Thursday, October 18, 2012

1939 New York World's Fair poster

In 1939 the US was looking back on the Great Depression and forward to the possibility of war with clouds of conflict looming overseas, but they were also looking towards what they hoped would be a brighter future. (Sounds kind of familiar, right?) Technology was thought to be the hope that would spark a turning point in a new world order and the 1939 New York World's fair had exhibitions from all over the world that demonstrated this dream of a better future through technology. And as you might expect, the posters from the fair show the sleek, modern and sometimes futuristic design style that was starting to become popular. And as the title and this brief history lesson suggests, we have the restoration of a New York World's Fair poster as this week's featured project.

Pictured: You know when a client tells you to be careful opening the package its never a good thing. This particular package contained a poster that was broken in half.

The poster depicts the iconic Trylon and Perisphere that were the "Theme Center" for the fair. And as you can see the buildings are very futuristic looking. Unfortunately this piece of American history was mounted to cardboard at some point and then later the cardboard and the poster split in half.

In order to join the two pieces back together, the cardboard had to be removed first. John was able to demount the poster from the cardboard on the back by shaving it off in layers.

Pictured: It doesn't look like it, but this is positive progress because even though the poster is split in half it was no longer mounted to cardboard which is very corrosive.

Once it was off the cardboard, we were able to wash the poster and get the two separate pieces aligned and as close as possible while it was suspended between sheets of Mylar.

Pictured: The posters first bath to rinse out 70 years of built up toxins.

A water soluble adhesive was applied to the back of the poster, very gently so neither piece moved after they had been positioned. Tension between the Mylar and the wet poster held it in position while I moved it over to the linen and Masa backing. 

Pictured: After it has been rinsed and squeegeed but before the poster is flipped over and glue is applied to the back.

Pictured: Quickly moving it over to the stretched linen and frame.

Below is a progress photo and although the two separate pieces are back together, there is an obvious gap between the two where there was paper loss when they broke apart. The border also needed some TLC.

Pictured: Progress photo!

In prep vintage paper was mitered in to fill the missing areas in the border. The break between the two pieces was not large enough for us to use paper to fill it, so we used a filling compound that is applied with a palette knife and then smoothed out.

Pictured: The after photo once prep was finished.

Pictured: A detail of the break in the paper after it has been filled.

Pictured: Here is a section of the border where the corner was missing and then patched.

This poster had faded a lot over the years, so the client asked us to punch up the colors in the words in addition to restoring the damaged areas. Aaron airbrushed these areas, but the section that needed the most attention was the break that went through the Perisphere. This was not a straight one color shot because the Perisphere was a sphere shaped building and so we had to give it back the illusion that it was a three dimensional object.

Pictured: Junior and Gabe did several masks for this piece, including this one that was for some of the areas in the black where there was pigment loss along the top.

Pictured: This is the mask for Aaron to paint the Perisphere. If you look closely at the brown paper on the left you can see the faint outline of an acetate circle that was removed from the protective layer to open up the sphere.

Pictured: Aaron working on the first layer of airbrush.

Pictured: A dramatic improvement once it is done.

After Aaron had restored the large areas, Katie was given the poster to do the small details that really bring the restoration work together into a complete piece. Katie has a great eye for miniscule details that some would never see, but to our clients who prefer their posters to look pristine the small issues stand out like a sore thumb.

Pictured: Katie working on a detail so small you can't tell what she is working in this picture.

Pictured: Ahhh, there it is!

Pictured: Again, working on something that the camera can't pick up.

And here it is, one whole poster with the Trylon and Perisphere restored to their futuristic awesomeness!
At some point in the last few weeks I told you that we began work on a video blog. It takes time to film and then especially to edit that film into something that is viewable and interesting, but we finally have the introduction to our video blog! You can check it out on youtube:

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 or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: and Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!


  1. You guys do extraordinary work with the best results! Over the years, I've come over from Australia and have had several pieces restored with you guys when I'm in town.
    Hi to John!

  2. Thank you for the lovely words! I'll pass them along to John!