The Preservation, Storage
of Precious Paper Dolls
Copyright 1995 Judy M.
Publishing and distribution of this article requires approval from
the author. Contact Judy at email@example.com.
It would seem obvious that the
best way not to have damaged paper dolls is to prevent them from becoming
damaged in the first place. Yet the ways in which they may become damaged
are not always so obvious. These things can cause damage to paper:
Dings or dents from
improperly holding a book or sheet
Bending or folding in
envelopes or boxes
Folding, rolling or
Corner dings from
dropping or mailing without enough protection
Ball point pen ink
bleeding through backs
Scraping surface inks
by sliding two pages/ books/ sheets together
stacking/packing too tightly, causing inks to compact or press onto
Putting in brown paper
or cardboard or with other acidic materials
Putting in areas of
high humidity resulting in mold or mildew
Exposing to too much
Exposing to too much
heat or cold
Putting in drawers
against raw wood
Putting in places
infested with vermin: mice, chipmunks, moths and other insects
Exposing to dirt,
dust, smoke, oils, sprays and other pollutants
Holding together with
Placing in florescent
light or in direct--or even indirect--sunlight
non-archival plastics or acetate
adhesives such as cellophane tape or rubber cement which turn
Putting PDs in those
photo albums with the sticky pages & PVC covers ... eeek!
Tip -- If your clear sleeves
or coverings have a strong plastic smell to them, they are not archival. Do
not use them for any papers you really value.
Throughout this article I am speaking of
"Archival" and "Acid Free" materials to use with your
PDs. I have gotten most of my storage and display materials from Light
Impressions catalog which is an education in itself, whether you buy
anything or not. But once you study one, you will find several things you
will need for your collection. Archival means that it has no acid or
chemicals which can damage your valuable paper goods. Acid from other
materials (paper, wood) and from the air itself (various pollutants) is what
kills paper and causes it to become brittle and break. They even carry a
spray to stop the acidification process. It's very expensive but worth it to
use on very old and fragile paper dolls. It's wise to encapsulate fragile
pieces after using the spray. You place the prints or the cut-out pieces on
archival paper or board, then seal them under a sheet of clear mylar
polyester film, stuck all around the edges with ATG tape, which is double
sticky adhesive applied by a special roller. I have encapsulated many of my
hand-painted antique fashion plates this way. Light Impressions has some
tape on a roll for hand application. Order your LIGHT IMPRESSIONS free
catalog by calling 1-800-828-5539.
KEEP YOUR COLLECTION LOOKING
As with your bodies, you want
to slow the aging process. The previous list of damage methods age paper
dolls more rapidly than necessary. So what to do if damage has already
occurred? If there a way to reverse the damage? Yes, in some instances, and
to some degree.
Unroll the Rolls
A large PD print has
been rolled and does not want to flatten easily. Paper has a memory and
knows its original form ... flat. By adding a bit of humidity a tightly
rolled print can unroll gradually on its own., Do not attempt to force open.
Surface inks may crack or pop. Use two new or very clean plastic trash cans,
one large, one smaller. Put about an inch or less of water in the big can.
Place the rolled print in the smaller, dry can. Put the small can inside the
larger can and put a lid on it. The moisture will help the print gradually
relax as it rehydrates. When some uncurling occurs, in a day or so, remove
from the can and place on a sheet of white paper laid over newsprint, Lay
clean sheets on top of print and put evenly distributed heavy books on top.
Let sit for a day or two, then remove nice flat print.
Those nasty little U or V shaped marks on books and prints
are some of the most irritating insults to paper dolls and the most
preventable. Try this with your telephone book: Hold it in the palm of your
left hand and thumb through it. See those fingers underneath and the thumb
pushing against them? Look at the back of the book where the U or V has
formed. There will be a crinch in the inks and breakdown of the smoothness
of the paper at the small of the dent. Not what you want to see on your
When you thumb through a PD book, hold it in the flat of your
hand. Turn the pages one by one. When you lift a print, use two hands, or at
least several fingers under the back before lifting. If its a large print,
use your whole arm to lift. Bad habits and lack of knowledge can be
corrected. But change is hard. I have seen historians flipping carelessly
through my hundred-plus year-old fashion plates! Its hard to change others,
but you can be aware of and change your own handling habits.
You can disguise dings in dark areas by dabbing
matching watercolor into the cracks with the tip of a fine brush. If you are
not an artist or good at mixing and matching colors, ask an expert to help
you. Mix a shade lighter than you think you need, as paint often dries
darker. You can always darken by adding another layer of color.
Boxing for Beauty
When storing in boxes or in drawers, use
acid-free materials Place acid-free tissue between each PD when stacking. If
using a wooden drawer, seal with white acrylic paint, then line with acid
free paper. If you must use cardboard boxes, line them first with mylar,
then stack with acid-free papers.
Filing for the Future
If you store PDs in a file cabinet, use hanging files lined with archival
paper, or use file folders made of archival paper. Do not pack too tightly
to cause intense pressure on inks, or too loosely so PDs bend.
When framing PD prints, always use a mat to
keep art from touching the glass. A mat leaves an air pocket so paper can
breath. It takes in and lets out humidity with the seasons. If against
glass, paper will buckle and mildew can grow in the gaps.
use archival materials -- acid free mats, backing papers and boards. You can
even buy UV filtered acrylic in place of glass.
Keep art from
direct or reflected sunlight and out of florescent light. Use full spectrum
lights with no ultra violet waves, to show your really valuable collection.
You can buy UV shields for your florescent lights. Its good for your art and
good for you.
Scrap Books and Binders
Polypropylene sheet protectors are inexpensive to display prints and sets in
binders. It is best to use acid-free paper backing before slipping PDs into
sleeve. Use large soft brush to be sure PD is free of dust which can scratch
and become embedded in the paper.
In acid-free paged scrap books,
use clear mounting corners or plastic mounting strips by 3M Corp. Do not use
corners on fragile old papers as they have a tendency to crack and break
with pressure. If you must glue anything down, use a non-acidic glue stick
such as UHU, Scotch or Dennison.
Ephemera storage bags of
polypropylene come in all sizes, and are a nice way to store and show PDs.
Mounting pages of 100% cotton with polypropylene sheets fitted over them are
a safe and beautiful way to show your PDs in ring binders of several
Some well-played-with PDs are marked
with pencil or crayon. Much of this can be safely removed without lifting
the inks and ruining the color. White kneadable rubber erasers do a good
If tiny critters and molds have infested
your PDs or books, you can kill them in the microwave. (Check for tiny
pinholes in the paper -- a sign of insect infestation which could spread.)
Lay book or cut sets on the clean bottom of microwave. Put an open small
dish of water in with it to add some humidity to the air if the paper is
extremely dry. Set on high for 30 seconds. Stop and feel the surface of
paper. You want it hot, but not too hot to touch. Beware of scorching --
this is not good.
Before microwaving mildewed
papers, first brush off as much as you can. Then with a clean, wrung out,
damp cloth gently brush away the remainder on outside surfaces and inner
covers. Microwave as above, but without the dish of water. Set out in
well-ventilated area to dry, turning pages from time to time. Make sure
paper is thoroughly dry before storing again.
Judy Johnson is a founding member
of the Original Paper Doll Artists Guild, writes for several national magazines
and is a paper doll artist whose books have been published by Dover and B.
Shackman. She is also the primary artist for Magicloth Paper Dolls. For a
catalog of her paper dolls and paper goodies, send $3 to: Judy's Place, P.O. Box
216, Skandia, MI 49885, or visit her papergoodies website.