Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Enemies of Paper

Our frequently asked questions are often in regards to the proper methods for storing artwork on paper. It is not uncommon for us to encounter art which is darkly stained and brittle from prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. Art may appear very wavy and wrinkled or may even be darkly stained and covered with mold due to unknown water damage from being stacked away in the basement. The best ways to avoid damage is to safely store your items in the proper means using quality archival materials which will add and not subtract years to your artworks life expectancy.

In order to know what is good for your artwork, we first need to investigate what is BAD for your artwork.

What are the Enemies of Paper?

One of the most important things to keep in mind when dealing with your documents or works of art on paper, is that paper itself is an intrinsically delicate material and very susceptible to certain kinds of damage. It is the natural course for all things to deteriorate and break down over time. The most common ways in which paper can be broken down are:
  • the absorption of acids
  • exposure to harmful UV light rays
  • improper exposure to areas of fluctuating humidity
Acid is BAD
Through the natural process of degradation, paper absorbs acid from its environment which over time can contribute to weakening the fibers. The most noticeable way in which this damage becomes visible to us is by a yellowish staining as well as a brittle feel in the fibers which can cause tears and losses in the paper.

Above shows the back of a print which was framed with a wooden backing board for many years. Over time, acids migrated into the paper from the wooden backing board, severely damaging the paper fibers and causing dark disfiguring stains. Notice the stain patterns mimic the knots in the wood.

When paper has contact with materials high in acid content like wood, it can absorb acids through the process of acid migration. It can also absorb acids from chemically unstable materials like plastics as well as from pollutants in the air. As this is a natural process, we cannot totally stop it, but we can retard its progress by keeping harmful materials away from the artwork with the use of safe archival storage and archival framing materials.

UV Light Rays are Bad
As we all know after a long day out in the sun, UV light rays can be very harmful to our skin, as we ache from the pinkish burns all over our bodies. Paper fibers can be affected by harmful UV rays in a similar manner, and after long hours of direct exposure, fibers can begin to break down, showing a "burn" which can appear as a yellowish stain. Besides UV in natural sun light, UV light rays are also emitted by fluorescent and metal halogen lamps. It is best to limit the direct exposure to all of these light sources to protect your artwork from UV damage.

Although more energy efficient, fluorescent light bulbs, like the one on the left, emit more UV rays then the incandescent light bulb on right.

General exposure to light can also cause fading to the media of your artwork over time. Different media such as watercolors, lithographic prints and documents with ink pen notation among others are very susceptible to fading from light exposure.

Fluctuations in Humidity are Bad

Paper naturally absorbs and emits moisture from the surrounding air causing fibers to expand and contract. With high fluctuations in humidity, the paper's moisture content can fluctuate at a high rate causing such damage as cockling and buckling, and over time can undermine the structural integrity of the fibers, leading to damage.

Besides fluctuations in humidity, paper exposed to environments of high humidity for extended periods of time can create a prime environment for mold growth. Once mold spores have permeated into the web of the paper fibers, it is incredibly difficult to remove. Mold can also cause disfiguring staining which can be difficult and sometimes impossible to completely reduce during treatment.

Moldy Book Page Image originally uploaded by Flickr user Eric Carl

To protect your artwork, avoid storing or hanging artwork in areas of high humidity and moisture like in basements and bathrooms. You want to avoid storage in attics due to fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Try to avoid hanging artwork on exterior walls and above fireplaces.

Now we know what the main enemies of paper are, how should art be stored?

Proper Art Storage Methods
A cool dry dark area is best, to protect the item from exposure to harmful light rays, and from fluctuations of temperature and humidity. A cool dry environment of a relative humidity (RH) around 50 percent is preferable. (Please note: 50% RH humidity is a general recommendation. Certain objects may require different humidity and storage conditions.) To further control the humidity, de-humidifiers may be necessary in warmer months to maintain a stable and constant RH. To properly store your artwork, wrap with archival tissues or place in archival folders made of stable pH neutral polyester folders to protect from dust and during handling.

Selection of Archival boxes available from Gaylord Archival Products

Artwork and other documents on paper should always be stored flat in a rigid environment. Rolled storage should be avoided all together. Items with delicate surfaces or 3 dimensional aspects can be safely stored in archival boxes which come in many different shapes and sizes.

For more resources of archival products visit these websites:
Light Impressions
Gaylord Archival Products
Archival Products
University Products

More resources for archival concerns can be found on our website.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rare Civil War Era Map Discovered

While searching through a stack of rolled blue prints in the Will County Historical Society vault, archivists stumbled upon two original Will Coutny plat maps dating from 1862. Believed to be the oldest county map in existence, the discovery came as a shock and a welcome surprise. The map, although suffering much deterioration through the years, was identified immediately as a “hidden jewel” which, with a bit of conservation work, is to become the signature piece of the society’s collection.

