meta name="p:domain_verify" content="83432fc69a1d6df071f49df584f9d839 Laurl Designs: Cleaning antique paper, archivally

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cleaning antique paper, archivally

Every once and while you run across a problem that takes special knowledge... knowledge that you should pay someone big bucks for, but you can only invest little bucks. I ran across one of those problems last month. I found a pair of lovely, hand-painted etching of fish from the late 1700's. They were part of a famous book (Allgemeine Naturgeschichte Der Fische by Block)  and had been removed- heart breaking to remove pages from a book, but that's another story.

These are beautiful and the one at the right even has a silver wash over it to create the iridescence of the fish. However, they were dirty, like dusty-type dirty, not actually soiled. I needed to have them cleaned, in an archival way, and my best bet was to drive over 2 hours to Atlanta and visit a paper restorer- BIG bucks.

But it was just the dirt I wanted to really remove, I could let the light water damage to the corner and a foxing spot stay. When I mentioned to a local framer that surely I could do a little research and do it myself he said, "could you read a book on baseball and throw a no hitter game?" Thanks Snarky Snarkington. It was then that I remembered why I do not use him very often to frame art.

Turns out there is very little on the web about cleaning antique paper. However, I know enough as a former librarian and trained artist, that there are accessible techniques.  I remember products for removing dirt, cleaning book covers, repairing paper, etc. from archival library supply websites and finally found it. It is called a Dry Cleaning Sponge- note that it is for cleaning dryly, not a product from the dry cleaning industry.

These "sponges" are actually vulcanized rubber foam, cut into squares. Vulcanization is a chemical process that turns goopy rubber into firm or hard rubber.

To use the sponge to clean/restore paper, simple lay the sponge on the paper and pull it across- with the grain and using little to no pressure. Turn the sponge to a clean spot on the sponge and do it again. Avoid any pencil marks that you do not want to erase. Start with the edge of the paper to test the process. Do the important parts last and sparingly.

When your sponge is dirty, clean with soap and water, let dry, and then you can use it again. I bought a twin pack so I could complete a project at one time.

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