FUNORI: OVERVIEW OF A 300-YEAR-OLD CONSOLIDANT
JOSEPH R. SWIDER, & MARTHA SMITH
The persistence over the centuries of funori as a useful adhesive, size, and consolidant is due to its availability, ease of preparation and use, and lack of toxicity. The scientific literature reveals much about funori's relation to other red seaweeds and gives insight as to why it has endured as a reliable material. Our research in the laboratory to find the best methods of preparation revealed that funori is flexible in preparation and applicable to most consolidation treatments that require a low-strength material. In addition to the funorans, our seaweed research examined the agars and carrageenans. Agar, solid at room temperature, is inappropriate for use as a consolidant. Our East Asian painting laboratory has been experimenting with carrageenan with good results, although, unlike funori, with its long history of use in conservation, carrageenan's durability over time is not yet known. Our reasons for investigating funori were to increase its purity, extract as much soluble material as possible, find the most effective and efficient method of preparation, and make a portable product with a long shelf life.
We would like to thank all the companies and people who shared their experiences with funori, in particular Andrew Hare, supervisor of East Asian painting conservation, and John Winter, senior scientist at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. We are grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its generous support of this research through its funding of the East Asian Paintings Research Program at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.