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Re: Conservation Specifications

The best advice I can give you is to run for cover.  This is not a job you
really want to do.

Let me guess some of the details.  The doors were covered with leather
during the 1920's-30's and painted during the 1950's.  There are some brass
"nails" helping to hold the leather in place; a smallish window in each
door; there were at least two and probably three cowhides used to cover
each door with neat joins and the brass "nails" help break up the joining

There may be some corrosion where brass and leather meet, especially bad if
leather dressing was liberally applied.

Now the leather is a little tired.  If red rot is not present, it is likely
not far off.

The time to become involved in projects like this is during the initial
planning stages.  After that you are wasting time putting out someone
else's fires.

Before you begin writing up a specification you will need to make an
in-depth examination of the present condition of the leather, including
whether or not a finish is present (varnish/shellac); moisture content of
the leather (this is important); presence (or absence) of leather
dressings; etc.

It may be possible to find the original specifications for the doors and
their covering, and those may contain valuable information for interpreting
the present condition of the doors.

In short, and I'm just guessing here, the cost of doing the analysis
required before writing up a reasonable set of specifications may exceed
what the architect told the library would be required to "restore" the

You won't be able to put out the architect's fire; he won't respect you in
the morning; and there is no such thing as a standard amount of time that a
conserved artifact may be expected to last.  It's sort of like asking your
surgeon after quadruple by-pass surgery, "So, Doc, how long have I got?"
"It all depends...."

If the leather doors are going into a museum after they have been restored
they may last a very long time; if they persist in using them as DOORS!
with people going in and out of rooms by pushing them with their hands and
feet, and book carts they will likely survive until next year.  Probably.
Maybe longer.  It all depends.

Good luck....


>Date:    Wed, 18 Mar 1998 15:15:27 EST

>I'm trying to get a project restoring leather covered doors at a library.
>Some have been painted over. The construction company involved has stripped
>one with chemicals and put shoe polish on to cover the scars. They want to do
>the rest this way.  I restored one with paste and Kucel G and japanese paper,
>etc.   The Head Architect, who approved my work, wants a conservation job and
>I have been asked to write up a specifications sheet.  Not "sequence of
>operations" ---specifications of conservation.  "Reversable...etc."  So, what
>are the etceras? Is there a standard length of time that the conservation be
>expected to last? Can any one direct me to something in the  COOL directory or
>give me an example?
>Cris Takacs

Jack C. Thompson
Thompson Conservation Lab
Portland, Oregon  USA


"The lyfe so short; the craft so long to lerne."

Chaucer, _The Parlement of Foules_ 1386.

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