22 November 2009

Art Preservation Redux

As a follow-up to my last posting, which elicited some great responses, I'd like to continue just a bit longer on this theme of art preservation.

Some fellow bloggers despaired at how altered book artists destroy books in the course of their art-making. I'd like to assure people that, as long as these artists utilize
discarded library books, nothing valuable is being destroyed. Once a book has been marked up with spine labeling, pockets, identity stamps and barcodes, its' intrinsic value is totally diminished in a collector's eye.

Many libraries desperately need shelf space as the rate of publication has sky-rocketed with the technological advances in publishing. Thus many libraries are at the stage of "new book in, old book out." So altered book artists are doing libraries a favor by buying up these
discarded books and actually giving them a new life in another form.

But another cautionary tale for those who create using older materials. Before you buy that book that would make a wonderful platform for your art, do yourself a favor and smell it.

That's right -- smell it!

If it smells "whiffy," then it would be a good idea not to buy it. Smell is one of the first indicators of mold and mildew, which spread rapidly throughout collections, including yours.

Look closely as the book. Does it appear dusty with a fine white powder? That may not be dust but a spore colony. This is dangerous ground for those who have allergies and/or asthma.

Back about 25 years ago, an archivist who worked for a museum was handling materials that had this white dust. Unfortunately, the archivist had a major asthma attack and died. His family sued the board of trustees and won the case. Many museums and libraries around the country installed hi-tech HVAC systems after that disaster.

Well, I think that about does it on preservation/conservation -- from me anyway. I've added several links to various institutions that can help if you have any questions about working with these types of materials.


nancy neva gagliano said...

well stated!! altered is often recycling....what would have been dumped, begins a new life in another art form...i feel better about my old hardcover of 'women in love' by dh lawrence...now he's in partnership with me and my women in love! ha! and yes. always SNIFF.

Leslie Avon Miller said...

I bought a beautiful book with a moldy smell - it was from the 50's in Kyoto - and since sitting out in the fresh air of my large studio space the smell is gone - something tells me it is not really cured? Isn't there a product one can use to eliminate the problem? I don't buy moldy stuff anymore - my sinuses are like the canary in the coal mine.
I do use some older papers - I love the feel and how they look - in my work. I always isolate them with layers of acrylic medium. I have always been hopeful that would take care of a potential problem. But for the most part I use very high quality acrylic products, art grade papers and simply get that aged look from my techniques. At the very core of this issue is the question I have - will my work really even matter in 50 years?

layers said...

some very good points-- and concerns we as collage artists should take notes on... however it is also hard for us not to use some of the old papers and books-- minus the smell!-- because it is the weathered worn torn textured aspects of the papers that attracted us in the first place-- and something is lost in the copy stage.

Kelly M. said...

Leslie and Donna -- I'm not saying these materials cannot be used. Yes, their intrinsic quality is often their aged textures, etc. However, it is important to ensure that nothing is lurking. The acrylic mediums should lock in any harmful substances, but it is the handling of these items that is a true health issue. I suppose just caution -- caveat emptor -- buyer beware -- is what I'm saying!

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Thank you for this post and an additional thank you for the links on our side bar. I shall also make good use of them.