Conserving transparent papers

Transparent papers are well represented in The National Archives given the transparent quality of the paper was the perfect medium for drawing maps, designs, and engineering plans. Unfortunately many of these records are now in very poor condition,  partly due to the methods used to make these papers can lead to discolouration and brittleness over time.

To address this large scale problem we supported an initiative to investigate how to best preserve large collections of transparent paper.

Conserving transparent papers can be challenging given the variation in the papers themselves, their condition, and the limitations posed by many aqueous treatments.

To help decide the most appropriate treatment, we have developed a framework and supporting tools to assess treatment options (Wilson, 2015), including a:

  • framework to assess the critical factors for deciding an appropriate preservation strategy for transparent paper.
  • questionnaire to locate these papers in The National Archives collection.
  • condition rating scale that combines the extent of damage and risk of existing damage.
  • colour scale based on transparent papers designed to assess the extent of deterioration.
  • a capture of condition, colour, and reference data in a searchable format to allow rapid identification of transparent papers in need of treatment.

Wilson, H. 2015. A decision framework for the preservation of transparent papers, Journal of the Institute of Conservation, Vol. 38, Issue 1, 2015. [Abstract accessible at].

We are continuing work in this area, and will continue to make our findings available.