44th Annual Meeting—Book & Paper Session, May 15, “The Challenge of Scale: Treatment of 160 Illuminated Manuscripts for Exhibition,” Debora D. Mayer and Alan Puglia

With a team of 25 conservators, technicians, and interns, the Weissman Preservation Center at Harvard University is responsible for 73 individual repositories. A large-scale preservation program is essential to care for the vast amount of material in their collections, and Debora Mayer began her talk by commenting on the shifting attitudes in conservation to large collections. As the title of her talk had been changed last minute and large-scale treatment of collections is often associated with terms such as “business plans” and “time management” in my mind, I was expecting to hear a talk about compromises, budgets, and efficient treatment alternatives. Talks about these subjects are often impressive in demonstrating how much work can get done in a limited time, but can sometimes be a little sombre as they often remind us how often conservators don’t have the time to do everything we want. Debora’s talk was therefore uplifting and inspiring in describing how her team avoided burnout by working together to complete large amounts of high quality work within a reasonable time frame.

Treatment for over 160 medieval and Renaissance manuscripts with varying issues concerning structure and media stability had to be carried out within a two-year timeframe in preparation for a loan to a multi-venue exhibition. Since visual identification of unstable media using a microscope was insufficient (media that appeared unstable could actually be stable and vice versa), the team at the Weissman Preservation Center concluded that testing had to be done individually. Within the timeframe, it was not feasible to carry out an extensive study of all objects or to consolidate every illuminated leaf; only the ten leaves on either side of the display opening and the first leaf, often handled, would be tested and treatment carried out if necessary. Even so, this meant a staggering 57,000 cm2 of illuminations requiring consolidation. Based on previous treatments, it would take a conservator two to three minutes consolidating every cm2, but Debora pointed out that it was also important to remember the extra time required for handling or treating large items, housing needs, packing, documentation, etc. during time estimates for treatments. A 5,000-hour time estimate was drawn up, with 2,800 hours expected for consolidation. This was equivalent to three conservators working full time on the project for two years. I shuddered trying to imagine being one of three conservators tasked with the responsibility of this enormous project.

To reduce the work-fatigue that three conservators working on the project full time would inevitably experience, ten conservators worked halftime on the project over the two years, using excel spreadsheets to plan and keep track of workflow. With the amount of people working on the project, it was important to maintain uniformity in treatment procedures and judgment. All conservators followed the same protocols (e.g. using the same magnification or tools) to give the appearance that a single person treated the collection. For quality control, one conservator carried out treatment while another assessed to ensure the media was stable and that there was no visual change. Debora explained how the quality of treatment increased when multiple conservators could agree with a procedure and work together to set standards.

I really admired Debora’s emphasis on teamwork and communication—being open minded, ready for sharing observations and extensive discussions, and letting go of egos. Her talk was encouraging, showing that it is possible to get such a large amount of work done within a short timeframe while maintaining positivity and enthusiasm.

44th Annual Meeting, Book and Paper Session, May 15th, "Treatment of a Terrestrial Cary Globe by Joanna P. McMann"

