Paper Conservation is a highly skilled discipline dealing with works of art on paper and other paper related materials. Conservators aim to reverse, stabilise and protect the object from future damage with minimum intervention. Conservation practices should be acid free, reversible and benign.
Paper was invented in China in the 2nd Century travelling westward for the next 1500 years – it wasn’t until 1494 that England had its first Paper Mill, America was importing paper until 1690!
Paper is made from Cellulose Fibres (found in cotton/hemp/linen/wood fibres) laid down in suspension into a sheet. The paper sheet can be strengthened with adhesives or sizes and treated with surface coatings and textures.
Printing in Europe fuelled the demand for paper and by the 17th Century this increase led to a serious shortage of rags (early papers raw material). Wood fibres were tried and in 1843 Ground Wood Pulp was commercially available with Chemical Wood Pulp following in 1854.
These Wood Pulp Papers solved the problem of demand and were cheap to produce but with the high content of the acid-forming lignin (found within the wood fibres) created many problems for the future preservation and conservation of these papers.
All paper will deteriorate with time but poor manufacture, storage conditions and physical wear will add to the weakening of the paper structure. Paper Conservation not only aims to reverse the damage already caused but also prevent future degradation of the paper fibres.