So delicate, yet so strong and versatile: The use of paper in objects conservation

Paula Artal-Isbrand


A large variety of acid-free Asian and Western papers offer objects conservators many possible applications in our work. Not only have we borrowed this extraordinary material—paper—from the field of paper conservation, but we have also adopted many of the well-developed methods and techniques of handling and manipulating it in our three-dimensional conservation treatments. Paper meets all of the essential criteria for use in modern conservation practice, including reversibility, strength, inertness, long-term stability, minimal change in color over time, and compatibility with the original artwork. Additional characteristics that make paper attractive to objects conservators are that it is lightweight, hydrophilic, conforms well to complex surfaces, is nontoxic, and not affected by the solvents typically used in our work. Also, the cost of the paper varies but is not excessively high. Finally, having the option of using paper in sheet, fiber, or powder form—either in a dry or wet state— allows for even wider applications. This article is a survey of the wide range of applications of paper in the field of objects conservation. Its use in conservation treatments can have two very different functions. It can serve as a restoration material, remaining with the artwork after the treatment is complete, or as a tool during treatment, not remaining with the artwork after the treatment is complete. 

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2017 | Chicago | Volume 24