Joanna P. McMann presented the conservation treatment of a terrestrial globe from 1835 made by John and William Cary in London (UK). She, Janet Mason, and Sherry Guild completed the treatment as well as the treatment of its partner celestial globe at the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) over two years ending in 2013.
The terrestrial globe required treatment due to a fall out of a window. To quote from the abstract of this talk: “Impact upon landing forced the central pillar of the globe to move, pushing the sphere out at the North Pole and pulling it in at the South Pole. Extensive cracking, with losses of paper and plaster at both poles, had been repaired prior to the mid 1970’s with a generous application of polyvinyl acetate adhesive. An area of plaster loss, where the papier mâché foundation was indented, had been filled with a thick plaster.”
The damage meant that the globe was no longer spherical and could not rotate on its axis and the brass Meridian ring was distorted. Each hemisphere of the globe is covered in 18 half-split gores. Each of these gores is comprised of 20 degrees of longitude. Bodies of water were hand colored and the landmasses were either fully or partially colored. The globe was coated with a colophony varnish, which had discolored and become brittle over time.
One of the first steps in the treatment was figuring out how to support the globe. This was done by creating a stand made of a beanbag chair insert placed inside a ring to create a ‘nest’ that was then covered in polyester film. Once this problem was resolved the next tackled was how to remove the varnish. It was soluble in both ethanol and acetone, however these were not used due to concerns of staining the paper gores. Instead mechanical removal under stereomicroscopes was undertaken with ethanol and acetone used sparingly. This setup allowed up to four conservators to work on the globe at once!
Next the plaster repair was removed to inspect damage to the papier mâché. Then a small hole was cut in the papier mâché to insert a small camera into the globe and make sure there was not more structural damage hiding. This examination found the wooden support rod and the rest of the papier mâché to be in good condition. It also allowed the conservators to discover that the papier mâché globe was made of waste sheets of printed paper.
The next step was to examine the paper gores. Raman spectroscopy and a portable XRF were used to determine the chemical makeup of the colors. The brown color on the landmasses was found to contain copper. Following this a 5% Gellan gum was used to clean certain areas of the globe and to remove soluble copper II ions. Only certain areas were cleaned because the Gellan gum was found to remove colors in some areas.
The repairs at both Poles required the gores to be lifted and supported with pieces of wove paper before being rolled back out of the way. Polyester film was used as a barrier layer to protect the gores during the plaster repairs. The film was adhered to the gores using methylcellulose. Rhoplex W24 was used to repair cracks in the plaster and they found that Jade 403 had enough bulk to fill small losses. Flugger was chosen after testing to be used for the larger plaster fills. Once these steps were completed the gores were put back in place and repaired where needed. At the North Pole losses were filled with digitally printed fills made of Griffin Mill paper. The infills were sized with a 1.5% B type gelatin.
Next the entire globe was sized with five coats of a 2.5% gelatin in order to achieve the correct look after varnishing. There were six resins tested as potential varnishes: UVS (Regalrez 1094), Regalrez 1126, MS2A, Golden MSA, Soluvar, Paraloid B-72. In the end Paraloid B-72 in toluene was chosen and 10 coats were applied via sprayer.
Finally, when the globe was reconstructed the Meridian ring had to be flipped due to the distortion left from the fall out the window.
This was a very insightful talk into a vast and complex treatment of an interesting object. One thing I could not convey in my post without it becoming overly long was the amount of thought and testing of different options that went into every decision made in regards to this treatment.

44th Annual Meeting – Book and Paper Session, May 15th, "The Rationale for Rebinding at the Pierpont Morgan Library in the Early Twentieth Century: A Case Study by Saira Haqqi"

I was very excited for Saira Haqqi’s talk about rebinding at the Pierpont Morgan Library when I first saw the 2016 AIC Conference Program. Most of my scholarly interests lie in book history and early binding structures. Inevitably this means coming across manuscripts and incunabula that have been rebound.
This talk focused specifically on the early 20th century rebinding of the Morgan’s collection by Marguerite Duprez Lahey. Marguerite was the first binder contracted by Pierpont Morgan to rebind some of his ever-growing collection. Her appointment was a departure from past practices. Until the early 1900’s most bookbinding in the United States was carried out by immigrant binders. For example, the Grolier Club in New York City brought in binders from France when needed. But the Arts and Crafts movement led to the aristocracy taking up bookbinding as a hobby. Many who did so were women. This was how Marguerite entered the field. Originally she took up bookbinding as a hobby, studying with binders in New York and Paris but not as a formal apprentice.
She quickly came to be regarded as one of the preeminent binders of the day in America and began working for Morgan in 1908 and continued to work for him and later the library until her death in 1958. During her career she rebound over 400 books for the Morgan Library as well as working with other collectors. Her own personal style favored sewing books on cord as a tightback with a French double endband (common for the time period) and with limited board decoration, though a healthy amount of spine decoration. Her tooling was something she was particularly proud of—she made sure to mention it in every interview she gave. Marguerite was also very particular about the leather she used in her bindings, which lead to high quality goatskin being used frequently.
Conservation as the field we know today was in its infancy during Marguerite’s lifetime and the modern field of book conservation did not exist at all (most agree book conservation as it is known today began with the response to the Florence flood in 1966). Therefore, there are almost no records of what type of binding books had before being rebound and the records that do exist are mainly Marguerite’s notes about payments received and what work was done. These records tend to read as “X amount of money received, two volumes rebound in goat”, which is not overly helpful when trying to piece back together the history of these objects.
As a result many things were done that today would not be considered in a conservation lab. The tightback structure was regarded as a very strong structure—something Morgan wanted his books to have. Saira points out that there are many conservation issues with tightback structures. This has led to many modern conservation concerns with Marguerite’s bindings. These include books not opening well—especially those with parchment textblocks, flaking of pigments on illuminations, and the joints failing. These issues are not solely Marguerite’s fault.
Pierpont Morgan, Jack Morgan (his son), and Bella da Costa Greene (first librarian and director of the Morgan Library) all had input into the designs of bindings and had very particular thoughts about how books should look without any knowledge about the structure of books. Book collecting during this time period was viewed as collecting art objects and functionality was not considered. Bindings were only considered interesting if they were pretty or had belonged to someone important. And many of design changes can probably be attributed to Morgan’s changing tastes over time.
Marguerite did her best to please her clients and did so while conforming to the standards of the time in her work. As many of us still do with treatments she had to balance practical concerns with aesthetic preferences. It is also likely that many of the books she rebound were purchased by Morgan rebound (though there is not direct evidence of this in her records) and as such makes her own rebinding less problematic. Still in the recent past some of her rebindings have again been rebound due to the conservation concerns mentioned above. However, this does not change that she was regarded as the best American binder of her day and her bindings are still sought after by collectors.
Saira did an exemplary job exploring the use of rebinding at the Morgan Library early on in its history and presenting it at AIC. She has helped shed light on how these decisions were made and explored Marguerite Duprez Lahey’s role in executing these treatments.

