Humidification to relax stiff old documents

IMG_0051Humidity relaxes the paper stiffness. This relaxation is important for flattening paper that is out of shape because of folds creases etc. But, there are some questions and doubts about humidifying in the right way:

  1. How to humidify without causing a shocking reaction to the paper which has been in dry environment for ages?
  2. What might happen wrong when we humidify a very large paper by spraying water?
  3. Is water vapour always a safer method as compared to spraying or providing a mist of water?
  4. Is there any other way to humidify very slowly in mild and subtle way ?
  5. Can ethanol help in controlling the wetting action?

Various methods of humidification:

  1. Spraying fine mist

2. Using humidification chamber with trapped vapours:


3. Slow and mild humidification through damp non-woven polyester

The basic sandwich set-up for humidification of objects using non-woven polyester:

  • Mylar sheet
  • Damp blotter
  • non-woven polyester  joined on a transpirable membrane (smooth side against object)
  • Document/Paper manuscript
  • non-woven polyester joined on a transpirable membrane (smooth side against object)
  • Damp blotter
  • Mylar


P.S.  It is not necessary that flattening always needs humidification. Dry flattening under pressure is also quite effective many times, and sometimes it is the only way because of sensitivity of the inks or colours on the paper.

Author: namitajaspal
Namita Jaspal, with inherited skills of art and aesthetics and passion for science, opted to pursue post- graduation in ‘Conservation of Cultural Property’ after her graduation in Science from Delhi University in 1992. Four year intense training at National Museum Institute provided the right foundation to start a career in Conservation. She is currently practicing conservation consultancy for Heritage property including monuments and collections. She has been doing independent research in conservation techniques and procedures in Indian context. She is currently working on the conservation of wall-paintings of Sri Harmandir Sahib Ji (The Golden temple at Amritsar. The project is nearing completion and getting a lot of appreciation for the organized and ethical treatment it is providing. It is for the first time in the history of Sri Harmandir Sahib Ji (The Golden Temple) that wall painting conservation and preservation is being done in a scientific manner, keeping the codes of Ethics into consideration while decision making. Another project just completed is of the Conservation of Krishna Temple at Kishankot, Gurdaspur, Punjab. In her private Conservation Laboratory, she is not only providing onservation services, but also mentoring young aspiring conservators and archaeologists by the way of training and paid internships. She has been a guest lecturer at DIHRM (Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management). With all the updated knowledge database and innovative practical approaches relevant to the Indian conditions, she could successfully do curative and preservative treatment of very old textiles like a nine feet long flag from nineteenth century that is regarded as priceless memorabilia of second Dogra regiment at Chandi Mandir, and four hundred years old (seventeenth century) Chola Sahib Ji of Sixth Guru of Sikhs, Sri Hargobind Sahib Ji. Apart from this she has done conservation of Photograph collections, archival records, numerous paintings, manuscripts and other cultural objects. She is also involved in preparation of up-gradation proposals for museums and such organizations. Her expertise includes Conservation and preservation technologies and procedures for conservation of varied material like wall paintings, paper, photographs, textile, ceramics, stone, metal and archaeological objects.

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