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    • #134470
      Mell Scalzi

      Hi all,

      I have come across a piece in our collection that has been rolled so tightly over the years, and needs to be flattened. The artwork is on vellum and looks to be drawn with ink-wash and sharpie.

      it’s fairly small, only about 11″x17″

      What would be the best steps to flatten this piece of art so that we can house it in our flat files?

      Thanks for your help.


    • #134472
      Rachael Arenstein

      Dear Mell,
      Predictably, I would advise you to consult with a book and paper or object conservator experienced with skin treatment since vellum as a semi-tanned material is particularly susceptible to damage from moisture. If a humidification treatment is done badly it can result in a gelatinous mess! Determining the sensitivity of the ink wash and pigment is also important in deciding on an appropriate course of treatment.

      Generally though vellum in good condition can be relaxed using indirect humidification. One of the common methods of doing this is to create a sandwich using damp blotter in conjunction with a non-porous membrane fabric that allows moisture but not wetness through. Examples of appropriate fabric include Gore-Tex and Sympatex. Both are sold at the preservation supplier Talas (although they are currently out of stock of Gore-Tex). There is a good amount of literature available online to explain the process as it is widely used for skin, paper and textiles:
      – S. Dobrusskin, H. Singer, G. Banik – Humidification with moisture permeable materials
      – S. Watkins – Practical Considerations for Humidifying and Flattening Paper
      – Museum Textile Services – The Gore-Tex Humidification System

      While these articles and other explain the setup, experience in knowing how long to humidify for and how to properly weight and dry the item is important. A yard of the membrane fabrics, while reusable is not cheap, and in conjunction with the other materials needed it might be not just advisable but also cost effective to have the piece treated by a conservator!

    • #134473
      Erin McGovern

      Hi Mell,
      One thing I would add is that in our paper lab, when vellum objects are tightly rolled, we would first introduce humidity through one side only- first placing wet membrane fabric in a tray, then a dry blotter, barrier such as screen, and a spun polyester fabric such as Hollytex. The rolled object would be placed on this, and the tray would be covered. This gently coaxes the object to relax and unroll itself a bit before attempting a two-sided sandwich approach. Sometimes the one-sided humidity pack is sufficient in itself.

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