We have begun to work on some of the drawings in the worst condition. Yesterday, we completed the work on one of the largest floor plans for the Hotel Ponce de Leon. There are four drawings similar to this one that have all been kept in the same conditions.
These drawings are approximately eight feet wide and have been stored rolled up in tubes. Each drawing was originally three separate pieces of paper that were attached to one another. Due to the conditions in which they have been kept, they have started to separate from one another. For conservation and storage purposes, we are separating them into three sections. You can see where the three pieces have started to separate from one another in the photograph below.
This drawing has a lot of rodent damage (particularly on the left side) and many pieces have come loose. We are setting aside any loose pieces, which can be matched up after the three sections have been separated and flattened.
The first step in the conservation process of these drawings is to remove the cloth backing, which is extremely dirty and has mold as well as the remains of insects on it. Because of the previous exposure to humidity, the cloth backing is easily removed in strips.
The paper is in fragile, brittle condition. Since it has been stored in a roll, the paper wants to continue to curl on its own. In order to prevent it from breaking as we tried to flatten it, we used a humidifier to help relax the paper. After removing dirt from the drawing’s surface using a low intensity vacuum cleaner and soft brush, we backed it temporarily with heat-set tissue. This makes handling the fragile drawing easier. Because the tissue sticks to the paper, it also allows us to attach the smaller, broken off pieces in the right places.
After digitization, we will remove the heat-set tissue and back the drawing with Japanese paper.