newspaper

Conservation of a WWI-Era Newspaper

Archival materials are valued for the information they convey, but often poor condition and deterioration hinders access to the text or images on old paper and documents. We frequently conserve these kinds of items for libraries and archives who's primary objective is to preserve and study the history they contain. 

This 1916 newspaper was been creased and soiled when it came in to the studio.

This 1916 newspaper was been creased and soiled when it came in to the studio.

This project recently came to our studio from the Lambton Heritage Museum in Grand Bend, Ontario, Canada. The 1916 Sarnia Canadian newspaper was part of their research collection, but had never received proper cataloguing or storage. It was the only known copy of this particular issue, and featured names and profiles of the soldiers in the 149 Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (popularly known as "Lambton's Own") about to depart for battle in World War One. 

Damage prevented access to the text of the newspaper.

Damage prevented access to the text of the newspaper.

A researcher using the Museum's collections wanted to read the content of the articles, but poor condition prevented access. The paper was soiled and creased, with folds obscuring text down the centre of paper, and the brittleness of the acidic newsprint had caused many breaks and losses in the sheet. Even gentle handling caused further deterioration, and conservation treatment was needed in order to restore the pages so they could be used safely.

Surface cleaning the paper to remove grime.

Surface cleaning the paper to remove grime.

First, the front page was surface cleaned to remove the dirt and grime that was ground into the paper.

The creases gently unfolded, with the aid of moisture.

The creases gently unfolded, with the aid of moisture.

Next, the creases and folds were humidified with locally applied moisture and carefully unfolded, then flattened with a tacking iron, in order to open the sheets fully.

Tear repairs performed with extremely thin Japanese tissue.

Tear repairs performed with extremely thin Japanese tissue.

Long tears along the creases and smaller ones radiating from the outer edges were repaired and strengthened with an extremely thin Japanese repair tissue, adhered with wheat starch paste. The thin tissue is almost transparent, a necessity in order for the text to remain readable through the repairs, and the adhesive is stable and reversible and won't become yellow or brittle with age.

The newspaper spread after repair and restoration.

The newspaper spread after repair and restoration.

Losses in the margins were filled with a slightly thicker Japanese paper to lend strength to the edges. Finally, the sheets were humidified overall and flattened so the paper is readable once more.

The front page of the conserved paper is now fully accessible.

The front page of the conserved paper is now fully accessible.

The newspaper is now stable and able to be safely handled by Museum staff and visitors, and all the information is accessible to researchers. The stories of these brave men from Lambton County will once more be known and appreciated by today's citizens. 

Lambton Heritage Museum plans to exhibit the restored newspaper in an upcoming exhibit telling the story of Lambton County's participation in WWI. It will be held at the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery in Sarnia, Ontario, in fall 2017, and is to run concurrently with the national traveling exhibition Witness: Fields of Battle Through Canadian Eyes, on loan from the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Book and Paper Conservation Services is pleased to have worked on this project and to have contributed to the exhibition in a small way.

If you have historic items you are interested in having preserved, don't hesitate to get in touch with us!

Art Conservation and Custom Framing

Archival materials arrive at our conservation studio needing anything from a few minor paper repairs to full scale cleaning.  As much as we love the dramatic treatments, it's also nice to see items that just need a little TLC and custom framing in order to appear to their best advantage. 

The large illustrated newspaper sheet in raking light, showing vertical ripples.

The large illustrated newspaper sheet in raking light, showing vertical ripples.

This 1918 newspaper sheet from the Montreal Telegraph is a perfect example. The page is a rare item showing North American Polish army recruits training at a camp at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada, in preparation for fighting in WWI. The piece is to be displayed next fall at the Niagara Historical Society Museum's exhibition Kosciuszko Camp: The Polish Army at Niagara Camp, 1917-1919opening in November 2017.

The page was in fairly good condition, but had a few small tears around the edges and was lightly rippled from being stored folded. The owner also wanted it framed for display in the exhibition, but with an option for long-term flat storage at the Museum after the exhibition ends. 

Repairing a tear in the margin with wheat starch paste and Japanese tissue.

Repairing a tear in the margin with wheat starch paste and Japanese tissue.

The minor treatment included repairing the small tears in the margins with wheat starch paste and Japanese tissue, and humidifying and flattening the sheet overall to eliminate the rippling.

The piece was then custom framed for display in acid-free materials and behind Conservation Clear® UV filtering glass. An acid-free folder was included in the frame package for safe, flat storage once the piece is removed from the frame. 

Applying a Japanese tissue hinge to the artwork, part of the framing process.

Applying a Japanese tissue hinge to the artwork, part of the framing process.

Proper framing is an important consideration for works of art on paper. Poor framing materials and methods are often the cause of serious damage that conservators are tasked with undoing, such as mat burn or discolouration caused by acidic mats and backer boards, or staining and brittleness from poor quality tape hinges attached to the piece.

At BPCS we always use custom Japanese tissue hinges adhered to the artwork with wheat starch paste when framing works on paper. These hinges are stable and reversible and do not cause any damage to artworks, unlike many commercial framing tapes and adhesives. This is the safest method for mounting paper, and ensures that 20 or 100 years from now, when the artwork is next removed from its frame, there will be no unexpected staining or brittleness as we often find in artworks framed throughout the 20th century.

The finished piece, framed for display.

The finished piece, framed for display.

The owner chose a simple black wooden frame from our samples and a black mat to offset and highlight the black and white images. The result is a striking piece which will grab viewers' attention in the exhibition, as well as ensuring the safety of this rare piece. 

If you are in the area, check out the Niagara Historical Society Museum in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, and watch for this piece in next fall's exhibition!

Do you have an old newspaper article or other archival items you'd like to display? Contact us to discuss conservation and framing of your piece, or check out our services to see what we offer.