Oil Paper Umbrella
- This topic has 8 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 6 years, 7 months ago by Meggi M.
August 20, 2016 at 5:05 pm #134889
My conundrum today involves a Chinese or Japanese oil paper umbrella that I know is at least 50 years old but likely up to 100 years old. It has been kept closed for the last 20 years with the result being that the oil or lacquer has stuck the whole thing together. It’s not completely solid, I cant gently slide my hand inside it to a point, and some of the folds detached from each other with just a gentle touch.
Any ideas on how one might go about un-sticking such a thing? Besides taking it straight to a conservator, that is. Any and all thoughts on the matter are appreciated. Thank you!
August 20, 2016 at 5:15 pm #134890Susan-1Member
Can you send a photo? See size restrictions above – 150 X 150 px
August 20, 2016 at 5:30 pm #134891
August 21, 2016 at 1:11 pm #134895Susan-1Member
The PDF works
August 21, 2016 at 1:41 pm #134896Mary Ann GabrielParticipant
You have a very beautiful and complex object, comprised of multiple materials requiring differing treatments for conservation, which makes your question quite complex, also. I actually have more questions than suggestions for your consideration.
What is your goal in wanting to open the umbrella? As you noted, the oil or lacquer has caused the folds of the umbrella to adhere together, and the object is potentially at risk of damage from attempts to open it.
Are you planning to use it in an exhibit? Would displaying a historic photograph of a similar open umbrella alongside your furled umbrella accomplish the same objective?
The lovely painted decoration appears to be a complete image on the closed umbrella canopy. It is possible that the decoration was originally applied to the closed umbrella and that the painting does not extend across the open umbrella. Could you have an artist create a rendition of what the entire pattern might look like if it does cover the entire canopy?
Do the mechanical parts of the umbrella still work so that it can be opened? Are the runner (which moves up the handle to lift the canopy) and stretchers intact? Are any ribs broken? Broken ribs or stretchers could puncture the paper canopy. Forcing the supporting parts could damage them, since the wood is likely very brittle.
How will you store the umbrella in the future? Do you have cabinet/shelving space to store it in the open position or do you plan to store it furled? Do you need to open/close the umbrella in the future?
Since the purpose of collections care/preventive conservation is to minimize change and maximize longevity, my suggestion is to avoid the risk of irreparable damage in attempting to open your umbrella. I realize that I’m not actually answering your question, but I think this lovely object is best preserved it as it is, by creating as ideal an environment as you can for its long term storage.
Mary Ann Gabriel
August 22, 2016 at 9:31 am #134897Maggie WesslingParticipant
I am a paper conservator and I would reiterate what Mary Ann said about reconsidering whether the umbrella needs to be opened. If you do decide to open the umbrella I would contact a paper or an objects conservator for help. There are a number of reasons why the paper might be sticking, and it would require testing to see what might free it. Given that the paper has been treated with oil, a chemical bond has likely formed between the attached sections and mechanical action alone may not be enough to separate the pieces without causing tearing. We would be happy to help you find a conservator in your area to consult with. Good luck!
August 22, 2016 at 10:36 am #134899
Thank you for your thoughtful responses. The thought behind opening it was for display purposes or, as Mary Anne said, just to photograph it so that should it prove to be very delicate, we could display the photo and keep the umbrella closed after that. I’m fairly certain that the mechanics are in good shape as I can see inside it around the pole, and the donor said that before he closed it and put it into storage that it was in excellent and working condition.
However, it seems as though we will have to keep it as a mystery in it’s closed state. We’re a very small institution that stumbled upon this piece and unfortunately there isn’t any space in the budget for a conservator. Thank you both for your advice though, as always, it’s much appreciated.
August 22, 2016 at 10:52 am #134900Mary Ann GabrielParticipant
Having a “mystery” in your collection may lend a cachet that helps to promote your facility, and could possibly be utilized to solicit information or funding to help solve the mystery at some future time.
August 22, 2016 at 11:05 am #134901
True enough! Thanks again Mary Ann and Maggie.
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