by Cecile Mear, Conservator of Works on Paper
In my post of November 30, I promised to explain what it took to improve the appearance and the mechanical condition of Emil Klauprecht’s 1830s lithograph, Galt House. The print was unquestionably in poor condition with severe stains and complex distortions across the brittle paper.
After reducing grime from the surface by gently rubbing eraser crumbs over the front and back, it was time to move on to wet treatment to address the stains. I gave the print many baths in different wash solutions to flush out overall brown discoloration. Washing also released a strong odor reminiscent of a barn. After most of the water-soluble discoloration was removed, the odor was gone, but old tideline stains and dark edge stains remained along with an overall uneven paper color. The next step was to lighten the stains and even out the paper tone by applying different solutions to select areas with both small brushes and an air brush.
I did not expect all evidence of the print’s hard life to go away, and it was important to balance the aesthetic improvements with the long-term stability of the paper and ink when deciding when to stop. When the image and text became the focal point rather than the stains, I finished the treatment by mending tears and reducing the distortions by pressing the print under weight. The lithograph is now in stable condition and is ready to join the museum’s collection of early depictions of Cincinnati.