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Silk Conservation (2010)

Condition Assessment:

Problems :

The silk flag to be treated was very old and hence had deteriorated a lot by intrinsic as well as extrinsic factors. It was shattering at the slightest handling. The major deteriorating factors have been:

  • Silk being naturally susceptible to fast ageing, gets embrittled leading to splits and tears, and eventually a powdery and very friable fabric is left.
  • Warp and Weft:  Though at first look with unaided eye there was apparently no difference in warp and weft thickness and silk seems very smooth, but when we viewed the silk under higher magnification, the weight of warp and weft was quite different. Warp was quite heavy as compared to weft. Actually, weft was too fragile to bear any sort of load or pressure of even minutest handling. It could not even withstand the strong adhesive force of the adhesive used during previous restoration attempts.
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  • Embroidery was coming off .

Add-on problems for conservation treatment

  • Generally, when the silk has tears and holes, it is given a lining or backing. But, in this particular case, the silk was already stitched over a thick fabric and hence, to provide that additional closer support it needs to be first taken off from the back fabric. This would not be an ideal suggestion in this case as the already shattering silk was not in a position to bear so much of handling.
  • Many of the previous restoration attempts had just added on to the friable nature and damage to the fabric



(Removing the old frame and its board)

Most of the pins, stapling pins, thumb-pins etc were removed on-site with the help of owners. Only the flag with a few stapling pins still left on it was taken to the conservation lab.

Removing the old repairs (apart from pins)

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Cleaning was carefully performed with de-ionized water and  some mild organic solvents and low pressure vacuum suction.

 Consolidation with the help of Klucel G film on crepline.

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Paper and book conservation- Part 1

To understand and master paper conservation, one must understand the composition and manufacturing of paper.

The composition of paper and raw material in its making has varied since its invention in 105 AD in China. The timeline of paper manufacturing technique and composition as understood from various sources is as follows:

  • The invention of paper by T’sai Lun, a member of Imperial Guard and Privy Councillor, was announced to the Hai Emperor of China in A.D. 105. It was a unique event. At that time, the Chinese macerated fibers from the rice stalks, flax, hemp, and bark in water and drained the suspension on a mold covered with silk cloth. The fiber mats were removed and dried in the Sun to form paper.
  • It took 500 years to reach Korea and Japan, six hundred years to Samarkand and Arab world; and 1000 years to Europe and even later to America in 1690. During this period, rags of cotton, flax, jute and hemp comprised the sole source of raw materials used in paper manufacture.
  • It has been conjectured that the first paper mill was established in Baghdad
    Paper making then spread to Damascus and to Egypt and Morocco. It took 500 years to find its way to Europe.
  • The Muslim conquest of Spain brought paper making into Europe.
  • In Italy the first great center of the paper-making industry was Fabriano in the marquisate of Ancona. Mills were established in 1276, and rose to importance with the decline of the manufacture in Spain.
  • The demand for paper was slight in the 1st Century Europe (Hunter 1943, 153) . Paper cost more than vellum, it was more fragile than parchment and it was associated with Jews and Arabs who were not trusted.
  • It was only with the advent of printing in the middle of the 15th Century that the demand became greater.
  • Paper has only been made from wood pulp since the 1850s.
    • Before the mid-19th century, western paper was made from cotton and linen clothing rags and by a process that largely preserved the long fibers of the raw material. While fibers may shorten with age, rag papers tend to remain strong and durable, especially if they have been stored properly in conditions not overly warm or humid.
    • Starting in the mid-19th century, wood replaced rags as the raw material for paper manufacture. Wood is processed into paper by mechanical or chemical pulping, which produces paper with shorter (compared with rag paper) fibers.
    • Mechanical pulping produces paper with the shortest fiber length and does not remove lignin from the wood, which promotes acid hydrolysis. Newspapers are printed on mechnically pulped paper. Chemical pulping removes lignin and does not cut up the cellulose chains as thoroughly as mechanical pulping, yielding a comparatively stronger paper, but which is still not as durable as rag paper.
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