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Rolled paper documents
August 23, 2017 at 9:24 am #137080
I’ve got a number of paper documents that have been rolled up and stored for an unknown amount of time. I’d like to flatten these out as much as possible – but it has to be done in-house. Does anyone have advice about the best way to proceed? I don’t believe that the paper is particularly brittle, just stubbornly rolled up.
August 23, 2017 at 11:29 am #137081
In my experience, at least with blueprints from the site(s) I was at, the most effective way to flatten them was to put weight on them. I would put a chemically safe barrier between the paper and the source of the weight. I would personally use a large, heavy, flat item (we had no budget for special pressing materials, so I simply used large boards) that is larger than the document on top of the barrier product (acid-free, lignin-free board would be my choice) atop a large desk or tabletop. If that weight isn’t enough, I would put weights on top of the initial weight (think stacking books of the same size).
I hope this was understandable. Honestly though, it would all depend on the nature of the document (its historical and site value, condition, etc.) whether I would do it myself. The more valuable the document, the more likely I’d be to consult a conservator. I’d NEVER use my method on something like the Declaration of Independence. Just be careful, wise, and as always, best of luck!
August 23, 2017 at 2:22 pm #137112
Thank you, Grant! I was strongly considering using weight to flatten them, but I wanted another opinion before I tried anything like that on the objects. I’m going to try to flatten one at a time to see what works best. Thanks!
August 23, 2017 at 2:45 pm #137119
Also, check our webinar, Oversized, Overwhelmed? Caring for Maps and Architectural Drawings in Your Collection https://www.connectingtocollections.org/oversize-overwhelmed/ You’ll find good advice there about flattening rolled paper documents.
August 23, 2017 at 3:49 pm #137121
Thank you, Susan, I’ll definitely check that webinar out!
August 24, 2017 at 8:26 am #137122
Lillian, depending on your work space and the size of the papers, you could also create a small humidification chamber, which is shown in the powerpoint Susan included. Just check any media for water solubility before taking this approach. I would try flattening first, but if they have been rolled for a very long time, that may not be 100% effective!
August 24, 2017 at 1:08 pm #137123
Thank you, Annabelle! Once I clear out some more space to work in, I’ll definitely look into humidifying these documents to get them unrolled.
September 7, 2017 at 5:07 pm #137377
depending on the nature of the paper, flattening may do more damage. I would use humidifying first
September 13, 2017 at 9:22 am #137452
To add another layer to my previous questioning about rolled paper documents, does anyone have any advice about dealing with paper documents that have been laminated? Can I treat those in the same manner – dehumidifying and then using weight to flatten? Or is there another method I need to be using because of the lamination?
September 15, 2017 at 8:32 am #137468
That’s an interesting question. I have experience flattening documents, but have never dealt with anything laminated. Laminated objects can be tricky as the layers can have different rates of expansion.
I’ve contacted one of our Connecting to Collections Care experts and will let you know when I hear back.
September 15, 2017 at 10:47 am #137469
Jen Hunt JohnsonParticipant
I would agree with other’s suggestions for humidification first, if that is possible in your space, and appropriate to your objects. I don’t believe that technique will help you with the laminated documents, but hopefully our experts can offer some other thoughts on that.
If you can’t humidify, and if the paper has some flexibility, you can also try to unroll the documents mechanically, in stages. You can use small weights to restrain one edge, and then gently unroll the object as much as feels comfortable (this may just be a few inches), and place small weighs there to hold it open. Give it some time to relax in this position, and then proceed to unroll further if possible.
Another great tool for this is to use rare earth magnets (available at the hardware store) to restrain the object. This works great if you are trying to lay the material flat inside (or work on top of) a metal flat file or similar drawer. If you use magnets you must use a barrier between them and your object. These can be very strong and you do not want to leave an impression on your object. A few sheets of blotter will help control the pull of the magnet, and protect your object. Test the strength on a sample to determine how thick of a barrier you might want to use. If you try this, I would also recommend choosing magnets that are easy to grasp with your fingers, so avoid the very tiny flat style, which may be challenging to remove.
September 15, 2017 at 11:23 am #137470
Thank you so much, Jen! This is all very helpful advice. And thank you, Laura, I look forward to hearing what the experts have to say!
September 27, 2017 at 1:32 am #137493
I am at the Western Association of Art Conservators Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City this week and brought up your query about laminated documents. The suggestion was made that you try very low heat to see if you and get the lamination material to relax. Try using a heating pad on its lowest setting to make a gentle heat. You don’t want the heating pad to be in direct contact with the document – so you might want to use a container where the document could have room to relax and also be supported above the heat. You want to make sure that you are not adding enough heat to make the lamination material sticky. Once it relaxes (and it might take awhile), you can try any of the suggested flattening methods listed above.
September 27, 2017 at 8:55 am #137494
Thank you, Susan! I appreciate all of the help from you and the others!
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