Stabilizing Sign

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    • #132053

      I have a sign that was outside for a few decades. It is painted metal with vinyl type lettering that’s peeling off. I need to stabilize the letters before the sign goes into storage. Right now I’m thinking PVA glue mainly because of the easy reversibility and I know it won’t melt either surface which is my fear with some other adhesives. Does anyone have any suggestions or experiences to share.
      Thanks for the help

    • #132058

      Nikkie, if the sign is an accessioned artifact, it deserves the same care as any other object. Therefore, a thorough analysis of its condition is in order before any sort of conservation treatment is initiated. PVA adhesive may be a reasonable material to use, but you have to consider the materials and their conditions that you are dealing with. It may be just the original adhesive for the vinyl that is giving way, but the vinyl itself it considered to be a material with “inherent vice”, such that it degrades over time. So, the vinyl material may be disintegrating; second, the PVA adhesive may be ineffective at re-sticking the vinyl; or, third, the whole attempt may be unsuccessful, creating a sad mess. Even for simple — and presumably low-value — objects, it is essential for those of us responsible for their care to consider all treatment in a professional way. In this case, perhaps store the sign horizontally until a conservator can give it a complete examination, and offer a treatment proposal.

    • #132057
      Jane E Klinger

      Granted, I am not an object conservator, but in the world of paper and photographic conservation PVA is not considered a reversible adhesive. It is never used on a collection item, although some grades may be used to construct housings. Some of the commercial catalogs have identified PVA adhesive as “reversible” and that it “cleans up with water” but this is only true within a vary limited time period – within minutes. Keep in mind that the purpose of those catalogs are to sell products, so a bit a skepticism is appropriate. I agree wholeheartedly with Bruce. You are dealing with inherent vice, store it flat in a controlled environment, and consult a conservator.

    • #132056

      I appreciate the best case scenario suggestions. I do not have money for a conservator, space for it to be stored flat or time to properly research the long term effects of the interaction between vinyl, adhesive, and paint, keeping in mind I’m assuming it’s vinyl and have no idea what kind of adhesive or paint was used. As many of us are, who turn to this forum as a resource, I’m underfunded, understaffed, underspaced, overstuffed and overworked. I’m more in the business of triage than conservation. My goal is when I get called before the Big Curator in the Sky and am asked to explain my actions to my collection I can hold my head up high and at least be able to say, “I might not have fixed it, but I didn’t make it worse.” That’s the help I’m needing, how to not make it worse, apparently PVA isn’t the answer. What is? Would mechanical stabilization be better?

    • #132055
      Ron Kley

      ‘fraid I can’t subscribe to the doctrine that all accessioned items deserve the same level of curatorial and/or conservation care. That might be true in a perfect world, but in the one we live and work in rational professional judgment should recognize that although a cracked teacup and a Picasso painting might exist in the same collection they do not warrant the same ldevel of care or the same commitment of institutional resources.
      One rational approach to dealing with vinyl letters peeling from a sign might be to photo-document the sign, remove the letters and store them along with the sign, awaiting the day when (if ever) the sign may be wanted for display purposes and the fiscal and/or personnel resources may exist to provide for proper conservation.

    • #132054
      Anna Weiss

      Ms Cooper,
      You’re right that your time/salaried hours are better spent doing something other than researching the interaction between suspected vinyl, metal, and adhesives… those salaried hours alone would probably equal the cost of hiring a professional conservator to do the job right. Not including the cost of a Master’s degree in conservation though 😉

      Now- as a conservator:
      -First of all- I’m glad you brought it inside!
      -Second- My lofty recommendation: contact a museum with a legitimate conservator in your area to (Denver Museum of Art does) to recommend an ethically practicing conservator in the area to come out and give you an estimate for work, then use the number as a fundraising goal at your next event, crowd sourcing website, whatever. You could even prioritize a few “significant” objects clearly deteriorating and raise funds for the group of them. (Like buying in bulk, grouping objects will sometimes cut down on some of overhead costs from the conservator).

      -Third- Like asking a curator to write a book on a historical site for free without ever seeing the site… a recommendation on a treatment from a forum will never be right- and might cause you more harm than good / waste your time / get you a bad review with the curator in the sky.

      In conclusion– If I were you, I’d get a collection of items together, be prepared to pay for at least a quote, and ask the visiting conservator to mechanically stabilize the sign for storage in the meantime, while you raise the funds to get the object(s) treated by them, based on their quote.

      OR- Store it flat right in your exhibit space or board room with a sign above it asking for a donation for the cost of conservation. We all like to hide deterioration, but if the public or board never sees it, they’ll never think it is important.

      And if you must, must, must do something with it; (please don’t glue it) Maybe try some twill tape or plumber’s Teflon tape (neither are actually tape, they’re like inert string) and tie it around stable areas of the sign to “mechanically” hold the letters in place in the meantime. Or a Mylar sleeve maybe…

      Hope this helps; Do message me if you need assistance contacting a conservator in your area.


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