AIC 44th Annual Meeting, Book and Paper Session, May 17th, 2016: Post-flood Development of Mass Treatments at the National Library of Florence: The Roots of Library Conservation

Sheila Waters is the widow of Peter Waters, former Conservation Officer and Chief of the Conservation Division at the Library of Congress, and as such she became intimately connected with the conservation world, and more specifically that of library conservation. Ms. Waters’ talk at AIC’s 44th Annual Meeting in Montreal, Quebec, focused on describing how the profession of book conservation originated in the mud of Florence, where the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firence (BNCF) had been inundated by the flood waters of the Arno River in November 1966.
In November 1966 the Arno River, which runs through the heart of Florence, burst its banks and flooded the BNCF. Books had been stored in the basement in 1944 during World War II and had not been removed. Peter, having a reputation for being an innovative binder after collaborating with Roger Powell on the Book of Kells, was contacted by the British Library’s Howard Nixon, who had been contacted by the director of the BNCF, Dr. Emanuel Casamassima. Told to take two other colleagues and depart for Florence immediately, Peter Waters chose Tony Cains and Dorothy Cumpstey to be his seconds and set up a staging area at the Forte Belvedere for the damaged books.  Below on the map, the location of the BNCF and of Forte Belvedere are circled. The Forte is quite a bit higher in elevation, which explains why it was chosen as an initial staging location.
When Peter arrived in Florence, students were still removing muddy and damaged books from the BNCF. At the Forte, he witnessed the extent of the damage: vellum pages had rotted, and the books were defaced with mud and sawdust. Limp vellum bindings had withstood the onslaught of the flood the best, however, an observation that would have a profound impact on conservation.
Tony Cain and Chris Clarkson took over salvage at the Forte, while Don Etherington took over at the BNCF, where Peter decided to stage future cleaning and triage efforts.
Sheila, an accomplished calligrapher and designer, helped Peter develop a triage “card” in both English and Italian that would help those involved in the recovery effort decide what to do. If a book was labeled “Okay,” for example, it could be handled by a student, but a “STOP” sign indicated that it needed treatment by a specialist.
Benches were installed in the main reading room of the BNCF  where books were mended and bound by as many as 30 workers at one time. Starting in September 1967, smaller books began to be rebound in limp vellum, as this binding style was found to be long-lasting, fairly quick to make, and strong.  The workers at the BNCF and the Forte cleaned, deacidified, and resized the paper; took pH measurements; and performed on-the-spot chemical analysis when necessary. Heat-set tissue was derived as a means for mending torn paper. As the years went by and the damaged volumes were treated and rebound, the conservation space at the BNCF was moved downstairs into the basement of the library, and the number of staff grew smaller. Today there are only a few employees, compared to the 30 employed there immediately after the flood.
Peter Waters was called to help Florence in a time of crisis in November 1966, but it is clear 50 years later, in 2016, that the innovations and procedures that he and his team implemented during the response to the Florence Flood have formed the structure of many basic tenets of library conservation.

Sheila’s talk was a condensed version of her book “Waters Rising: Letters from Florence,” published by The Legacy Press, which contains the letters that the spouses exchanged with one another while Peter was in Florence. Julian Waters, one of Sheila and Peter’s sons, accompanied his mother on the podium and read excerpts of Peter’s letters to Sheila since “he sounds like his father.”

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the flood, there will be a symposium at the University of Michigan on November 3-4, 2016. Attendance is free, but registration is required.
See below for a few links regarding the Florence Flood.
Peter Waters Obituary, NYTimes 2003
30 Years After the Flood, NYTimes 1997

Florence submerged: the flood of November 4, 1966

44th Annual Meeting – Book and Paper, May 16: “Watercolor Pencils: Composition and Conservation Concerns,” presented by Lauren Buttle and Natasa Krsmanovic

It always amazes me how much we have still to learn about various types of media. The presentation by Lauren Buttle and Natasa Krsmanovic underscored how little we still know about watercolor pencils (also known as aquarelle or water soluble pencils).

