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Graphic Art Restoration Workshop

The museum’s restoration workshop has existed since 1979. The premises were enlarged and improved in 1989.
The workshop has two full-time restorers and a full-time print mounter.

 

The function of the workshop is to conserve and showcase the collections of the Graphic Arts department of the museum:
-15,000 drawings classed by author
-20,000 prints classed by author
-400,000 documents classed by theme
-5,000 posters

For many years the restoration workshop has had a policy of conserving drawings and prints classed in alphabetical order of author.
In addition to this routine work there are emergency repairs to the collection: documents in bad condition or in need of mounting, which cannot be consulted by researchers as they are.
Works which are going to be exhibited, either in the Carnavalet Museum or elsewhere, are given a passe-partout mount before being framed.

To the left: details seen through a binocular magnifying glass. In the centre: sampling pH to measure the acidity of the paper. To the right: removal of dust from a drawing using a Chinese brush.
Below: making a passe-partout (frame) to fit an engraving.


Certain documents borrowed by the museum are also entrusted to the workshop for treatment before being exhibited.

The works treated by the restoration workshop are diverse, as much in terms of size and artistic technique as their state of preservation, and the work performed is different each time.
However, generally speaking, we can list a certain number of operations which are carried out: partial or complete dusting and rubbing of the document, dismantling of the base and removal of old backing, cleaning of stains and/or yellowing caused by oxidation of the paper, repairing of tears and/or complete backing of the document, filling in gaps, and finally the flattening of the document after light humidification.

After being treated, the document is mounted according to its format using pH neutral card, and stored in a portfolio or conservation case. The documents thus protected from dust and light are kept in the Drawings and Prints Room, in a controlled, air-conditioned atmosphere.

Examples of completed work:


Case no. 1: Anonymous, The Bust of Marat thrown into the Sewers, 1795, ink wash drawing, inv.D 3095

To the left: the ink wash drawing before restoration. To the right: the drawing after restoration.
Removal of sticky tape stains.
© Restoration Workshop – M. Navarre.

 

This drawing shows a trace of yellowed adhesive (“Sellotape” type) which has penetrated into the fibres of the paper.
A treatment using Venetian talc and an appropriate solvent was used to remove this stain. Using talc has the advantage of avoiding the formation of a halo (which would occur if the solvent were applied directly to the work), whilst absorbing the coloured elements of the altered adhesive.


Case no. 2: Hubert Robert, The Fig House in the Jardin des Plantes, 1785, sanguine drawing, inv. D 5342

To the left: the sanguine drawing before restoration. To the right: the drawing after restoration.
The lightening of foxing (brownish staining), by treating with a solution of ammonia and water using felt.
© Restoration Workshop – H. Pradel.

 

Certain documents, yellowed by time, can be cleaned by total immersion, if the line is insoluble in water (as with some prints). The elements causing deterioration and oxidation of the cellulose will be made soluble.
On the other hand, works made using more fragile techniques, as is the case here with the sanguine pencil drawing, (as with crayon, charcoal, pastel, water colour, gouache, ink etc.) as well as engravings embellished with sensitive colouring, cannot be treated by total immersion. There is a specialised cleaning process using ammonia in water, and felt. The yellowing can be clearly seen to remove itself onto the polyester felt by capillary action. The work is rinsed with water in the same way.


Case no. 3: Gaspard Gsell, Stained Glass Draft, 19th century, crayon and water colour on tracing paper. Inv.D 14638 (151)

To the left: tracing paper before restoration. To the right: tracing paper after restoration.
Strengthening and backing with transparent paper.
© Restoration Workshop M. Navarre/H. Pradel.

 

Tracing papers are very fragile materials because their manufacturing process causes them to self-destruct. In time, air and light cause them to oxidise. They become very brittle. Tears appear, sometimes to the point of where the documents become totally fragmented.
To restore cohesion to the tracing paper, it must be strengthened. In order to preserve its transparency, an extremely fine veil of Japan paper is used (5g/m2), stuck to the entire surface of the back of the drawing.
The choice of glue used for this type of backing is important: an alcohol-soluble adhesive is used, which limits the lengthening of the paper’s fibres and restores its flexibility.