Re: Caution Again: Paper residue on upper corners

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Posted by Noel Chiappa on September 17, 2002 at 22:55:19:

In Reply to: Caution Again: Paper residue on upper corners posted by John Fiorillo on September 17, 2002 at 19:22:56:

> this discussion requires a counterpoint (unfortunately mine is a long
> one).

Your advice is an extremely useful counterpoint, and makes many excellent
points; thanks very much for taking the time.

> I understand the motivation for .. not incurring the expense of paying a
> professional to restore prints. ... I strongly believe that the most
> conservative, hands-off approach should be taken when giving advice
> about print restoration in a public forum. ... a second opinion
> involving a professional restorer would be a very good thing to have.

This is the one point I'd like to say something about.

In the best of all possible worlds, everyone would have professionals conserve
all prints. However, the reality is that this is just not going to happen, and
in some cases for reasons that aren't entirely blameworthy: for one, many
prints (such as the Kunisada II that the lady was enquiring about debacking
the other day) simply aren't worth being professionally conserved, both in
terms of expense, and time and effort to make it happen. If nothing else, we
just don't have enough conservators to make it happen. One collector I know
has had a rare Utamaro hashira-e with conservators for months - they are still
waiting for it back.

If you give people only the choices of using an expensive professional
conservation, or nothing, in some cases prints will wind up being left in
situations which are worse than the likely consequences of an amateur attention -
e.g. backed to an old heavily acidic backing which is slowly destroying the
print: how many of those have I sadly seen, many to the point where the print
was basically junk.

Yes, this is not going to be the case all the time - certainly there are cases
where an amateur will do damage. Your advice to "leave well enough alone" is
not going to be the right thing in absolutely all cases, either. Alas, the
problem is that, exactly as you point out, without examination by an expert we
have no way of knowing where we stand.

It's also also worth noting that the state of the art is advancing all the
time. I doubt such great collectors of the past as Goncourt, Wright, Vever etc
knew anything of Ph and similar issues - but their prints, by and large, seem
to have survived their care.

I wish I had a definitive answer to all these issues; I don't. Perhaps the
best we can do for now is to put together a definitive page along the lines
you laid out:

> you should then make every effort to offer your advice only with obvious
> cautions, to present it within a full context of archival
> considerations

i.e. a page which does warn people of the potential pitfalls, and steers them
towards professional conservators for "significant" prints, and has as much
detailed information as we can marshall together for people who have prints
that don't merit that route.

I would be very interested in any comments you might have about this issue,
and again, thanks for making us think harder about this topic.

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