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News Student Blog: University of Hong Kong

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​Before treatment, (left) overall front, (right) overall back, can see patchwork composition of original boards. (Image: Victoria Wong)

My parents met in Hong Kong. My father is originally from Guangzhou, China, but moved to Hong Kong where he worked at the Hong Kong Telephone Company. My mother was born and raised in Hong Kong, where she studied as a tailor, eventually working for an eveningwear boutique that dressed celebrities. They immigrated to the U.S. in the 70s where my father worked as a cook in a chop suey restaurant, and my mother as a seamstress, and dim sum server. Our last name is Wong. We have a fairly common Chinese surname, which is a Romanization of different Chinese characters. In my case, “Wong” is also 黃, which means “yellow.” While it is not unusual to come across the surname “Wong” in the U.S., it is quite rare for me to see the Chinese character 黃, and so my name does not always feel very common.

I am now midway through a 6-month internship in Hong Kong at the University of Hong Kong Libraries (HKUL) Preservation Centre where I see 黃 regularly, either at the lab, or in my daily life, but often both. The University of Hong Kong is the oldest postsecondary education institution in Hong Kong, dating to 1912. As an internationally recognized research-led institution, their library, and its preservation, are critical to their operation and excellence. The HKUL has an extensive collection that ranges from books bound in traditional East Asian methods to newspapers, stone rubbings and genealogical materials.

​Left: During treatment, intoning palette of dry pastels and overall front before intoning. Right: During treatment, before and after intoning fill. (Images: Victoria Wong)

Established in 2010, the HKUL Preservation Centre is located in the Tin Wan neighborhood of Hong Kong Island. Situated on the 14th floor of a commercial building, the Centre has panoramic windows that overlook the Aberdeen West typhoon shelter and Lamma Island in what was formerly the HKUL Bindery. The Centre, utilizing the spacious bindery and its specialized equipment, is where the HKUL Preservation and Conservation Division carries out its conservation treatments and conducts research. While the Centre primarily serves the HKUL and its collection, it also takes on work from outside clients. The Centre is headed by Jody Beenk, whom I have been fortunate to have as an internship supervisor here. 

In just three short months, I've had the opportunity to make a series of Chinese book models, practice the Chinese method for lining paper and silk, and treat some Chinese books. One of my favorite projects I've worked on so far is an ink rubbing of a jade carving that has been bound into an album. The text of the carving is by Wang Xianzhi (344–386) text, and the rubbing itself is lampblack ink on Chinese xuan paper. Its boards are a patchwork of pieces of laminated paperboards that are covered in a decorated paper featuring three different methods of applying color: a grey dyed base color, a blue geometric relief-printed pattern, and a hand-applied white dotted pattern.

Left: During treatment, Victoria consolidating paper title label with wheat starch paste. Right: After treatment, lampblack ink rubbing of jade carving. (Images: Jody Beenk and Victoria Wong)

This binding dates back to 1920, though the actual rubbing is likely dated earlier, the carvings from which they are rubbed are even older, and the texts from which these carvings are based are from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (264 – 420). The multiplicity in its construction gives its age and value the feel of an assemblage. This intangibility is at the core of Hong Kong.

While this album and its decorative paper covers were still visually stunning, only the top of the album featured most of its original decorative paper. All but two thumbprint-sized patches of decorative paper were lost on the back of the album. Inside, the textblock pages were delaminating, and separating from the boards, due to the desiccation of its original paste adhesive. Previous repairs were now pulling the textblock apart, and there were tears reaching up the center of the rubbing.

Given both the tangible and ethereal qualities of this album, I chose to stabilize this piece so it could be safely handled, and to restore its aesthetic unity without making it look new. This meant removing previous repairs that were now damaging the album, while leaving stable past repairs in place so as to not disguise this album's history. The front of the textblock was mended with a fine kozo tissue with an invisible finish, so that repairs would not hinder the legibility of the text, nor its overall appearance. A piece of heavyweight Japanese kozo paper was toned with liquid acrylic paint to match the grey base color of the decorative paper. This paper was used to cover the lower board and fill losses in the upper board. Losses were then further toned with dry pastels, to match the accumulated dirt and discolorations present in the original decorative paper. This item can now be safely used by researchers, and its recent history is readily visible in terms of its conservation treatment and documentation.

​Left: After treatment, three-quarter view of overall front. Right: Before and after treatment of overall back with toned Japanese kozo paper covering on lower board. (Images: Victoria Wong)

My time in Hong Kong has been both new and uncannily familiar.  Though this is my first time in the city, I am constantly reminded of my upbringing by too many intangible qualities to list. The city itself is covered in modern buildings and holds the world record for the most skyscrapers. It is hard to imagine what it must have looked like when my parents lived here. The school where my mother trained is now a chain jewelry store, my grandfather’s teahouse is now a fast-fashion outlet, but the apartment where my mother was raised is still here.

— Victoria Wong, WUDPAC Class of 2019

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Used in the Home Page News Listing and for the News Rollup Page
​In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2019 Fellow Victoria Wong shares her experience working with collections at the University of Hong Kong Libraries Preservation Centre.

​​In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2019 Fellow Victoria Wong shares her experience working with collections at the University of Hong Kong Libraries Preservation Centre.

8/31/2018
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  • The Department of Art Conservation
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