Local History

Conservation Treatment of Watercolour Architectural Drawings

Set of 7 watercolour architectural drawings, tightly rolled before conservation treatment.

Set of 7 watercolour architectural drawings, tightly rolled before conservation treatment.

Architectural drawings are not only archival documents, but can also be beautiful artworks in their own right.

Book and Paper Conservation Services recently treated a set of seven watercolour architectural drawings depicting details of the Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King in Hamilton, Ontario. The treatment involved humidifying the tightly rolled drawings, surface cleaning to remove dirt and grime, removal of tape and adhesive residue from the back of the works, and finally framing in acid-free materials to preserve and safely display these gorgeous watercolours.

The watercolours were exquisite works of art, and we were thrilled to be part of the project! Read more about the process and see the results on the Diocese of Hamilton website.

Conservation Treatment:  Watercolours from the Cathedral Collection

 

If you have architectural drawings or other archival materials you or your organization are interested in having restored, contact us to discuss conservation options. And check out our treatment portfolio to see other treatment projects we've undertaken on documents and records!

Conservation Treatment of a Bird's Eye View of London, 1872 Lithograph Print

Bird's Eye View of London, Ontario, Canada,  1872, before conservation treatment. 

Bird's Eye View of London, Ontario, Canada, 1872, before conservation treatment. 

Book and Paper Conservation Services recently had the privilege of restoring this wonderful early Bird's Eye View map of London, Ontario, Canada. The detailed colour lithograph print, dated 1872, resides in the collection of Western University Archives, which holds extensive records of London's history.  

History

The map is an illustrated vision of the city from a bird's eye perspective, a common theme in the late 19th century. It was drawn by the artist E. S. Glover, and produced by Strobridge Lithographing Company, in Cincinnati, OH.  It would have been distributed in London and purchased by prominent local citizens at the time for display in homes and businesses.

Detail of the 1872 map showing streets of London, Ontario, and the Military Garrison in what is now Victoria Park.

Detail of the 1872 map showing streets of London, Ontario, and the Military Garrison in what is now Victoria Park.

The map illustrates significant buildings in the city as of 1872, such as the Covent Garden Market, Labatt Brewery, and the military garrison, situated on land which is now Victoria Park. The locations are numbered in a key in the bottom margin. The map is extremely interesting as a historic document because it depicts a number of streets and locations which no longer exist or have since been renamed. 

 

 

When it arrived at our studio, the map suffered from a variety of condition issues. After examination and consultation with University Archivist Robin Keirstead at Western's Archives and Research Collections Centre, an extensive treatment protocol was determined. During the course of conservation treatment, the print underwent almost every process in a paper conservator's repertoire; it was an extremely satisfying project for our studio. 

Condition

The map was produced by a lithographic printing process on machine-made wood pulp paper, a typical paper but prone to discolouration over time. Sometime in its life, it had been mounted to a black pulp board backer, a very acidic material which had further contributed to the overall yellowing and brittleness of the paper. It also exhibited pronounced discolouration in vertical bands across the image, as well as extensive tears and breaks in the paper and minor losses around the perimeter.

Tears and losses along the border of the print.

Tears and losses along the border of the print.

Creases and breaks distorting the surface.

Creases and breaks distorting the surface.

In short, it was in urgent need of conservation treatment to keep it from deteriorating further, and to restore its original detail and vibrancy.

Conservation included surface cleaning to remove dirt and grime. 

Conservation included surface cleaning to remove dirt and grime. 

conservation treatment

The conservation treatment to address these damages included several stages. First, the print was surface cleaned to remove loose dirt and grime, and then the acidic backing was painstakingly removed with a scalpel and metal spatula, working from the verso to avoid any accidental damage to the print. 

Next, the print was washed and light bleached to brighten the paper tone. The yellow discolouration products were removed from the paper in this process, returning the image closer to its original colouring and removing the distracting bands of stain from the print. It was also deacidified to halt further deterioration of the cellulose.  

The Bird's Eye View of London is washed and deacidified to remove discolouration.

The Bird's Eye View of London is washed and deacidified to remove discolouration.

Once washed, the lithograph was lined onto a new, stable backing of Japanese paper, to provide support and repair the breaks and losses. This backing will not cause discolouration the way the old board did, and will help the print remain stable while also being slightly flexible.

Wash water becomes progressively less yellow as the print is cleaned. Behind, the washed and lined lithograph is visible brighter. 

Wash water becomes progressively less yellow as the print is cleaned. Behind, the washed and lined lithograph is visible brighter. 

The Bird's Eye View of London, after washing and lining on a stable Japanese paper backing. 

The Bird's Eye View of London, after washing and lining on a stable Japanese paper backing. 

The final step in the conservation treatment was to inpaint losses to the printed image where cracks and breaks had disturbed the surface. Using watercolours and a delicate brush, the image was restored.

Inpainting to restore losses in the printed surface.

Inpainting to restore losses in the printed surface.

The restoration of this beautiful historic artifact was extremely successful, and the satisfying results can be seen below.  The paper tone has been brightened, allowing the image to be viewed without distraction; the damages have been repaired and print is supported and stabilized with a new backing. It has been returned to the Archives where it will be stored and preserved in ideal conditions, and can be accessed by future researchers and interested Londoners for years to come. 