Lauren Buttle and Natasa Krsmanovic
Lauren Buttle and Natasa Krsmanovic present their research on watercolor pencils

Water color pencils first appeared during the 1920s, with Staedtler being the first to mention them in 1928. They are related to copy pencils, which contain a water soluble dye and were introduced in the late nineteenth century.
In their study, Lauren and Natasa and their coauthors, Laura Hashimoto, Michael Doutre, Kaslyne O’Connor and Rosaleen Hill, examined four products: Reeves watercolor pencils, Staedtler karat aquarelle 125, Staedtler ergosoft aquarelle, and Derwent watercolor pencils. These were first analyzed using mid-IR spectroscopy, which revealed that each of the products had the same general composition. All contained clay, water-soluble wax, a polysaccharide binder, and colorants. The wax was further revealed to be a modified polyethylene glycol, or mPEG.
The second phase of the project involved testing samples to determine the impact of conservation treatments and solvents. The researchers drew lines with watercolor pencils onto Windsor & Newton watercolor pen and ink paper that was subsequently cut into 14 sets of inch-long strips. They tested four colors – red, blue, grey, and black – for each product. Of 14 watercolor pencil test strips, seven were stored in the dark (that is, they were not aged), while seven were artificially aged at 95°C and 50% RH for 96 hours. They were then tested for reactivity with water, ethanol, acetone, and toluene immersion for 5 minutes each, non-contact exposure to 100% RH for an hour, and smudging with a smudge stick, with additional samples retained as controls. Color change was measured with a Minolta chromometer, with readings taken thrice for each testing area.
Red watercolor pencil was most sensitive to immersion
Red watercolor pencil was most sensitive to immersion

Their results showed that exposing watercolor pencils to wet treatments is exactly as problematic as one might assume. Aged and unaged samples both experienced significant bleeding when immersed, particularly undergoing aqueous immersion. Of all colors, red had the most dramatic response to immersion. Immersion treatments also resulted in color shifts, with polar solvents causing greater shifts in color than non-polar solvents. However, some of the color change was due to change in the color of the paper.
Humidification appeared to have no effect; however, the researchers did not dry the paper under pressure, and it is possible that there may have been some off-set of color if they had done so. All media was affected by mechanical smudging, although aged media was affected to a smaller degree.
This talk raised a lot of interesting questions, and the discussion following the presentation suggested avenues for further research. One attendee asked when mPEG was introduced, raising the idea that the composition of these pencils has likely changed over time, while others suggested testing the solubility of colors in xylene, or testing the pencil lead directly. This research will be continuing at Queens University, and I am excited to see where it will lead.
Author’s Note: The original version of this blogpost omitted the names of Michael Doutre and Kaslyne O’Connor. The author apologizes for the omission.

43rd Annual Meeting – Book & Paper Session, May 15, "To Do or Not To Do: Two Examples of Decision Making of Digital In-filling for Asian Works of Art" by Hsin-Chen Tsai

Japanese and Chinese artworks, such as hanging scrolls, hand scrolls, folding screens and panels, have two components: the primary artwork and the mount. This talk focused on the treatment of the mounts for a folding screen entitled The Deities of the Tanni-sho by Munakata Shiko, and a hanging scroll entitled Standing Courtesan, by Keisai Eisen.
The current condition and the information carried by the mounting are balanced in making treatment decisions. When both the condition and the retained information are poor; more extensive treatment is carried out. This was the case for the folding screen. The original mounting paper was decorated using a Japanese fold-dying technique that created a repeating pattern that would be difficult to reproduce by hand. The author decided to make digital infills for this for three reasons: there was enough remaining original material for reference, the fills would not change the context and character, and it would be less time-consuming.

Folding screen before treatment.
Folding screen before treatment.

Here is a step-by-step of the process:
1. She took a digital image of an intact section of the mount.
2. She opened the image in PhotoShop and made adjustments to distortion, brightness, contrast, and color balance.
3. She printed onto a lined sheet of sekishu paper with an Epsum stylus Pro 4900 printer.
4. She matched the pattern with the losses and traced them over a light box.
5. After filling, there was some minor toning required.
For the scroll, Japanese paste paper had been used as the mount. It was an uda (clay-containing) paper with alum-gelatin sizing. It was hand-stamped in an irregular pattern and an uneven tone. The damage was typical of this kind of object: the mechanical action of rolling and unrolling led to horizontal damage and losses. Since the author was not able to guess exactly what the lost areas had looked like, she decided to infill using hand-toned paper without a decorative pattern.

42nd Annual Meeting: BPG Tips Session, May 30, moderated by Emily Rainwater

There were sixteen tips presented by twelve speakers in this session, with a very lively question and comment period at the end.

 Tip 1:  ‘Beading: A Japanese technique used to relax laminated paper’ presented by Betsy Palmer Eldridge. 

