OBSERVATIONS ON DEVELOPMENTS IN THE TREATMENT OF WORKS ON PAPER
T. K. McCLINTOCK
7 LIMITING TREATMENT
It is not oxymoronic to also include in developments a more conscious acceptance of the limitations of treatment. This acceptance should not be confused with an unwillingness on the part of paper conservators to put to use a wealth of collective experience and specialized equipment. Collection surveys have underscored the value of devoting resources to improving housing and environment. In light of the volume of material entering repositories of works on paper, tailored storage is often an effective alternative to treatment or mitigates the need for immediate or more extensive treatment. Producers of archival enclosures have responded by making available products tailored to varied needs of access, dimension, and condition. The radiant heat welder and ultrasonic encapsulator have enabled the production of highly individualized Mylar enclosures uncompromised by the need to use tape as a seal. It is an array for which North Americans are the envy of colleagues overseas.
The importance of an acid-free storage environment has been successfully promoted to professional groups with whom conservators have overlapping concerns. A tangential focus has been on the format of the object. Objectively the format may pose some compromise to archival soundness, but the alteration of it may pose an even greater compromise to the integrity of the artifact. Examples might be reconsidering the removal of objects from mounts to which they were originally adhered overall, unless the objects are obviously endangered by brittleness or pronounced acidity. Good-quality storage and the capacity to monitor an object may be substitutes for treatment. Treatments are designed so that conservation of the object includes reintegration of the original accessory elements. By these means the character of the work as an object is not divorced from its function as a record of information and design. Another example might be the preservation intact of artists' sketchbooks. It is recognized that the materials, design, or condition of a format can compromise the very survival of an object as it is known, and change of that format, however reluctantly, may be warranted. The concerns of paper conservators for references made in the American Institute for Conservation Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice to respect for the integrity of the object and to the principle of reversibility are particularly cogent in this regard.