What is paper conservation?

Paper Conservation refers to the conservation of objects or items on or made of paper. A conservators’ objectives are to:

  • repair a damaged object to extend its life expectancy and to improve its current and future chemical and physical stability
  • improve an objects’ appearance using sympathetic methods and materials which will help to preserve its history
  • wherever possible, treatments should be reversible and cause no future harm to the object.
  • the characteristic signs of ageing, historic and artistic expression must not be altered.
  • all treatments including what materials were used and whereabouts on the object they were applied to must be thoroughly documented.

For the object and future conservators, researchers or owners of the item this last point means that a vital step in its history will be known and any effects on the object fully understood.

For the customer… this means that you know you are getting value for money. Rest assured that all treatments as well as the time that each stage took is carefully documented in accordance with the ethical practices of the specialism.

Conservation versus Restoration – the differences

Although conservation is similar to restoration and both specialisms attempt to improve the aesthetic appearance of an object, one of the major differences are conservation’s concerns for chemical stability – if you like, the internal ‘health’ of the object that you can’t see.

It is vital that a conservator also attempts to preserve an object’s historical integrity rather than just trying to make something look like new. This is done through careful choice of materials which should have good ageing properties and be sympathetic with the original materials.

Addressing safe housing issues is also a key factor to ensure the object is stored or displayed safely, in the best possible conditions for the future. I always provide clients with free advice on how best to look after their item, tailoring recommendations to the type of paper and media present and any limiting factors they may enounter in their home space.

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