Varnished Wall Maps: A Collaborative Seminar to Investigate Treatment Methodology
A three-day 2020 AIC Annual Meeting Pre-session Seminar (Rescheduled to Sept. 14-16, 2022)
Varnished wall maps (most popular during the mid-19th Century) are complex composite materials of great historical significance found in nearly every archive and library collection in the United States. They also are held widely in private collections. The maps often, but not always are: large in scale; composed of several sections of paper adhered together; have printed, hand colored, and varnished layers; attached to a fabric backing; and have wooden hanging dowels at top and bottom. Condition issues can, and often do, appear with nearly every material element. Varnish layers are often darkened, and sometimes blanched, rendering parts of the map no longer visible. Deteriorated paper supports are often fragile and fractured with significant areas of loss and aqueous stains, and the fabric backing can be deteriorated and soiled.
Due to the complex nature of these maps and their condition issues, creating a treatment methodology is a challenging process for paper conservators. Ethical dilemmas are present when considering varnish removal, bathing and potential color loss, fabric lining removal (and potential lining replacement), and display and storage. The published literature has been intermittent and offers widely differing approaches that yield little consensus on treatment methodology. Curiously, most of the popular approaches and techniques have not been published yet. These maps can be intimidating to conservators who have never worked on them before, and many are being left untreated due to lack of experience or lack of more efficient options.
This three-day pre-session conference seminar, in conjunction with the 2020 AIC Annual Meeting, will be held at the University of Utah Marriott Library Conservation Department. The seminar will provide a unique opportunity for paper conservators that work extensively with varnished wall maps, either by actively treating them or are in charge of collections that house them, to come together to demonstrate and discuss their condition issues and treatment methodologies around these maps. Since no one approach will apply to every map, the goal of this seminar is to build a consensus of options for decision making and treatments. In addition, this seminar will allow for the opportunity to compare treatment methods and decision making strategies for maps held in private collections versus those in institutional collections. Ultimately, the group’s findings will be shared with the conservation community in the form of a publication and/or future workshops.
The majority of the seminar will be dedicated to hands-on demonstrations by participants on topics that include fabric removal and facing, varnish removal, washing approaches, and re-lining methods. Other issues that will be examined will be minimizing color loss, loss and fragmentation, documentation, storage methods, and exhibition options. Interwoven into these demonstrations will be round-table presentations and discussions to supplement and further the conversation. Portions of this event may also be filmed.