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I will stipulate that this is from a conservator's point of view (though
I am an artist as well) and comes from my experience treating books,
watercolours, prints and drawings, etc. It is not meant to 'chide'
anyone or dictate what anyone should use in their art - so please take
it as observations and not a reason to jump down my throat!
>>>Am I a heretic to state that there is no way of ever knowing whether
our works can actually said to be 'archival'? I don't think this would
be manageable in any way, shape, or form. Think of all the factors
This can be managed. While we can't control what happens to our work
once purchased, in terms of environment, we can know what goes into the
works and the qualities of materials. In part, it's a matter of keeping
things simple. The fewer unknowns the fewer possible negative
interactions - for example, a book with images made in earth pigments on
100% Kozo paper sewn with natural linen thread, on alum-tawed thongs,
with a limp vellum cover should pretty much never deteriorate.
Conservation research has shown that all of these materials have very
long lives, in excess of 500 years.
>>>Especially when there is no reliable governance over the products we
>are using as to their reliability. We purchase and use all kinds of
>solvents, glues, inks, papers, materials which I do not believe are
>presently effectively regulated.
If you purchase high quality materials from reliable sources (ones that
have staked their reputations for decades and centuries on quality
materials) you can be pretty certain the materials are good - you can
have them independently tested if you are really fanatic about it. Also
knowing which standards to look for, ASTM, CSA, ISO, etc can indicate
which materials are worth purchasing. Many artist materials state on
them what they are good for, "student grades" shouldn't be trusted to
last forever, 'professional' grades are more likely to last but should
still be used warily. Winsor and Newton uses a star system to indicate
light fastness, Golden has tons of information on their website about
their materials. Additionally, there is tons of literature out there in
artist magazines and online about which materials last and which don't
the "Artist's Assistant" and "Artist's pigments" books are good sources.
Finding a library with conservation literature can give enormous
direction in terms of working methods that do or don't work (from case
studies in historical techniques).
Using 'modern' materials can still be archival, computer generated
images printed with dye-based ink jet aren't considered very stable but
pigmented printers are available (and many people here use them). These
prints require more care but not so much more than watercolours, The
McCrone Institute does regular tests and their information can be found
Synthetic glues have been tested, CCI found that over the ten years of
their testing only a small fraction of the products tested changed their
formulations, and those were not the glues recommended by conservators
As Peter said, it's a matter of learning, being informed, and keeping in
mind what you are combining. Printers quickly learn that you can print
oil over water but not water over oil. It's just a matter of expanding
on that type of knowledge.
Paper Conservator, Calgary
The Bonefolder, Vol. 3, No. 1, Fall 2006 Now Online at
Guild of Book Workers' 100th Anniversary Exhibition Online - Catalog Available
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