Amgueddfa Blog: Conserving Government Propaganda prints from the Great War

Hello everybody!

Last week we introduced you into the wonderful world of washing paper. This time, we are going to show you a video where you are able to enjoy a real process.

The lithograph prints were mounted in poor quality mounts and for that reason we decided to remove all of them. The prints were attached to the backing with an animal glue along the very top edge on the back. When put in a bath of water it can be removed easily with the brush. That is what you are going to watch in the video. Enjoy!

Hope all of you had a good Easter!

Now is time to show you one of the most interesting process in paper conservation, the washing treatment. But, can we wash a sheet of paper once it is already made?? Yes, we can. Before washing we have to keep in mind how the art work was made, such as the stability of the ink, damage to the paper, etc. I need to test EVERYTHING to make sure I don’t wash it all away!

We only do the washing if the paper need it. In the lithograph prints we found some dirt, tears, folds, creases, stains and foxing*. Washing them would remove the dirt, some stains and foxing and at the same time would re-forms the hydrogen bonds between the fibres, reinforcing the paper strength and improving the appearance too.

After this process, we deacidified the prints to neutralize the acidity in the paper with an alkaline solution. The alkali reserve will remain in the paper, ready to act against future acidification.

 

*Foxing: reddish-brown spots (the colour of a fox) over the surface of the paper which can be caused by a mold activity or a chemical reaction due to metal impurities in the paper.

Let me introduce myself, my name is Mar Mateo Belda, I’m a paper conservator and after working in different cultural institutions in Spain, Nicaragua, Cuba and the United States, I’ve got a traineeship at the National Museum of Wales.

The purpose of this traineeship is to carry out conservation of the 66 lithographs from the portfolio “Efforts and Ideals” in 1917 that will be exhibited at the beginning of August 2014 with the title “The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals”.

Let’s get the show on the road!

I’m sure that for most of you, paper conservation sounds like interesting and weird all at the same time and for that reason you need to watch this space to find out what it is and what I’m doing.

The first step we follow before carrying out the conservation treatments of the works is making a condition report to assess the conservation condition of each of them. The next step is to photograph them all to capture the initial condition of the prints.

Welcome to our blog.  This is the first blog in our journey to opening the exhibition, Britain’s Efforts and Ideas: Prints of the First World War on 2 August 2014 at the National Museum Cardiff.  The countdown has started.   

The exhibition will bring together the works from the portfolio, The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals. commissioned by Wellington House, the propaganda Bureau that became the Ministry of Information.  The prospectus described the series as …’a first attempt by a number of British artists, working in unison, to put on record some aspects of the activities called forth by the Great war, and ideals by which those activities were inspired.’  Artists of the day including Frank Brangwyn, Augustus John, William Rothenstein, Eric Kennington and C.R.W. Nevinson all contributed prints to the series.  In 1919 the National Museum of Wales was donated a set by the government.  We will be exhibiting these works as a group for the first time. 

Over the next few months we plan to give you an insight into preparations for this show.  Working together, conservators and curators will research and prepare all 66 prints for display.  We will give you an insight into what happens to works when they go ‘to be conserved’, how we can investigate the fibres to identify the paper, what new research will reveal about the series and the public reaction when they went on display.

Mar Mateo, Beth McIntyre and Emily O’Reilly