The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
The Smithsonian Institution Archives' Conservation Lab was pleased to host the first round of sessions during the summer of 2012 of the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works-sponsored workshop, "Conservation of Transparent Papers." Created and taught by conservator Hildegard Homburger of Berlin, Germany, this recent two-day workshop offered an intensive and personalized introduction to the historic manufacturing processes for tracing papers and hands-on practice with mending of tears and losses, flattening, removal of tapes, dyeing of mending paper, and lining techniques. We put together a Flickr set of images, to share a behind-the-scenes look at the workshop.
The workshop was an excellent blend of theory and practice, provided by the very well-informed teacher, but also multiplied by the experience of the many paper conservators taking part in discussions. One of our own contributions was to discuss the difficulty of estimating and recovering the orginal size of another somewhat analogous thin, heavily processed paper—crêpe paper— a topic we’ve written about on this blog before. The participants, who reflected a diversity between university, museum, and private practice conservation, freely discussed aspects of aesthetics and difficulty of treatment versus expense for the client, be that measured in dollars or time expended in balance to the value of the collection or object.
With her background and expertise working in all types of practices, ranging from regional center to museum, individual or private art dealer and teacher, Homburger brought very sensible and literal weight to bear on approaches to treatment. She has continued to experiment with colleagues, students, and to dialog with manufacturers to promote improvement for current and new methods to treat this particularly challenging type of paper. Much of this is discussed in Homburger and Barbara Korbel’s joint article, "Architectural Drawings on Transparent Paper: Modifications of Conservation Treatments," but is no substitute for seeing best practice and results of the "hard-soft sandwich" performed live by the expert. I think you can tell by the look on everyone's faces in this image!
We are so glad to have been able to host the workshop on behalf of our colleagues who came from near and far, as part of their summer adventures. And you may look forward to further adventures in transparent paper by our library preservation colleagues, Beth Doyle and Melissa Tedone. They will be blogging their perspectives on the Iowa State University sessions of the workshop on their Preservation Underground and Parks Library Preservation blogs, respectively. They also will be sharing their own Flickr set with images from the workshop. We'll be sure to share the links to the specific blog posts and new Flickr set when they go live later in August.