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Photogravure Conservation

THE DETERIORATION MECHANISMS MENTIONED ABOVE have been studied in depth by paper conservators and conservation scientists resulting in a great deal of literature from which research additional preservation guidelines and best practices can be distilled. From this work, numerous paper conservation treatments have emerged for stabilizing the condition of prints. For staining caused by chemical and biological deterioration, when washing in deionized water, may be extremely useful to stabilize the condition of the print and reduce stains. For greater stain reduction, bleaching treatments can be effective; though these treatments need to be applied judiciously as there is a risk of causing additional deterioration. An alkaline reserve, such as calcium carbonate, can be applied to the paper to slow the rate of acid-based deterioration. Physical deterioration like tears can be stabilized through the application of fine strips of Japanese paper to the reverse of prints, generally using adhesives like wheat starch paste and/or methylcellulose. Distortions can be reduced by imparting moisture to the paper then gradually drying between smooth blotters, under weights. Intrinsically, good quality materials used to make most photogravures is a tremendous advantage, if conservation treatment is necessary. For most paper conservators, the techniques and materials used to treate photogravures are relatively conventional and time-tested. However, conservation treatment should never be approached casually and should be carried out by an experienced professional.

Over time most serious collectors will assemble a "team" of experts on which they can rely for guidance. Working with a conservator can help collectors build a sophisticated level of discernment identifying which photogravure condition problems can be successfully treated and which can not. The American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) offers a publicly accessible database listing conservators sorted by their geographical location and area of expertise.

Special thanks to expert conservator Paul Messier for contributing his expertise to this project.