after treatment picture.

Before (top) and After (bottom) of mold-damaged Tiffany drawing
Before (top) and after (bottom) pulp infill and overlay of mold-damaged Tiffany studio drawing

Marina Ruiz Molina gave a quick overview of mold and what it does to paper, causing both structural weakening and aesthetic damage from the pigments it produces. She then presented three case studies of the use of cast paper pulp. The Tiffany drawings had been executed on illustration board that was made of imported Whatman paper adhered to local wood-pulp board. She first mechanically reduced the mold by cleaning with suction under the microscope, followed by application of solvents, enzymes and chelating agents in an attempt to reduce the stain.
The paper was still stained and extremely weak. The weakness of the original paper made it especially important to match the strength and expansion properties of the infill to the original paper. Marina Ruiz Molina achieved this by mixing cotton and flax to get the right hydrophilicity and using pre-dyed reactive dye pulp to achieve the right color. She is still experimenting with pigments, but the dyes were much easier to work with. She beats the pulp with a Vita-pro3 Vitamix blender, using the blending time to control the properties. She has found that any blend time under about 30 minutes still gives good fiber length.
Once the pulp is prepared, she pours it onto a Hollytex screen (the 0.0029” Hollytex is an ideal weight). She taps the fibers with a brush to distribute the fibers and then lifts the whole screen onto blotters. For the first case study, she cast two sheets, one as an infill and one as an overlay. To adhere them she humidified the object along with the infill and sprayed the infill with a dilute methyl cellulose solution, aligning it over the drawing on the suction table.
In the second case study, the decision was made to leave the drawing on its illustration board and to mechanically remove only the damaged part of the board, cutting it away in a stepped pattern to give a better surface for infilling. Marina Ruiz Molina then adhered several layers of Richard de Bas paper to build up the inner layers, using methyl cellulose. The outer visible layers were cast paper fills.
The third case study had thin lines on the recto traveling into the mold damaged area. Marina Ruiz Molina showed pictures of casting the overlay with holes in it so the design is still visible.
Marina Ruiz Molina is still refining the technique and would like to compare dyed pulps and pigmented pulps with a microfadeometer, investigate the quantitative effects of different blending and drying techniques, and find more sustainable methods for cast paper fills.