When two sheets of paper have been pasted together overall, the result is a sheet that is much thicker and stiffer than the two individuals. Ms. Eldridge described her technique of using a string of beads known as ura-suri to soften, relax, and remove cockling from the laminated paper. She forms the beads into a coil, then makes a repeated circular motion with a flat hand. During the Q&A, Rachel Freeman mentioned that marbles or a Japanese printmaking baren work well too.

 Tip 2:  ‘Quick and Easy Plexi Paste’ presented by Cher Schneider.

Ms. Schneider developed this method for adhering two pieces of Plexiglas together to make mounts. Step 1: Collect Plexi shavings into a glass container. Step 2: Dissolve first in drops of acetone until it gets milky white, then add drops of toluene until it becomes transparent. Do not stir too much. Step 3: Apply to one side of the joint with a glass stir rod, then attach the other piece. Clear excess with a piece of matboard, then with a swab dampened with toluene. Step 4: Cure for 15-20 hours. Step 5: Clean glass tools by popping the dried Plexi paste right off. She does not recommend trying to re-use dried Plexi paste. During the Q&A, John Baty suggested a bake-out to cure the paste.

Tip 3: ‘Alt Training’ by Beth Doyle.

After struggling with the difficulties of providing care and handling training to temporary and permanent staff and students, Beth Doyle of Duke University Libraries figured out that using social media to make short training videos on specific topics is a great way to reach everyone in a timely manner. The instagram videos are 15 seconds and the youtube videos, such as this one, are 2 minutes. If you want to make your own, she recommends using multiple paths to reach the largest audience, exploiting what each platform has to offer, reusing and recycling clips where possible, accepting that what you have is good enough, and keeping it short.

 Tip 4:  ‘Studio-Lab Weight Sources’ by Stephanie Watkins.

Ms. Watkins reviewed the types of weights that conservators use, with suggestions for how to find or make your own. Because they are by nature heavy, she suggests above all that looking locally or making your own is the most cost-effective, and in the spirit of the meeting, ecologically sound. If you do have to have some weights shipped, she recommends USPS flat weight priority. Items that have been used as weights include magnets, sewing weights, scuba, exercise and fishing weights, car tire balancing weights, glass scraps, paperweights, flat irons, shoe anvils, weights manufactured by conservation suppliers, hand-crafted weights, scrap metal, and heavy items from freecycle. Home-made weight fillings include ball bearings, BB shot, coins, stones, sand, glass, beads and beans. Modifications can include polishing, covering, and adding smooth boards, felts, handles, and fabric. Form follows function, so determine the size and shape needed, then look around to see what is available.
I commented on this tip to add that a friend who sometimes has to travel out of the lab to do conservation work on-site brings empty containers and fills them with water for make-shift weights.

Tip 5:  ‘Cling and Release: Silicone Mylar+Japanese Paper+Wheat Starch Paste= A One-Step Hinge for Float Framing’ by Terry Marsh, read by Anisha Gupta.
steps 1-6
This PDF ( TerryMarsh-OneStepHinge ) explains the process.

Tip 6:  ‘Aquazol as a heat-set adhesive’ by Adam Novak.

Mr. Novak presented two quick tips. First, he shared his recipe for heat-set tissue, based on research by Katherine Lechuga, summarized here. He makes a 6% solution of Aquazol 500 in deionized water and brushes it on very thin (2 gram) tengujo paper. After cutting the repair strip, it can be set in place temporarily using the heat of his finger. Then, he places silicone release paper over the repair and sets it with a tacking iron. (When questioned later by Sarah Reidell, he indicated that he did not know the exact temperature used with the tacking iron, but supposed that it is in the range of 150 degrees F.) The repair may look shiny in comparison with surrounding paper. If this is the case, shine can be reduced by brushing on a bit of ethanol.

Tip 7: ‘Using pH strips with filtered water’ by Adam Novak.

The second tip addressed the issue of very different readings with a pH strip and a pH meter when measuring deionized water solutions buffered with calcium hydroxide. This is something that I had noticed in my lab at NYPL, and was glad to hear an explanation. Mr. Novak has discovered that the conductivity is very low in the calcium solutions and that there is not enough ionization to get an accurate reading with the strips. This is only the case with calcium- other buffers have higher conductivity and the strips read more accurately.