Before treatment (left) and after treatment (right) images of the 1862 Will County Plat map

The maps were unearthed during a recent collections assesement. Lynne Smaczny, Executive Director of the Historical Society, comments that this inventory is long overdue. “We really don’t know of everything we have.” because her predecessors kept a more hands off attitude toward the counties archive collections. The maps having been left rolled and forgotten for so long were in serious stages of disrepair. Lynne, knowing the importance of these maps acted immediately to begin the process of restoration.

Having worked with Graphic Conservation in the past, on a project for the Des Planes History Center, Lynne contacted us directly to examine the maps and come up with a plan for restoration. While both maps suffered from severe surface dirt, desiccation and fragmentation, the first map was determined to be in better condition. However, it was also missing 4” of media area along the entire upper edge. The second map, although in much worse condition overall, contained the upper edge areas missing to the first. Conservation efforts have been targeted toward restoring and stabilizing the “home map” -the map in better condition while harvesting sections from the second “donor map” to be used to fill the losses of the first.

In order to stabilize the maps, many steps were necessary before they could be merged together. First, working with the home map and the sections of the donor map to be used as fills, the superficial surface dirt was reduced using various dry cleaning techniques. We then removed the varnish covering the surface of the maps using organic solvents.

Conservators, Sharon Paschke (left) and Laura Moeller (right)
remove varnish from map fragments to be used as fills.

The brittle map had broken into hundreds of fragments, which were only being held together by a deteriorating linen backing. We gingerly removed the backing through a series of aqueous treatments, while keeping all the fragments together in a cohesive order. We replaced the old linen with modern archival Japanese tissue to stabilize the fragments.

Conservator, Christina Marusich, uses a mylar template to
prepare fills from a large fragment from the second "donor"
map to be used as fills on the home map.

At this point, “The treatment became something similar to a jigsaw puzzle as we attempted to match up the sections from the two maps to form a cohesive whole” says head conservator, Christina Marusich. Using custom made mylar templates, the donor map fragments were painstakingly trimmed and hand placed to form a near seamless fit. The smaller loses which could not be filled with donor fragments, were filled using a matching liquid paper pulp. With the fills now in place, the map was placed in our oversize press to flatten.

Matching fiber colors for liquid paper pulp to be used in smaller fills.

Upon the maps removal from the press, a week later, a complete view of Will County circa 1862 can now be viewed and enjoyed. With this project, “We had the unique opportunity to use original media to fill losses which makes it even more exciting to see the piece come together as a whole” says conservator Sharon Paschke. “It is truly gratifying to know we are helping a community piece its past together with each part of the map we fill in.”

The discovery of this map could not have come at a more perfect time. The Will County Historical Society in years past has put much focus on its work preserving the history of I&M canal. The history of this historic landmark, once the main route connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi river, establishing Chicago as the transportation hub of the nation, has always overshadowed that of the origins of the county as a whole. The map has helped the Historical Society regain focus toward highlighting the history of the county as a whole starting with more inclusive programming for outlaying townships and has been the impetus for a new upcoming exhibit “Will County Origins”. The exhibit will display a comprehensive history on the pioneer settlement era of the county’s history, from the days of the Native Americans into the 1870’s. The restored 1862 map will act as the centerpiece and backbone for the exhibit, tying the individual township displays together.

Conservators from left, Laura Moeller, Andrea Newberry and
Sharon Paschke with completed framed 1862 Will County Map.

To prepare the map for exhibit we had a deadline of the first week in February, which has given us only a few short weeks to complete the conservation. We knew the treatment would be time consuming and tricky not only due to the poor condition of the maps but because of the oversize nature of the items as well. We were definitely up to the challenge. Utilizing our full service lab and all members of our staff, we are specially equipped to handle oversize items even larger then this 4’ x 5’ wall map. When all said and done, we labored for over five weeks to prepare the map for its debut at the opening of “Will Count Origins”. The show opened February 15, and will run through May of 2009. You can view the 1862 Will County platt map at the Will County Historical Society in Lockport, IL.

William Crusius: In Memorium

William Crusius, R. R. Donnelley Staff Portrait

William Paul Crusius, cofounder of Graphic Conservation was an active member of the book and paper community for over 50 years. He passed away December 20, 2006 of cancer and has been greatly missed.

Born August 31, 1927 in Chicago to Rev. Carl and Helen Crusius , Bill grew up near Fullerton and Racine spending summers on Long Island, staying with his paternal grandparents. He attended Lane Tech Academy in Chicago often regaling us of tales of swimming classes in the nude, to shock us into laughter.

Upon graduating from Lane Tech, Bill first found work as a draftsman. As the story goes, one day his boss made him so mad he felt he couldn’t take it anymore. He walked over, gave his boss a good kick in the seat of his pants and went home. Bill, obviously needing new employment, was referred to apply to R. R. Donnelley as an apprentice through his brother who worked there as a draftsman before he left for W.W.II. Bill assumed he would be working as a draftsman as well, however, he was instead assigned as an apprentice in the Extra Bindery. Bill always claimed it was out of sheer chance, but whether chance or foresight on the part of his early overseers, Bill was placed in an environment where he could shine.

