Dream, Design, Build: The UW Architecture Student Drawing Collection, 1914-1947
A Conservation Plan for the Drawings
The first concern was assessing the condition of the drawings. Early in their history, many of these drawings had been lined with a cheesecloth material to give them reinforcement. There was also a variety of repair. While they were in Architecture Hall, most of the 30" x 40" size and some of the oversized drawings had been hung by wooden clamps in storage closets. Over time, the unprotected surfaces of the drawings had accumulated large amounts of dust and dirt. Many of the papers that the drawings were on had aged and become brittle. Some drawings had significant damage from handling and were being held together by the lining. The smaller drawings had been stored in enclosed vertical files, and tended to be cleaner.
The large number of items in the collection, and the large size of some of them, influenced the plan for their care. And as always, the staff and supply budgets were a defining factor. Over the first months of the project, the conservation staff developed protocols for cleaning, basic stabilization, and housing for the collection. The work has continued part time since then, and is now nearing completion. This exhibit case represents the key elements of the project.
Cleaning the Drawings
Surface cleaning of dust and dirt, using a dry soft
The drawings utilize a great range of media, such as ink, watercolor/gouache, tempera, graphite, charcoal, and pastel. Since the particles of charcoal, pastel and graphite are not physically bound to the paper like inks and paint, those materials could not necessarily be cleaned directly without damage to the image. Prior to cleaning, individual media in the drawing were tested to see if they could withstand surface cleaning. For media that could withstand surface cleaning methods, several methods were employed to mechanically remove the surface residues of dust and dirt from the drawings: brush, rubber sponge, vinyl eraser, and a HEPA vacuum to gather the removed detritus. A progression from least to more aggressive cleaning methods insured that the drawings were not subjected to more handling than necessary. Work was slow, and careful—and each sheet had two sides to be cleaned!
Repair to Stabilize the Drawings
After being cleaned, the drawings were assessed for repair needs, with the highest priorities being drawings which were already broken into pieces, or with tears that went into the image area. Some drawings had past repairs of varying quality. For the most part, existing repairs were left as is, even if they did not meet current standards. The focus was on stabilization, rather than cosmetic enhancement of the works.
New repairs focused on realigning and closing significant tears, filling losses at the edge of drawings that would be vulnerable to continued tearing, and reinforcing the back edges of drawings already having many tears. In some cases tears could be repaired with adhesive alone, carefully placed on the overlapping layers of paper. For filling losses in the edges or corners, or where a length of paper needed reinforcement, the repair was made using a heavy Japanese paper and starch paste/PVA adhesive. These repairs required care, space, and time to be executed.