Tuesday, May 1, 2012

1916 California State Map Mini Episode 1

It's time for yet another series of posts. This week we're showing you the conservation of a 1916 California state map and each step of this was pretty involved, so we're going to break it down into a series of posts that we'll put up each day this week.

Maps are utilitarian pieces of history that walk the line between artifact and art. Up until the 20th century maps were done by cartographers going out into the world and measuring, applying math skills that are beyond me and actually drawing maps by hand. A map was meant to be used, to be folded or rolled up, then stuffed into a bag until the next time you needed it. Thus a lot of the maps we have seen have been through the ringer. This particular type of map is called a "roll up", it was mounted on thin fabric and had rods on either end so that it could be rolled up and then hung when it was needed.

Pictured: This was another project that was so large that John climbed up on a ladder to get a complete shot of it.

John got some great detail shots of this map where you can see how brittle the paper is. The paper has cracked and is beginning to flake off the extremely thin linen it was originally mounted to. The interior of the map was relatively intact, but the edges were a strong wind away from blowing off the map entirely. 

Pictured: This is the bottom of the map and you can see clearly that there are tiny cracks all over. These cracks meant that in a lot of places these pieces weren't attached to anything except the linen it was mounted on.

Pictured: Another shot of all the structural issues this paper had and a stain at the top.

John removed the rods so that we could work on it. Our first step was to wash the piece and then apply a facing to the front of the map. This would allow us to temporarily mount the map face down and strip off the old linen backing.

Pictured: Melissa and I checking that it will fit on the board, which it did. Just barely.

Pictured: Melissa and I moving the map over to the slanted capillary tables.

Pictured: Because of the size this thing barely fit on the table and it took us several minutes to position it so that nothing was hanging off.

Melissa sprayed it down with water. Paper expands when it is wet and because of all the structural issues this piece had, it started to cockle almost immediately as different areas soaked up water faster than others.

Pictured: Melissa spraying water on the map.

Pictured: Here you can see the different rate at which the paper was absorbing the water.The areas that are darker have absorbed more water than those that are lighter.

Pictured: The water began to pool in parts of the paper as it warped before the whole map was completely wet.
Because of all the cracks in the paper water trickled into some parts faster than others. As you can see from the picture above, the water began to form puddles in some areas. Not what you want to happen! So, how will we fix it? Check back around this time tomorrow to find out! (Or if its after May 2, 2012 go on to the next episode.)

It should be noted that several crucial steps in our process have been omitted. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us via email at postermount@aol.com or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: http://www.postermountain.com and http://www.lapapergroup.com/. Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!

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