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Changing Impressions - Surface cleaning

The Battle-array of Carberry-hill (includes Mary, Queen of Scots)
by George Vertue, after Livinus de Vogelaare
published 1742
NPG D11102

Changing Impressions:  A Print Conservation Project in Focus

After a preliminary brushing to remove dust or other particles, the next step is to use an eraser to clean the surface of the paper. The print's appearance can often be markedly improved by this technique, as shown in the photograph of work in progress on Henry VIII and the Barber Surgeons [2].

When cleaning prints, it is important to work consistently over the entire surface to preserve a uniform appearance. Care is taken to avoid removing marks made by earlier owners, which provide useful clues to the provenance of a print. If made in pencil, an eraser cut to a point is worked carefully up to the lines. Precautions are also necessary when cleaning fragile areas such as near tears or the sheet edge as seen here.

Step 2

Step 2

Step 3

Step 3

To prevent damage, a slotted metal shield can be used to support the paper. This was used on the delicate edges of The Battle-Array of Carberry-Hill [3].

Ostensibly a straightforward process, the conservator's experience is vital to determine the paper's condition and strength and how well it will withstand the treatment.


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Untitled, c.1973 (Alex Chilton) by William Eggleston © Eggleston Artistic Trust

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