During a short work placement at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, two drawings executed by the architect Pugin, were conserved. The drawings had been made on tracing paper and featured a variety of media, including ink, pencil and paint washes. Both drawings were drummed onto unsuitable secondary backing board and first required backing removal to release the tensions present.
Above left: Drawing 1 before treatment. Above right: Drawing 2 before treatment.
Dry, mechanical backing removal of the tertiary card support was undertaken on drawing 1, which was then immersion washed (after fugitivity testing) in a cold bath to remove the paper remnants that were left on the verso of the paper secondary support, which was to be kept adhered to the object as it was not causing any damage. The object was left to air dry until it was ready for gentle pressing between felts.
Treatment could then begin on drawing 2. Dry mechanical backing removal of the secondary card support was first undertaken:
The object had a large tear present before treatment began, and this was temporarily splinted using Japanese tissue on the recto, to hold it in place during treatment.
The media was then tested for fugitivity, of which some tested positive, thus only a minimal amount of moisture could be introduced to the object from the verso to remove the paper remnants of the secondary support. This was done using a small paintbrush and water, working in small areas at any one time, taking care not to let the moisture migrate through to the vulnerable media.
Above left: Area before final backing removal. Above right: Same area after aqueous treatment to remove paper remnants.
The object was then ready for tear repairs, however time did not allow for completion of this. Another student will subsequently complete this stage of treatment, using Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste on the verso to mend the tears, and both drawings will be housed in Melinex enclosures, with card supports in place behind them.
This short project provided a great opportunity to work with tracing paper objects featuring fugitive media, which required careful consideration during the decision-making process regarding possible treatment avenues. It also presented a good chance to practice backing removal, a challenging treatment that requires much patience and skill, only improved by opportunities such as this.