Tip 8:  ‘Cellulose Powder’ by Becca Pollak.
(photo of slide taken by Valerie Faivre)
Ms. Pollack described her technique of spraying cellulose powder with an airbrush to minimize local discoloration on paper, cover foxing, or prepare for inpainting. She sprays the powder directly through stencils and adds pigments for toning if necessary. The basic recipe is below as a starting point, but adjustments may need to be made depending on its moisture sensitivity of an object or the desired effect. She also sprays films on Mylar and allows them to dry for future use. In that case, she sprays a layer of plain methylcellulose first to improve cohesion of the sheet. Ms. Pollak is preparing a tip sheet to be posted soon.
Basic recipe:
  • Approximately 20mL 0.5-1% Methocel A4M (Ms. Pollack reports that Elissa O’Loughlin prefers 1-2% of A15C; and Jim Bernstein prefers a mixture of cellulose ethers or gelatin.)
  • 5-10mL isopropanol
  • 1g of micro-cellulose powder

Tip 9: ‘Applying New Techniques On A Traditional Adhesive For Book Conservation’ by  Marjan Anvari.

Traditional, western conservation training in book and paper conservation centers around the use of wheat starch paste. Ms. Anvari is an Iranian conservator working on middle eastern objects and decided to develop a repair adhesive based on a traditional Iranian adhesive that is also flexible and reversible in water. This adhesive, used by artists and artisans and known as ‘green paste,’  is dark yellow in color and leaves a stain, so Ms. Anvari worked to purify it, and came up with an acceptable recipe. She gave out samples at the end of the session. The paste can also be acquired from Raastak Enterprises, which can be contacted for more information.

Tip 10:  ‘Flattening translucent paper’ by Laura Neufeld.

Ms. Neufeld tested four techniques for flattening thin papers: Mylar flattening, the hard-soft sandwich technique, friction flattening, and edge flattening. A gampi-fibered paper was used for testing. The Mylar flattening technique, featured in the article ‘The conservation of three Whistler prints on Japanese paper’ by Catherine Nicholson, required the paper to be fully wet and gave the paper a slight sheen. The hard-soft sandwich technique, featured in the article ‘Architectural Drawings on Transparent Paper’ by Hildegard Homburger, did not require much moisture and removed severe creases. The sandwich calls for polypropylene fleece., but Ms. Neufeld found that this can be substituted with polyethylene fleece or Gore-Tex with the fuzzy side away from the object. Friction flattening, described in the article ‘The Use of Friction Mounting as an Aid to Pressing Works on Paper‘ by Keiko Keyes, can have similar results as using a kari-bari and has been found to work well on both old master and Japanese prints. She found edge flattening to be the most difficult. This slide (Flattening_Slide) shows the results in normal and raking illumination.

Tip 11:  ‘Tek-wipes’ by Gwenanne Edwards.

Tek-wipes, which are used in the computer and custodial industries, were mentioned on the DistList and handed out at last year’s Tip Session, and it seems that the word is out; many people have been discovering uses for them in paper conservation. Ms. Edwards likes to use them for capillary washing, slant washing, suction washing, as a support for lining, for drying and flattening, and in emergency response. She recommends them because they are highly absorbent, strong, reusable, machine-washable, dimensionably-stable, you can vary their saturation, they pull discoloration out well, they are safe with solvents, and they are way cheaper than blotter. They are available from a number of sources under various trade names, such as Texwipe or Technicloth. The overwhelming majority of commenters at the end of the session wanted to talk about Tek-wipes and other blotter replacements. Seth Irwin uses them to pull tidelines from paper using a tacking iron. Betsy Palmer Eldridge suggested that they would work in some of the drying techniques tested by Laura Neufeld (above.) In Australia, they use bamboo felt and interfacing in place of blotters. Bill Minter said that Christine Smith uses bath towels. Anna Friedman uses Sham-wow(warning: this link takes you to the company page with a video commercial).

Tip 12: ‘Rare earth magnets to make solvent chambers’ by  Anne Marigza.
(photo of slide taken by Valerie Faivre)
Ms. Marigza uses rare earth magnets in a solvent chamber. One on either side of the inverted glass or Mylar container will hold the solvent-saturated blotter (or other absorbent material) in place. The magnet can be discarded when it becomes powdery.

Tip 13.  ‘Flattening Rolled Drawings for Digitization’ by Bill Minter.
(photo of slide taken by Valerie Faivre)
Mr. Minter developed a method for flattening architectural drawings by reverse-rolling. He places a cardboard tube at the edge of the table with an attached paper extension hanging down to the floor. He places the leading edge of the drawing in the roller, then rolls it the opposite way and lets it sit for a day. When unrolled, it lays flat enough for digitization.

Tip 14: ‘Velcro for Phase-Boxes’ by Bill Minter.

Do you find your velcro hooks and loops to be too strongly attached to each other that they do not pull apart easily? Mr. Minter has discovered a less aggressive velcro. Instead of being labelled as such, the only way to distinguish is that the box is marked ‘clear.’ It comes in strips, discs, or rectangles.

