Caution Again: Paper residue on upper corners

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Posted by John Fiorillo on September 17, 2002 at 19:22:56:

In Reply to: Paper residue on upper corners posted by Elmer on September 15, 2002 at 19:55:11:


I was determined not to get into any more debates about print restoration, but this discussion requires a counterpoint (unfortunately mine is a long one).

I don't agree with the advice given by the well-intentioned contributors (Andreas, Noel, Marc), not because what they describe could never work under certain circumstances and in the right hands, but because they haven't examined your print, and because their advice is incomplete. Thus all their suggestions require caveats. They do not know what adhesive(s) was used, so to suggest a removal technique without direct examination is, I must say, a bit reckless and irresponsible. Also, none of their advice is given with a balanced presentation of the archival issues involved in removing adhesives.

Consider the following:

(1) Andreas says the adhesive is rice starch paste - how does he know? Where's the advice on testing the adhesive and the water, as well as the paper itself? What if the adhesive is actually a mixture of more than one type? Where's the assessment regarding what treatment of the paper might be needed after removal of the adhesive (such as pH balancing)?

(2) Noel suggests using acetone or other solvents. In the hands of the inexperienced this is often a recipe for disaster. Also, where's the advice for not only controlling the amount of moisture (wisely mentioned by Noel), but also on ensuring that the pH balance of the paper is not shifted into a dangerous range by the treatment?

(3) Marc suggests a scraping technique with back lighting. How does he know that the paper in your particular print can withstand such treatment? A thin or already damaged paper can tear under such pressure. Also, sustained exposure to "back-lighting" means, of course, prolonged exposure of the pigments to light, potentially leading to fading. One should, at the very least, cover the image area with opaque archival paper so that no light reaches the pigments during treatment.

(4) Non-archival restoration methods may produce apparently successful results in the short run, and then degrade the paper in the long term. If you use inappropriate materials or techniques, you might see damage only after years have passed.

Nearly all of the advice I see on the internet for do-it-yourself repairs is incomplete and potentially misleading. I understand the motivation for fixing things oneself and not incurring the expense of paying a professional to restore prints. Nevertheless, many collectors and dealers will not recognize the danger signs during a restoration process and might proceed beyond the point of no return, permanently damaging a print. As I've said many times before, offering advice over the internet in this manner is irresponsible, despite the good intentions. I do not mean to imply that Andreas, Noel, or Marc are not careful collectors who take pride in their prints and want to protect them as best they can. However, I do feel that their advice is incomplete and unfortunately misguided.

Advice such as what was offered here about adhesive removal can be misinterpreted or misapplied unless all the facts are known about a given condition problem. Adhesives differ, as do paper thickness, fiber length, sizing, pH, etc. In the present instance none of you know for sure what adhesive(s) were used, what the condition of the paper is, or even what type of print we have (ukiyo-e, shin hanga, modern reproduction, etc). I find it almost shocking that you would offer advice without even asking more questions about the situation! Apparent success with a technique applied to a 'shin hanga' print on thick, sturdy paper with heavy sizing may not work at all for a ukiyo-e print on thin paper with minimal sizing.

I strongly believe that the most conservative, hands-off approach should be taken when giving advice about print restoration in a public forum.

If you feel that information about print restoration should be available to all and that the internet is an appropriate forum, you should then make every effort to offer your advice only with obvious cautions, to present it within a full context of archival considerations, and only when you are certain you have accurately identified the materials and conditions requiring restoration. Even after giving your own suggestions, I believe one should at least mention that a second opinion involving a professional restorer would be a very good thing to have.

PLEASE - - - if you do not have professional training in print restoration, at the very least seek professional advice on what might be possible for repairing your prints. Try starting at American Institute for Conservation.


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