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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Paper de-acidifyingApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2017-02-24 09:55:55 ... Most recent comment 2017-04-05 10:28:00
    Art Conservation Topics Other Flexible Supports Industrial and Non-Traditional Products
    How can I make old newspapers less acid for use in my collages.

Answers and Comments

  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentHi! There really isn’t a way to make newspapers less acidic, since the paper is generally manufactured with wood pulp and is therefore inherently acidic. However, there are things you can do to slow down the degradation process while making sure that the acidic newspaper fragments are less harmful to your collage. Start by using high-quality, buffered 100% rag paper as your primary support; buffered papers have an alkaline reserve which helps to keep the pH higher (more basic), and therefore slows down degradation due to acidity. You don’t mention which adhesive you use, but using something like wheat or rice starch paste will help to avoid damage from a potentially acidic adhesive. Once your collage is completed, store it in acid-free, buffered folders and try to keep it in a cool, dry place. If it’s on exhibition make sure that UV glass and buffered mat board are used for display, and keep it out of direct sunlight. These are simple things, but they will keep your collage in the best condition possible. (Gillian Marcus, Paper/Dry Media Moderator)
    2017-02-24 13:18:58
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​How about sprays like "Bookkeeper" (contains methoxyl magnesium methyl carbonate) or soaking in some sort of chemical solution?

    2017-03-08 13:11:33
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​The following is some information from one of our moderators Hugh should be noted that while you can certainly use these products, there are a few things that conservators are still unsure about as more research is really needed to confirm whether these products achieve what they purportedly accomplish. As Hugh points out, adding additional chemicals may help but they may also interact in an unforeseen manner with any additional paints, coatings, inks, etc. that you choose to use in your collage. It is possible that simply protecting them from the air by covering them with a varnish of some sort and/or by placing your collage in an appropriately prepared enclosed frame. Here are some of his thoughts: 

    The idea of lowering the pH of ligneous paper has gotten a great deal of attention, in the last fifty years and has inspired Wei ‘To and Bookkeeper, both of which include solvents and alkaline buffering. I have always advised against this idea, for a number of reasons. Insuring that the alkaline  material gets to the interior of the item is hard to accomplish. Soaking the item can work, but too often they are sprayed on and the item may get an uneven coating, meaning that it is likely to age unevenly. Another problem is the reaction of the acidic oil in the ink, with the alkaline component and the creation of soaps. Ultimately, the questions of reaction with all the non-cellulose components of the artifact, bother me a great deal, since the problems are likely to continue, after the alkaline component has been exhausted and salts and soaps remain in the artifact. The approach that interests me is reduction of oxidants and I have seen very old news print that is still in good condition, when it has been kept from the air. 

    Kristin deGhetaldi
    2017-03-08 17:43:04
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you! This is very helpful. Any info on soaking?

    2017-03-09 13:02:45
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Soaking newspaper will likely just result in accidentally making paper pulp....something I doubt you want to use in your collage. If you are painting in acrylics you could opt to coat the newspaper in a clear acrylic gel medium and then adhere to your panel/canvas...that would honestly be one of the better ways you can "encapsulate" some of the inherent acidity of the paper. As you can see from other comments posted earlier newspaper is made from poor quality paper to begin with as it's intended lifespan and period of use is not super long.

    Kristin deGhetaldi
    2017-03-09 18:05:33
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Just to share a potential workaround that, while not perfect, might be less problematic in some ways.

    When wanting to preserve some old newspaper clippings I found that doing a high quality scan and then getting them digitally printed (using something like Epson Ultrachrome of K3 pigmented inks) on archival artists' paper made for digital prints, gave a fairly good simulation of the original that at least visually, from some inches away, looked like the real thing. So while it does involve extra steps, and you are still faced with the less than perfect lightfastness of even the pigmented inks used today, overall this might be a more durable stand-in for use in collages. At the same time, depending on your philosophical stance on collage, it does mean not working with the actual original, more common materials - which might be problematic. But keep in mind that artists like Joseph Cornell was often quite comfortable with simulacrums of older things, with the visual end result being the most critical.

    Anyway, just another thought to share.

    Sarah Sands
    Senior Technical Specialist
    Golden Artist Colors

    Sarah Sands, Senior Technical Specialist, Golden Artist Colors
    2017-04-05 10:28:42

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