Tip 15: ‘Dry-Tearing of Paper for Infills’ by Bill Minter.
(photo of samples taken by Valerie Faivre)
Lay some wire mesh on a flat surface and place the infill paper on top. Run the tip of an awl, needle, or other pointed instrument along the line you want to tear. It will create a perforation that can be dry-torn. McMaster-Carr sells wire mesh different gauges and materials. Above are samples of two sizes.

Tip 16: ‘Toning of Paper’ by Bill Minter.

The Preval sprayer works great for small paper-toning projects. Clean well after use. During the Q&A, we learned: They sell replacement valves if the ones you have get clogged. The glass jars can be saved and reused.

41st Annual Meeting – Book and Paper Session, June 1, “Testing the Waters: Applying New Techniques to the Cleaning of Acrylic Paint Film by Amy Hughes and Daria Keynan”

New York-based paper conservator Daria Keynan and Amy Hughes, third-year graduate student at NYU Institute of Fine Arts, shared exciting new contemporary cleaning techniques that have the potential for more effective and efficient treatment of paper-based objects by custom-matching the pH and conductivity modular stock solutions to the original object. This presentation was a wonderful and inspiring cross-specialty exploration of how paintings conservation techniques can be applied to paper conservation – and who doesn’t want more tricks up their sleeve?
Keynan was first introduced to the concept at the 2011 CAPS (Cleaning of Acrylic Painted Surfaces) workshop at the Museum of Modern Art. (I am now kicking myself for thinking that these workshops wouldn’t necessarily apply to my work as a book and paper conservator, so jealous!) To date there have been four innovative series of CAPS workshops supported by the Getty Conservation Institute to further the dialogue between theory and practice among conservation scientists and conservators as well as to introduce the concept of modular cleaning systems. Struck by her experience at the 2011 CAPS workshop and impressed by their use for treating acrylic paint films on art on paper, Keynan has further explored the use of pH and conductivity customization for other areas of paper conservation.
The CAPS workshop introduced several different cleaning techniques to minimize removal of surfactants when cleaning acrylic film surfaces. Acrylic paint and modern materials are scary (my word, not theirs.) Emulsions are often complex with many proprietary and artist-introduced ingredients. Colors react differently after drying, in treatment, and as they age. Some colors may be more sensitive to chemical and mechanical cleaning than others. Surfactants and other soft solids may never solidify, creating a tacky surface that can attract dust and grime. Conservation treatment, particularly aqueous treatment or mechanical cleaning with damp cotton swabs, can introduce immediate disfiguration like abrasion or swelling. Readily soluble surfactants can leach to the paint film surface or verso of the paper substrate. Treatment can also jumpstart deterioration that is not apparent until the future due to unknown chemical and mechanical consequences.
Of the many cleaning techniques available within contemporary conservation, Hughes and Keynan limited their presentation to the customization of pH and conductivity as a more finely-tuned and safer aqueous cleaning technique. They shared their methods by highlighting the treatment of works of art on paper brought to the Daria Keynan Paper Conservation in Manhattan for treatment where adjusted water – tweaking the pH and conductivity of the deionized water – was a key factor of success.

