Before any conservation treatment is undertaken, the paper, parchment or papyrus support(s) and media are thoroughly tested for stability.
For example, inks and colored areas are spot tested with water and other solvents to determine the feasibility of treatment techinques like washing stain reduction, or tape removal.
Surface cleaning is completed with soft brushes and/or white vinyl erasers to reduce surface and/or ingrained grime.
Washing involves immersing an object in calcinated deionized water to reduce discoloration and acidity.
Water soluble media can be protected with the application of reversible fixatives that block exposure to the water during treatment.
Mild suction techniques can be used in conjunction for localized reduction of discoloration and acidity.
Deacidification neutralizes existing acids and prevents further degradation using an alkaline agent that is deposited into the paper.
BLEACHING & STAIN REDUCTION
Light Bleaching involves placing a paper object in a tray of alkaline water and allowing sunlight to reduce staining. The tray is covered with ultraviolet-filtering Plexiglas to protect the object from low-level ultraviolet radiation.
Localized Bleaching is completed using mild chemical bleaches and a suction platen tool for highly controlled and localized treatment of stained areas. Dilute solutions of sodium borohydride or hydrogen peroxide are two of the safest and most effective bleaches.
Removal of tape adhesives and residual staining is accomplished through the use of heated spatulas and solvents.
HUMIDIFICATION & FLATTENING
Distortions in paper and parchment can be reduced with careful and controlled exposure to humidity in a humidity chamber, followed by the drying and flattening of the object between blotters and weighted glass plates or Plexiglas sheets.
Tears and splits are repaired using a variety of Japanese or Korean papers adhered with refined wheat starch paste. Overall linings of Japanese or Korean paper are applied overall to the reverse of especially damaged or fragile objects.
Losses can be infilled with Japanese, Korean, and Western papers adhered with refined wheat starch paste. Paper pulp is also used to infill losses. Infill material can be toned with a variety of media.
INPAINTING & TONING
After infilling areas of structural loss, inpainting is carried out in order to visually reintegrate the losses using pastel powder, powdered pigments, watercolors, and colored pencils.
Whenever possible, inpainting and toning is confined to infilled areas only.
In some cases, the appearance of abrasions or scratches can also be reduced through subtle application of media like dried pigments or pastel powder. A barrier layer is applied to the damaged areas before the media is applied. The barrier layer is typically a clear, stable adhesive like methylcellulose. While the addition of new media is often not fully reversible on a paper object, the inclusion of a barrier layer is a suitable compromise.
DAMAGED OR FADED HANDWRITING
Washington Conservation Studio DOES NOT “rework” faded or damaged handwriting.
Some studios that advertise on the internet rework faded or damaged handwriting. Inpainting or reworking faded and/or damaged handwriting is a highly unethical treatment step that is both potentially damaging and non-reversible.
Original handwriting is a product of its author; reworking original text destroys its historic significance and alters its meaning.
If you have a paper object with faded or damaged writing, consider a digital reproduction (fascimile) of the object in which handwriting can be made legible again, without compromising the integrity of the original.