inpainting

Conservation Treatment of a Hand-Drawn Map of Sarnia, Ontario, 1848

A watermark from the notable papermaker J Whatman is visible in transmitted light. The map is drawn on hand-made laid rag paper.

A watermark from the notable papermaker J Whatman is visible in transmitted light. The map is drawn on hand-made laid rag paper.

Archival materials see some of the hardest use and wear of all paper objects, because their original purpose was usually utilitarian. Sometimes ephemeral, often consulted, maps are no exception. The maps that come in to Book and Paper Conservation Services for treatment show damages typical of handling and haphazard storage, such as tears, breaks, creases, soiling, and evidence of previous restoration as owners have performed DIY repairs in order to return functionality to an item in frequent use.

1848 Map of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Before conservation treatment, the map suffers surface dirt, tears and losses, as well as previous repairs with damaging adhesive tape on the verso.

1848 Map of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Before conservation treatment, the map suffers surface dirt, tears and losses, as well as previous repairs with damaging adhesive tape on the verso.

An 1848 map of the town of Sarnia, Ontario that we conserved last year is a perfect example. The map, now part of the collections of the Lambton County Archives, shows several streets close to the shore of the St. Clair River, with specific lots carefully laid out and numbered and buildings and geological features marked.

The map is an original, and has been hand drawn with pen and ink, with roads and waterways highlighted in watercolour. It’s a utilitarian, yet beautiful object, with elegant penmanship and a green silk ribbon folded and sewn around the perimeter of the paper. It may be a thoughtfully designed piece, but it was meant foremost to convey information, and the handling and use it has seen are evident in the damages it now presents.

Lambton County Archives brought the map in for conservation treatment in order to preserve a delicate piece of Sarnia’s history, and make it safe for researchers to access and study.

Map in raking light, showing severe planar deformation.

Map in raking light, showing severe planar deformation.

The map suffered a variety of condition and damage issues caused by use and age, dating from it’s lifetime before entering the Archives. A heavy layer of surface dirt, tears and losses, and adhesive tape residue on the verso were present and needed to be addressed. After thorough condition reporting and photo-documentation, an essential step in all our conservation projects, the treatment began.

Surface cleaning using a smoke sponge is a slow and tedious process, but one which in this case yielded dramatic results. The time lapse images of the cleaning show the grime coming off section by section, brightening the paper beneath.

Surface cleaning the verso of the map.

Surface cleaning the verso of the map.

Time lapse video showing the process of surface cleaning the map.

Next, the remains of the repair tape applied by a well-intentioned soul was addressed. The tape carrier had long since flaked off, but the adhesive residue remained, brittle and yellowed and crosslinking with the paper fibres on a microscopic level. Some solvent tests revealed a match, and by careful swab application, over suction to draw out the dissolved residue, we were successful in removing the disfiguring material. Luckily there was not much staining left in the paper after this was removed, and more stable repairs could now be applied.

Solvent removal of adhesive tape residue.

Solvent removal of adhesive tape residue.

In keeping with conservation aims and ethics, a new, stable and reversible repair method was chosen, that of Japanese tissue adhered with wheat starch paste. Wheat starch paste is a clear, strong and flexible adhesive that will not fail, discolour or become brittle with time. It is used by paper conservators to attach thin strips of handmade Japanese tissue to paper objects, to repair tears and breaks. The long-fibred, acid-free tissue holds together the breaks and can be selected to match the colour and thickness of the artifact, being nearly invisible after application so that it won’t disturb the aesthetics of a piece. These repairs were performed on the verso of the map, and fills were added to the losses with a similar process, completing the repair of the mechanical damages on the map.

Japanese tissue repairs applied to the verso of the map, with LED light pad underneath.

Japanese tissue repairs applied to the verso of the map, with LED light pad underneath.

After conservation treatment, the map is clean and stable.

After conservation treatment, the map is clean and stable.

After treatment the map is bright and clean, the damages are repaired and damaging materials have been removed so as not to cause further long-term deterioration. Conservation treatment has restored stability and aesthetic integrity to the map.

It was returned to Lambton County Archives as good as new, and is now kept in their newly renovated storage facility, ready to serve researchers interested in Sarnia’s early history. Please visit the Archives in person or online to learn more about their collections and the preservation strategies they undertake for artifacts in their care.

To learn more about archival conservation at Book and Paper Conservation Services, check out our portfolio section or read about our process.

Conservation of a 19th Century Family Photograph

Antique family photograph before and after conservation treatment.

Antique family photograph before and after conservation treatment.

If you're lucky enough to have mementos and photographs of your ancestors, they are probably treasured family heirlooms. But although your family considers them precious items now, there is a good chance they have seen many years of wear, handling and questionable storage conditions. 

