Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Sunday, 12 May 2013


Recently I had a discussion with someone who has some degree of knowledge of conservation of water colour paintings, ink drawings and prints. All I can conclude from the conversation is that Thanet District Council has really got a  serious problem with the conservation of it's water colour and prints collection. Some time ago I mentioned that there were over 680 paintings and prints in storage, well it appears that a large amount of the collection in storage is suffering from a condition called foxing. Foxing is a condition that can be easily looked up on the internet and I came across this definition ;  "Foxing: Describes scattered spotting and browning on prints, most likely due to storage in a poor environment. Light, isolated foxing is typically not a serious flaw; however, any widespread or heavy foxing can substantially decrease print value and quality.  Foxing can be ameliorated through a combination of restoration techniques such as laser or diluted liquid solutions, but this is a time consuming and expensive process, and can potentially damage a delicate print if done incorrectly. "
Removing foxing from a print is expensive and I can recall in the late 1990's  the Margate Charter Trustees paid to have a print called "A view of Margate from the Dane" from the Rowe bequest to be restored. It was suffering from foxing due to metal particles being present in the paper during the paper making process. The cost of restoration did exceed over £300 and the restored print is currently hanging up in the mayor's parlour and is now a worthwhile investment. For the record TDC also owns a copy of the same print and that is from the Parker collection and that print is in Northdown House. However when this print in Northdown House was handed over to TDC in 1974 to 1976 by KCC it was already in a poor condition. Which does raise a question of how many prints did KCC had over to TDC that were already in bad condition, something we will never know. 
TDC were made aware in 1983, 1989 and 1990 in reports that something needs to be done regarding conservation and storage. Following more research and a witness account from 1985 when the collection in the cells was first audited, I now concede that some of the items were already in a bad condition when TDC received them from KCC and perhaps KCC did  a bit of cherry picking taking the best. However it still does not excuse the fact that they continued to be stored in grotty conditions along with everything else and warnings were ignored until know.
I think the cost to remove the foxing is totally out of the question  except for the most valuable of prints. For many of the more generic prints I think in reality this situation is irretrievable as replacements would cost less than restoration . Adding this to the fact that there are missing items it does make grim reading.

1 comment:

MAC said...

Tony the V&A offer this description and pragmatic advice:

"The term 'foxing' describes disfiguring small yellow brown spots or blotches on paper. Two main causes are mould and iron contaminants in the paper. Moulds feed on the paper itself, as well as any dirt or organic material on it, for example, finger marks, food stains and squashed insects. Tiny metal impurities can be found in paper as a result of the original manufacturing process or from dirt and pollution. Damp conditions encourage mould growth, and will cause iron contaminants to rust. In some cases a conservator may be able to reduce the disfiguring effect of foxing, but in many cases you simply have to accept this old damage."

That being said,foxing can sometimes be reduced by treating with dilute bleach or even cleaning with breadcrumbs - well within amateur and volunteer capabilities with a bit of practice and training. However, not to be practiced on rare or valuable material!

Have a look at "Old Master Prints and Drawings: A Guide to Preservation and Conservation", by Carlo James.

Is Margate Museum a member of AIM?

If so, it could qualify for an AIM/Pilgrim Trust Conservation Grant, which could either pay for the conservation of some key works or perhaps some training?

However, it's Local Authority Governance might disqualify it?

Worth finding out.