HughesKeynan_slide14_2013BPGIn the Garden
(1986) by Paula Rego was surface cleaned to reduce dust and embedded grime altering the surface sheen. After dry cleaning with cosmetic sponges, Hughes tested various acrylic paint colors for pH and conductivity testing. Cylindrical pellets of cast agarose gel (recipe and supply information to be published in their BPG Annual post-print) were uniformly shaped with a medical-grade biopsy punch. (Heed Hughes’ warning, online image searches for “biopsy punch” are not for the weak-stomached!) The agarose pellet, acting like a poultice, was placed in contact with the acrylic paint film for 45 seconds to absorb the surface pH and conductivity. Agarose was selected because it imbibes the surface readings without visibly swelling the paint with excess moisture as in more aggressive techniques like local, direct application of deionized water. Keynan explained that the contact time of the agarose pellet can be matched to the estimated treatment time so that testing parameters can meet real-world treatment situations, increasing the predictability and reproducibility of testing results.
HughesKeynan_slide15_2013BPGThe pellet was transferred from the paper surface to the well of a pocket-sized, hand-held pH meter (Horiba Laqua pH Tester from Cole-Parmer) to record the pH of the paint surface. A droplet of deionized water was then placed on the pellet and transferred to another pocket-sized, hand-held conductivity meter (Horiba B-171 Twin Conductivity/Salinity Pocket Tester from Cole-Parmer) to record the conductivity of the paint surface. (As someone who absolutely dreads calibrating our cumbersome pH meter I was overjoyed to hear how easy these were to use – my purchase order request is already submitted.)
The conservators used the recorded pH and conductivity for a given area of the painted surface to identify the optimal working solution for cleaning. They selected from among a variety of premixed stock solutions that were created according to the CAPS workshop directions using deionized water, glacial acetic acid, and ammonium hydroxide in a range of ph 5-8 and conductivity 1000-6000 µS (micro Siemens.) Once mixed, the stock solutions can be stored in the refrigerator for up to several months. Keynan also reported that they often add several drops of an antimicrobial preservative for a longer shelf life.
The embedded material and dust on In the Garden released easily with 3-4 passes of lightly damp, pre-blotted cotton swab rolled over the surface. Hughes warned that since acrylic film is susceptible to abrasion it is important to monitor the paint surface during treatment. Cotton might not be appropriate for all acrylic surfaces so additional experiments with different swab materials may be useful. Similar success was seen in the mold removal and stain reduction of Maquette for Smoking Cigarette Relief (1983) by Tom Wesselmann.
Since Superstorm Sandy hit New York City in October 2012, Keynan’s studio has seen many complex treatments because of the unusual and unknown composition of the storm water which was often contaminated by sewage (uh, gross.) Many of the paper-based objects were stained with tidelines that were difficult to remove and fluoresced brightly under UV. Standard paper conservation techniques often visibly removed the tidelines but were deemed unsuccessful since under UV they shifted along the paper fibers or sank but were not completely removed from the paper support. She related that altering the pH and conductivity of her treatment water dramatically improved treatment results. Removal of the fluorescing blue tidelines (both external and internal) was achieved by local application of the adjusted water and using fumed silica poultices to block the formation of new tidelines.
HughesKeynan_slide34_2013BPGThe last example Keynan shared was a sample of naturally aged 2-ply paper board. (This was exciting, anyone else ever stare blankly at a nasty tideline on an illustration board and just sigh?) Traditional and adjusted treatment waters were applied with cotton swabs in several passes to clean the surface with varying results. Traditional deionized water cleaned less and was uneven, leaving a soft and vulnerable surface. The solution set at pH 6.6 and 6,000 µS glided more easily and had more even results. It also felt more controllable when working. The third sample solution set to pH 5.5 and 14,000 µS gave the most effective cleaning but in real life would probably not need three passes. After drying, the surface readings for all three areas had almost identical conductivity and pH readings.
Keynan concluded that by matching a pH- and conductivity-adjusted solution to the surface of the object it is possible to create a near chemical equilibrium at the surface to eliminate leaching from or depositing into the paint film. In treatment, using adjusted solution equals maximized cleaning efficiency with less wetting out of substrates, less pigment transfer, less repeated action, less loss of surface texture, and reduced distortion of the working area. Conservators have always adjusted pH for various uses, but by measuring the conductivity we can tailor our treatments to the physical needs of the object material with more refinement and subject it to less invasive treatment. Adjusted waters are an incredibly useful tool for improving and refining treatments in our conservation practice.
Hughes and Keynan’s presentation was an approachable and exciting take on the contemporary research going on in the field of conservation science and paintings conservation, especially as led by Chris Stavroudis (freelance paintings conservator in Los Angeles) and Richard Wolbers (Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation) in, well, all things related to cleaning painted surfaces and the Modular Cleaning Program.
Other presentations at the AIC meeting in Indianapolis such as “Mass Spectrometric Imaging of Acrylic Emulsion Paint Films: Engineering a Microemulsion-Based Cleaning Approach” (Paintings + Research and Technical Studies Thursday, May 30) show that the MCP and CAPS research continues. During the question-and-answer period Dr. Anthony Lagalante (Villanova University) shared that he and Stavroudis had recently recorded a video about using and calibrating the meters – it was on the cutting room floor, but will be posted to the CAPS website soon. Lagalante also sent me a link to their illuminating Studies in Conservation article that is currently available as a pre-print:

C.E. Dillon, A.F. Lagalante and R.C. Wolbers “ Aqueous cleaning of acrylic emulsion paint films. The effect of solution pH, conductivity and ionic strength on film swelling and surfactant removal” Studies in Conservation 57(1), (2014). http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/maney/sic/pre-prints/2047058412Y.0000000076

The concept presented by Hughes and Keynan in “Testing the Waters” has the potential for wide application for all book and paper conservators. Working with stock solutions is a fast and economical lab practice. Customizing treatment solutions increases the workability and effectiveness of the treatment. Many of us in the room instantly coveted the easy-to-use digital meters as we thought of the hassle of calibrating traditional models. I’m intrigued by how this research can be applied to aqueous treatments meant to introduce alkaline reserves to acidic paper.
This was a welcome multi-disciplinary presentation that encouraged conservators from other specialty groups like PSG and RATS to attend the BPG program. I am not alone in hoping for more presentations like it at future meetings so we can all benefit from the exciting things happening in all areas of our conservation community.