Bird's Eye View of London, Ontario, Canada,  1872, before and after conservation treatment. 

Bird's Eye View of London, Ontario, Canada, 1872, before and after conservation treatment. 

Art conservation is an extremely satisfying occupation, and Book and Paper Conservation Services was very pleased to have contributed to the preservation of this important artifact. If you have historic or archival materials or antique prints that you are interested in having restored, don't hesitate to get in touch with our studio. There is no charge for a consultation, and we are always happy to discuss conservation options with you. 

Conservation of P. T. Barnum Circus Posters, featuring Jumbo the Elephant

The variety of paper-based objects that come through the Book and Paper Conservation Services studio never ceases to amaze us! This set of P. T. Barnum Circus posters circa 1883 is one of the most unique artifacts we've worked on.

P. T. Barnum Circus posters displayed in the Elgin County Museum, before conservation treatment.

P. T. Barnum Circus posters displayed in the Elgin County Museum, before conservation treatment.

Part of the collections of the Elgin County Museum in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, the posters advertise the P. T. Barnum Circus performance in St. Thomas on July 26, 1883; notably, the posters feature Jumbo the Elephant, the famed pachyderm who would later be killed after another appearance in St. Thomas in 1885.

Anyone familiar with St. Thomas and Elgin County, Ontario, knows Jumbo's importance to the community. The story of the elephant's tragic death in a train collision is one of the greatest legends of the town, and features prominently in the area's tourism. Jumbo has inspired a life-sized monument on Talbot Street, a brand of craft beer, and of course a permanent collection of objects in the Elgin County Museum.

P.T. Barnum Circus posters featuring Jumbo the Elephant, before conservation treatment.

P.T. Barnum Circus posters featuring Jumbo the Elephant, before conservation treatment.

This set of posters was donated by a member of the community after it was found inside the structure of a building undergoing renovation in 1983; the posters were on the underside of the boards, and so were hidden until revealed by construction. The remnants of the posters were still mounted on the boards, originally a fence or barn wall, on which they were first displayed to advertise the circus's visit. However, the fragments had suffered from the ravages of time, pests, mould and dampness since being reused in the floor of the building. 

Biological damage and surface mould on the delicate paper.

Biological damage and surface mould on the delicate paper.

The Museum felt that the historical integrity of the artifact was best served by keeping the poster fragments in place on the original boards, recalling the way the posters would have been viewed originally, while also acknowledging the unique circumstances of their preservation and discovery.  

We determined a treatment protocol that would clean and secure the delicate paper in place on the boards, as well as provide some protection from the handling and exposure that the piece will inevitably receive while on display. 

Surface cleaning the poster fragments.

Surface cleaning the poster fragments.

Reinforcing lifted edges.

Reinforcing lifted edges.

First, the paper and exposed board surfaces were gently surface cleaned to remove a thick layer of dirt, grime and biological material. The undersides of lifting paper fragments were also cleaned, where large deposits of debris had collected with time. Then, crumbling edges overhanging the edges of individual boards were reinforced with Japanese paper to provide strength and deter further damage. 

Protective coating applied to the delicate paper surface.

Protective coating applied to the delicate paper surface.

The coating also serves to re-saturate the printed colours and paper tone: the top half of AT has been coated, the bottom half has not.

The coating also serves to re-saturate the printed colours and paper tone: the top half of AT has been coated, the bottom half has not.

The lifting fragments of paper were secured back down onto the boards with a strong but reversible acid-free adhesive, and the surface of the delicate paper was coated with a cellulose ether solution to strengthen and protect the delicate paper. The coating also served to re-saturate the printed colours and paper tone, bringing back more of the original vibrancy of the image.

Detail of posters before conservation.

Detail of posters before conservation.

Detail of posters after conservation.

Detail of posters after conservation.

Detail of posters before conservation.

Detail of posters before conservation.

Detail of posters after conservation.

Detail of posters after conservation.

Detail of posters before conservation.

Detail of posters before conservation.

Detail of posters after conservation.

Detail of posters after conservation.

You can see in the after treatment details that the posters have been stabilized and rejuvenated on the boards, allowing better appreciation of their historical importance. They can now be safely handled and displayed without risking further damage to the fragile materials.

P.T. Barnum Circus Posters - Jumbo Elephant - after conservation

The posters have been returned to the Elgin County Museum where they will be back on display shortly. 

As a testament to the enduring interest in Jumbo's story, two upcoming television programs will investigate the legend of the famous elephant, perhaps revealing new information about his life and death. David Suzuki's CBC program The Nature of Things will air an episode dedicated to Jumbo sometime in 2018; David Attenborough has also visited St. Thomas to research an upcoming feature about Jumbo.

David Suzuki explores famous elephant's life

Visit the Elgin County Museum this fall to see the restored P. T. Barnum Circus posters featuring Jumbo the Elephant, and stay tuned for the upcoming television specials. The Museum plans to mount another exhibition on Jumbo's life and legacy in St. Thomas to coincide with the renewed interest next spring!

Do you have archival materials - posters, photographs, documents, etc - that you are interested in having restored? Contact Book and Paper Conservation Services today to discuss conservation treatment of your objects, or check out our portfolio section to see other projects we've worked on.