Antique family photograph, with damage to the board and photographic emulsion.

Antique family photograph, with damage to the board and photographic emulsion.

Family photographs come into our studio regularly, exhibiting everything from cracked and broken support boards to stains and surface dirt, to scratches or loss of emulsion. Digital restoration professionals can help you make copies that are touched up by computer, but our studio can restore the original item using safe and reversible treatments, and preserve it for many more generations of your family to appreciate. 

Damaged antique photograph in raking light.

Damaged antique photograph in raking light.

We recently treated this charming 19th century black and white gelatin photograph for a private client. The card support had suffered a break across the lower corner, narrowly missing the mounted photograph, and the photograph itself presented deep scratches and loss of emulsion across the image. Many of these losses were caused by biological damage, the munching of insects on the starch-based gelatin and paper of the object.

The break in the mounting board was repaired with wheat starch paste.

The break in the mounting board was repaired with wheat starch paste.

Treatment was begun by first addressing the crack in the board. This was repaired with wheat starch paste and the board then flattened in a press to reduce the planar deformation. Some losses in the board material were filled with paper pulp to even out the surface.

A barrier layer is applied to the damaged areas before inpainting.

A barrier layer is applied to the damaged areas before inpainting.

Next, the damage to the photograph was addressed. The losses were first covered with a barrier solution in order to consolidate the paper surface and facilitate removal of the inpainting if necessary in the future. Then, the lost information in the image was carefully in-painted using watercolours, a procedure performed under magnification to ensure accuracy. 

Applying watercolour to the lost emulsion of the photograph.

Applying watercolour to the lost emulsion of the photograph.

Inpainting set-up for conservation treatment of the photograph.

Inpainting set-up for conservation treatment of the photograph.

Finally, cracks and lifting flakes of the emulsion were adhered back down with a photo grade gelatin solution, the same material as the original emulsion. This helps restore a smooth surface to the piece, and reduces the chances of further damage.

After treatment, the visual unity of the image is restored, and the portrait can once again be fully appreciated as a record of a the family's history. Perhaps a family resemblance can be traced to today's descendants of this matriarch?

The photograph after conservation treatment. The inpainting restores the visual unity of the image, and the portrait is whole once again.

The photograph after conservation treatment. The inpainting restores the visual unity of the image, and the portrait is whole once again.

Do you have family heirlooms that have suffered damage over the ages? If you're interested in having them conserved, don't hesitate to get in touch with our studio. There is no cost for an estimate. Or, visit our portfolio section to see other examples of conservation of archival materials.

Conservation of a Postcard Showing a Lost Painting by Florence Carlyle

Florence Carlyle (1864-1923) was a Canadian artist who worked in Woodstock, Ontario in the late 19th and early 20th century. After studying in Paris in her mid-twenties, she returned to Canada to build a successful career as a figure and portrait painter, and was an associate member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and a member of the Ontario Society of Artists

She is a celebrated figure in Woodstock, Ontario, and is the subject of an exhibition on now at the Woodstock Art Gallery; the show displays many of her artworks and tells the story of her rise to success. 

Recently Book and Paper Conservation Services conserved a rare postcard showing a lost painting of Carlyle's, which is now on display in the exhibition. The painting, entitled When Mother Was A Girl, won Carlyle the Osborne Calendar Competition and contributed to the early success of her career.

When Mother Was a Girl,  postcard of a painting by Florence Carlyle.

When Mother Was a Girl, postcard of a painting by Florence Carlyle.

Verso of postcard showing handwritten message.

Verso of postcard showing handwritten message.

The postcard had been torn in two with a jagged vertical break, as well as suffering losses and abrasions to the printed surface. It is not a valuable item on its own, but represents an important moment in the artist's career, and is made more significant by the fact that the current location of the painting is unknown. 

Carlyle postcard, after repair and before inpainting of losses.

Carlyle postcard, after repair and before inpainting of losses.

The two halves of the artwork were reunited and repaired with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. The losses to the printed surface were inpainted to match the surrounding image. 

After conservation treatment, the postcard is once again whole, and the viewer can appreciate the image properly without the distraction of the damage and abrasions. Although it is small, we can get some sense of what the winning painting must have been like in person.

Florence Carlyle postcard after conservation treatment.

Florence Carlyle postcard after conservation treatment.

Verso of the postcard after conservation treatment.

Verso of the postcard after conservation treatment.

The exhibition Miss Carlyle's Success runs at the Woodstock Art Gallery from October 14, 2016 - September 16, 2017. 

If you have archival materials that could benefit from conservation treatment, don't hesitate to get in touch with us. There is no charge for estimates, and we provide a range of treatment options where possible. Check out our portfolio page to see other successful conservation projects.