Tears and Losses

Before treatment.
Before treatment (detail).
After treatment.
After treatment (detail).

Weak or unprotected paper artifacts often develop tears and losses when not housed properly (i.e., not matted or foldered using proper methods and materials). Acidity and embrittlement often exacerbate the problems, as they did with the mid-19th century Japanese Ukiyoe Japanese print shown here. In addition to causing dimensional instability in the sheet, tears and losses also detract from the aesthetic value of an artifact.

Paper conservators employ carefully chosen adhesives to mend tears and reattach loose fragments of paper. Additional reinforcement is often provided by adhering appropriate Japanese papers to the back surfaces of the damages. It is important that the adhesives used for these purposes not turn dark or produce deleterious gases, yet maintain good adhesion and reversibility over time.

Conservators can also replace lost fragments with new pieces of Japanese or western paper. Such replacements are called "inserts" and are made from paper that has a similar weight, texture, and tone as the original. After being cut to fit exactly, inserts are attached to the artifact in the same way as loose fragments, discussed above.


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