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Friday, May 30 • 11:30am - 12:00pm
(Book and Paper Session) The Conservation of Tiffany Studio Drawings: Finding New Ways to Reconstruct Complex Paper Loss

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art holds a collection of over four hundred drawings from the workshops of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933). They include preparatory sketches and presentation designs for windows, interiors, mosaics, and other decorative works. When it entered the museum in the 1960’s, the collection offered a formidable challenge, for prior to acquisition it had sustained considerable water damage that resulted in extensive mold growth. In addition to this, many of these drawings are multilayered structures that include very diverse strata, including photographic and transparent papers, as well as extremely acidic and fragile elements, such as window mats and backing boards. The damage was so severe that these drawings could not be exhibited or properly studied because they posed a health hazard for the researchers, and the aesthetic and structural disfiguration was too critical.

The presentation will focus on the conservation treatment of a series of drawings. The discussion of several case studies will showcase the various strategies that the conservator employs in deciding how to best accomplish the structural and visual reconstruction of these works of art. Innovative techniques introduce new perspectives to the long existing ethical dilemma of incorporating materials into objects that have been severely mutilated by microbiological action.
One of the main purposes of these treatments is to provide stability to objects that, because of biological damage, include very large areas of different hygroscopic and mechanical behavior. Analysis will be presented that examines the nature of such behavior and the chemical principles behind the techniques that allow the conservator to stabilize the artwork.

Emphasis will be made on describing examples of reconstructions accomplished through a new method developed in the past years to create large fills of paper with paper pulp. The fill is cast separately from the object over the light table with the aid of a template and dried on the suction table. The adhesion of the cast fill, which also serves as reinforcement, is performed on the suction table.

In selecting the pulps, the conservator considers the fiber characteristics that will determine the overall final behavior of the treated art work; that is, the expansion-çontraction rate of the healthy and the damaged paper and the expansion-çontraction rate of the selected pulp. The pulp must compensate for differences between the two areas. Other variables, such as the opaqueness of the paper pulp, the nature of the adhesive and its dilution, and the amount of fibrillation achieved during blending, play a critical role in the selection of the pulp and its preparation.

Finally, several examples of reconstruction of large missing areas of color accomplished through various methods, from dying paper pulp to toning papers with airbrush techniques on the suction table, will illustrate how important it is for the conservator managing these complex conditions to sensibly understand the boundaries of restoration versus conservation on a case by case basis within the context of museum exhibition requirements.

avatar for Marina Ruiz Molina

Marina Ruiz Molina

Associate Conservator, Paper Conservation, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Marina Ruiz Molina is an Associate Conservator in the Sherman Fairchild Center for Works on Paper Conservation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She trained as a paper conservator at the Escuela Superior de Conservación y Restauración de Bienes Culturales de Madrid, Spain, and joined... Read More →

Friday May 30, 2014 11:30am - 12:00pm PDT
Grand Ballroom A