"[Graphic Conservation] has been instrumental in helping Northwestern Law preserve its large collection of historical documents and works of art on paper. We highly recommend their services to other institutions wishing to preserve their history."
Our Conservation and Preservation Services
Graphic Conservation Company has been serving private clients, museums, historical societies, and other institutions since 1921. Offering the highest quality conservation and restoration of all works on paper, our company can accommodate both single items and large collections. Over the years, our company has been entrusted with the conservation of rare and important items of all kinds, from precious family documents to valuable fine art and collectibles to historical artifacts of national significance. Our full-service lab additionally offers a range of museum-quality preservation services to ensure that your newly conserved work on paper is stored and displayed in a safe and archival way.
Our team of conservators maintains the highest professional standards set forth by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) when performing conservation treatments.
What's the Damage?
From accidental water damage to the accumulation of everyday dirt, numerous types of damage can mar works on paper. Most types of damage to paper items can be repaired or improved with professional expertise. Click below for more information on some of the types of damage that affect paper objects.
Whether due to age, accident, or everyday handling, tears develop quite frequently in works on paper. Tears leave a work vulnerable to further damage by weakening the overall item. Because repairs made with tape can do more harm than good, professional repair is highly recommended.
Folds & Creases
Folds diminish the appearance of a work on paper and can develop into deep creases over time. Folds can lead to tears and structural weakness as well as ink loss in the creased area. Professional treatment and flattening can reduce some of the negative effects of creasing.
Foxing refers to the spotty, brown staining often seen on aged works on paper. Foxing can mar the look of an artwork or obscure the text on a document. This type of staining can be reduced and sometimes completely removed by professional cleaning.
Mold can develop and grow on paper items after water damage or under humid conditions. In addition to being a health hazard, mold can cause deep staining in a work on paper. If mold has already developed on your item, please do not touch or examine it and, if you do come into contact with the mold, please wash your hands. Because mold can grow quite rapidly, it is essential that it be examined and neutralized by a professional as soon as it develops.
Water damage can cause tidelines, or discolorations along the edges of the liquid spill. A variety of secondary problems can accompany water damage. Wrinkles, bleeding ink, and mold growth are just a few of the dangers associated with water or liquid damage. Prompt professional treatment can greatly reduce the damage done to paper items after they come into contact with liquid.
Tape is often used in an attempt to repair tears and breaks in paper. Unfortunately, tape can be very detrimental to paper, leaving adhesive residue and staining on a work. Once applied, tape can also be quite difficult to remove without damaging the paper below. If you have a work on paper with a tear, please do not use tape to repair it. Conservators can remove old tape and adhesive residue as well as make appropriate repairs to items with tears.
A loss refers to any area in a work on paper in which paper fibers are missing, such as an area that has been torn away. Like tears, losses can leave an item at risk for further harm. By filling losses, conservators can strengthen a work on paper and improve its appearance.
Over the years, improperly stored works can gather dust, dirt, and debris. These accumulations of grime are referred to as accretions and can muddle the colors and design of a work on paper. Professional cleaning can greatly improve the appearance of an item.
When a work on paper is stored in a rolled position over the years, the piece develops a memory for this curled position, making it difficult to flatten. Rolled works on paper are more vulnerable to damage than properly stored items, especially if the paper becomes brittle. Professional conservators can flatten rolled items to protect them from further damage.
Improperly Hinged Paper
Works of art are often hinged into a mat for display. Hinging a work with improper methods or materials can result in tears, adhesive staining, and other damage. Conservators can remove inappropriate hinges and create reversible, non-damaging hinges for an item that is to be displayed.
Acid burn occurs when a work on paper is in contact with acidic material over a long period of time, such as when an item is stored in a mat made of non-archival board. Exposure to the acidic material causes discoloration and deterioration in the area of contact. Washing and deacidification can help restore the color of a piece and protect it from further deterioration.
Smoke damage leaves a fine layer of soot and ash on an item, staining and discoloring it. If you have a work on paper that has suffered smoke damage, please do not attempt to clean it yourself as improper cleaning can actually grind soot deeper into the fibers of a paper item. Professional cleaning can mitigate the effects of smoke damage.
Insects such as silverfish can cause extensive damage to paper items. In addition to eating irregular holes in the work, insects will leave accumulations of debris that will soil and discolor the item. Professional cleaning and loss repair can ameliorate the damage done by insects.
Works on paper often become brittle with age due to the original composition of the paper or exterior contact with acidic materials. Once brittle, items are at risk for tears and losses whenever handled. Conservators can determine the most appropriate method to address brittle paper items.
Scratches and abrasions mar the ink or other media on a work on paper. Scratches can result from a number of causes. Often a piece that has been framed with glass will suffer scratches when the glass breaks during a move or other accidental jolt. Conservators can repair scratches and inpaint accompanying media losses.
Paper items can become wrinkled through handling, improper storage, or environmental conditions. Vellum, in particular, is highly sensitive to changes in humidity and can develop wrinkles that require professional care to address.
Paper Fused to Glass
Improperly framed items are at risk of becoming fused to the glazing material in the frame. Once an item becomes fused to glass, professional care is required to do the extremely difficult work of removing the item while minimizing damage. Photographs and works on vellum are particularly susceptible to becoming fused to glass. Proper framing with archival mats can prevent this type of damage from occurring in the future.
Some works on paper, for example three-dimensional globes, were varnished when originally produced. Over time, this varnish can begin to yellow and crack, causing discoloration and damage to the paper underneath. Conservators can remove the layer of varnish to restore the object.
Paper Mounted to Board
Sometimes works on paper will be mounted to board for display or in an attempt to protect a fragile work. Unfortunately, most board used for this type of mounting is very acidic and promotes the deterioration of the paper item mounted on top. Conservators can remove the work on paper from the board and deacidify it to protect it from further harm.
A media loss is an area in which ink or other media has been scratched away or otherwise removed. Media losses can occur due to folds, tears, scratches, and a variety of other causes. Conservators can restore the appearance of a work suffering from media losses by inpainting the area or recreating a design if the loss is very large.
Ink Offset & Bleed
Ink bleeding or offsetting often occurs because of moisture or water damage. When ink has migrated due to damage, conservators can reduce the appearance of the resulting staining.