Bill Making paper at R. R. Donnelley

Learning the dual crafts of Master bookbinding as well as book and paper conservation, Bill quickly showed great aptitude. Over the course of his 33 years at R. R. Donnelley, Bill rose to the head of his department, and when the Extra Bindery was closed in 1982, Bill, along with his coworker Robert Wienberg, bought out the department to start Graphic Conservation, where he continued to work until his death in 2006.

Bill inpainting a document at Graphic Conservation

A specialist in the conservation of works of art on paper, Bill was elected a Fellow of the AIC in 1982. Bill was highly dedicated to his many clients, many of which lasted over a period of 25 years. He was also committed and instrumental in the training of future generations of paper conservators who now work all over the country. Of all who worked with Bill, we knew him to be kind, generous, detail oriented, patriotic and lover of puns.

I came to know Bill during our time together here at Graphic Conservation. On any given day, Bill could be seen sauntering into the lab in his typical loafers, black jeans, and short sleeved button down shirt smelling of the pipe tobacco he had smoked on his morning commute to work. His was famous for his crossword prowess at the break table as well as being an aficionado of spicy foods. Bill was most particular in his demands of a good salsa which he said the best resided at La Pasada near Ashland and Division. It was here he spent his daily lunch hour, and the staff there came to know him so well, he never needed to speak his order. Upon sitting down at the counter, Bill would wave to the the waitress who knew one finger pointed on each hand indicated an order of a chicken and steak taco, and two fingers on the same hand asked for two chicken tacos only. It never needed to be added he would be washing it all down with a can of coke which always appeared with his complimentary bowl of chips and sides of salsa verde.

Bill with the remnants of his daily lunch at his favorite
Taco spot, De Pasada.

In addition to enjoying his work as a conservator, Bill was happily married for 55 years to his dear wife Jane. He was dedicated to his family, and together, they raised their four loving children, nine grandchildren, and three great grandchildren. An avid fisherman, Bill spent his summer vacations in Green Lake, Wisconsin every year trolling for the illusive pike and walleye. He was also a skilled gardener, wood carver and a 50 year Bears season ticket holder.

Bill looking out over his home town from the Sears Tower

My last day working with Bill, I remember he looked over to me and said, “Well, Kiddo, its been a ride.” Yes, Bill, it certainly was. For all that you taught us and all you brought to our lives, you will be fondly remembered and so greatly missed.

Our History

1974 Donnelley Extra Bindery Staff, William Crusius third
from right, Robert Weinberg third from left.

As so often happens in life, when one door closes another door opens. In 1982, William Crusius faced this exact situation. Bill had recently been told by his bosses at R.R. Donnelley that they were closing the Extra Bindery department in which he had worked as a master book binder and book conservator for over 33 years. The Extra Bindery was a boutique department of sorts R. R. Donnelley staffed as a corporate perk for special clients. When Queen Elizabeth came it Chicago in 1957, the company had Bill prepare a special leather bound book with gold tooling specially for Her Majesty. However, modern times demanded more streamline operations, and departments like the Extra Bindery were no longer considered necessary or profitable. With the closing of the department, Bill and his colleague, Robert Weinberg were left wondering what next.

Bob (left) and Bill (right) working on oversize globe.

Bill and Bob understood book and paper conservation was a specialization of theirs they could market to form a business. As the bindery was closing down, Bill and Bob financed the purchase of all their old equipment and moved shop from their previous residence to a new location which would be the site of their new business. Thus, Graphic Conservation was born.

From the beginning Bill and Bob were committed to the highest quality museum standard conservation.With our international client base, Graphic Conservation has since been delivering world class services ranking us as one of the premier Book and Paper Conservation firms in the country.

1995 Graphic team members clockwise from left, Sharon Paschke,
Margo Powell, Christina Marusich, William Crusius, Robert Weinberg.

There have been many changes throughout the years. Bob retired many years ago, and Bill sadly passed away in 2006. Christina Marusich and Sharon Pascke now lead our team of conservators, and through all these changes, we remain proudly determined to continue precedent of quality and care set by our founders over 26 years ago.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Graphic Conservation Company

To become a true expert in your field, you must focus solely on that practice. That's why at Graphic Conservation, we specialize only in full-service paper conservation. Our aim is to arrest deterioration, repair damage, and stabilize the paper object for future generations to enjoy.

We pride ourselves on using the latest techniques in paper conservation, but we are not just technicians. We apply the craftsmanship of the artist, the knowledge of the scientist, and the concern of the historian.

Perhaps most importantly, we do not take the conservation process too far. We show an uncommon sensitivity to these priceless objects, to preserve the history and character of each piece.

We Provide
  • Complete, museum-quality conservation and preservation of all works of art on paper.
  • Consultation services and expert evaluations of fine art collections and claims nationwide.
  • Consultation on the display, handling and storage of works of art on paper.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions regarding the treatment of a work of art on paper.