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Saving the Exposition Universelle De 1889

Exposition Universelle De 1889 is one of the many items about World’s Fairs in the SIL collection. It came to the Conservation Lab from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Library in New York. It consists of 23 plates depicting various houses from around the world as part of the “Human Habitat” section of the fair as well as 12 pages of introductory text. To put this in an historic perspective, this was the World’s Fair that took place in Paris, France with the newly completed Eiffel Tower as its entrance!

The item arrived in poor condition with soiled and water damaged paper. Tide marks from previous exposure to water were visible on every plate. The plates were housed in a portfolio that was missing the back cover. As a result of missing the cover, many of the plates were damaged at the corners and edges.


Before treatment - first pageBefore treatment – first page


Before treatment - plate with tide marksBefore treatment – plate with tide marks


Step one was to dry clean page with finely ground eraser crumbs. This is a relatively gentle way to remove surface dirt. The crumbs are rubbed over the soiled areas with the tips of the fingers. Multiple applications of the crumbs can be made. Due to the extensive tide marks from previous water damage, the decision was made to wash the plates in de-ionized water to remove impurities and tone down the tide marks. This may seem counterintuitive – why subject them to water again? The original exposure to water was partial and this results in the tide marks. By re-immersing the plates, the acid build up in the paper can be reduced and the tide marks washed mostly away.


During treatment paper washingDuring treatment paper washing


After washing and drying the plates were re-housed in a new, acid-free portfolio. The portfolio was covered in a stone patterned hand marbled paper, similar to the style of the original. An added custom fit enclosure was created so that the plates remain relatively immobile in their new home!


Plate after treatmentPlate, after conservation treatment.

After treatment new portfolioAfter treatment new portfolio

— Katie Wagner

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