Communion Of Dreams


The difference 30 minutes makes.

As part of this project I wrote about last week, I have a number of letters which needed to be cleaned. So after testing them for water-stability (of the ink), I sandwiched the individual sheets in an open weave polyester fabric and immersed them in distilled water to literally wash them. Here’s the “before” pic:

Starting

And here’s 30 minutes later, after some mild massaging and shifting around the stacks to get good water flow over them:

30 minutes later

Notice how much crud has already been released from the sheets after just that short period of time, as can be seen from the color of the water.

I’ll massage the sheets some more in the morning, then change the water and repeat the process for another day or so. If the water is looking OK 24 hours after that, I’ll take out the supported sheets and let them dry. If it is still dark, then I’ll repeat the process again (and again after that, if necessary … distilled water is cheap). The goal is to remove as much of the crud as possible in this gentle way — remember, paper is born in water, and doesn’t mind getting wet again, so long as you do it correctly.

Just thought I’d share that.

 

Jim Downey



Hopeless? Nah …

One of the lessons I’ve drawn from my years of book conservation experience is that what may initially look to be a hopeless case can sometimes surprise you. Take a look at this 1880s dance card for the Marshall Missouri ‘Christmas Hop’. Here it is this afternoon when I took it out of the stack of items a client had brought in:

Before

Looks pretty bad, eh? Actually, it looks a LOT better there than it did in person, thanks to the automatic filters/functions on my phone camera. In person, that light grey was the color of charcoal, and almost no color or words were clear to the human eye. That’s because it was covered in charcoal — it had spent approximately 100 years hidden behind the chimney in a house.  The charcoal was more than 1mm thick over most of the card, and had to be physically scraped away before I got to the surface cleaning. Here it is after I spent some time cleaning it:

After

Not perfect, but a distinct improvement. Not everything can be fixed. Not every problem can be solved. And even when you can improve things, you’re seldom going to be able to make it perfect.

But that’s OK. That’s life. You do what you can. And almost nothing is completely hopeless — at least, not as hopeless as it might seem at first.

 

Jim Downey