What does a paper conservator do? Whom does she work for? What skills and knowledge does she ought to have?
Preservation and conservation, a field linked to science, history and arts and crafts. A video explains what differenciates us from forgers and shows -among other- how we produce a hand-made suction table to restore paper artifacts, with loads of creativity, a feature most necessary to become book and paper conservator.
To trim or not to trim. Is that the question?
A book conservator deals with main ethical considerations. Sometimes because of the customer desire's, and most of the time seeking an equilibrium between preservation and functionality. To top it up, we expect the result to be pleasant as well: not too new, not too worn; most original, but not too weak...
Rare is the case when we find a salomonic solution that satisfies all the requirements.
I guess a conservator is not the type who cuts the gordian knot, but rather one who tries to unlock it no matter how painful that is!
Retouching is among the most sensitive within ethics in conservation since it means to establish the aspect a restored object is expected to have.
My opinion is that the looks of an historical object is often as important as its physical-chemical condition, and not intervening provides poor results that might mislead its readability more than a proper intervention. The more we intend to make it as neutral as possible, the least arbitrary, we need to admit that retocuhing requires good taste.
The headband to a book is like the tie to a suit: they both give their owner the chance to stand out. It is like the icing on the cake of the binding, and gathers the bookbinder's proficiency and taste. We'll discuss their aspect like in a Vanity Fair, and go beyond: What are they meant for? and why stuck-on headbands are less cared by conservators than sewn ones? Should we replace them or conserve them?
The untrained eyes will look at them with more interest now, because -just like ties- there are headbands for all tastes!
What is a neutral colour?
Is it a pH=7 colour? A transparent colour? Greenish... brown? An oil colour... or maybe acrylic?
Conservators mean by it: "I will paint the missing area with a single colour which you won't see much". It can be green, purple, pencil coloured or either with acrylic paints... Controversial is on the cards and whatever we do, even when not doing anything at all, conservators know that our decision will not suit everyone's taste.
There are all sorts of projects, and when Mr. Goya knocks at the door, the red carpet is ready to receive him at the studio: Please, come in!
The Disasters of War by Francisco Goya arrived at the studio in a fairly intact condition, with its 80 etchings, corresponding to the very first edition (in later editions two more etchings were added, making a total of 82). This first one was edited in 1863, more than forty years after
A cathartic experience: There's nothing more exciting for a conservator such as participating in a chemistry course. We go there with a certain respect (or maybe fear) and the will to be acquainted to a new miraculous reactant that will change our life.
The poor conservator will poorly be able to discuss one to one with a chemist, either about the reactions that happen during the restoration treatments or along the inherent ageing of the artefact; and yet we must call the chemist into question and keep this dialogue alive. But thanks to Richard Wolbers I made peace with chemistry and their scientists.
Or how to remove pressure sensitive tapes, without removing them.
We have spoken about bibliopaths, about misuses and how to eradicate its effects... But, what happens when the artefact itself causes its own degradation?
Terrorists do not always carry explosives or mallets, nor they come from overseas, it may even be people in charge of collections. We ought to deal with them to safeguard "smart books": books intelligently made, such that no material interfere with each other, on the contrary, they create formidable synergies. Each one has its peculiarities, its beauty and its function. They represent a compendium of technology, art, society and culture at the time and place in which they were created.
Are we supposed to fear bibliopaths? Or maybe we should give them an award? Who are they? Atention! Because they can be among us, or we might even be one of them?! I invite you to read the Case of the Lacquer Binding to know more about them
I don’t like much having war books, but I must admit that this one is particularly beautiful. The velvet binding seemed to me a challenging issue on the restoration, which did not have major complications besides this.
I show the restoration of this book because of the headaches it has given me when solving the lost areas, the wooden work. The considerable losses on a laborious woodcarving work, and the lack of originals of many of the missing pieces fairly complicated the subject (the shields on the corners were different).