Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle poster before conservation, M. Degueldre, 1943-1944. Museum no. E1980-2004
This poster had many of the problems typical of paper in general and of large format works in particular. It had been rolled and stored for some time. The edges, which are most vulnerable when posters are rolled, were damaged and tatty and there were creases where the roll had been squashed. There were old self-adhesive tape repairs on the back, a large tear in one corner and many smaller tears. Lastly, the paper itself was starting to deteriorate - this is most obvious in top left hand corner, where there is a yellow-brown discoloration.
Charles de Gaulle free France poster
Width 120.6 cm x length 160.6 cm
Museum no. E1980-2004
Translation of French on poster: ‘To renew our France together, we must walk hand in hand.’
Removing tape. Museum no. E1980-2004
The different inks in the poster were tested to make sure that any treatments, such as humidifying or wet cleaning, would not make them run (red and blue inks are often problematic). The poster was humidified to 'relax' the paper and allow it to be laid flat so that conservation work would not cause more damage. Tears and separate pieces were realigned ready for repair, and old self-adhesive residues were carefully removed, as seen here.
The use of a wet blotter to remove degradation products during washing. Museum no. E1980-2004
In this case cleaning involved a process of 'wetting out' and 'blotting off' in order to draw out acidic degradation products and dirt from the paper. This is done whilst the poster is face down, prior to lining. When paper is damp it is at its most vulnerable, so this treatment requires an experienced professional because of the need for good judgement about the degree of wetness, to make sure that whilst degradation products are removed, the inks are not damaged, and perhaps most importantly, to know when to stop.
Here, blotting paper is being used to clean the poster. The blotting paper to the side of the poster has been used to remove excess moisture and at the same time draw out degradation products, which are visible as a slight yellow discoloration.
Smoothing out in preparation for lining.
Museum no. E1980-2004
Preparing for lining
Lining gives support and allows repairs to be done in a single step. The long tear and many minor losses meant that it was better to line the whole poster than carry out a lot of small repairs. Lining may also be necessary depending on how the poster will be displayed or for long term storage. Here, wrinkles and creases are smoothed out in preparation for lining.
Lining – Japanese paper, pasted out with wheat starch, is laid on to the back of the poster. Museum no. E1980
This is the first piece of paper to be laid down for the lining. Lining paper has to be both strong and lightweight, so experience is required to choose the right lining paper for each job. A professional conservator can line without causing any stress and can ensure that the lining can be removed in the future without damaging the poster. Typical materials would be a Japanese paper adhered with a wheat starch paste.
Temporary mount – the poster has been lined and is drying and flattening on the drying board. Museum no. E1980
Poster on drying board
After lining, the poster was allowed to dry completely. It was then rehumidified and temporarily mounted on a drying board. Again, experience is required. If the paper is too wet or too dry, or not evenly humidified, it can tear as it dries. The temporary mount gently and evenly flattens the poster ready for its final mount. It also supports the poster, which helps if infilling of losses and retouching are required, as in this case.
Conservation of poster complete. Museum no. E1980
Poster ready for display
This shows the poster mounted for display. Losses were infilled. This requires a compatible weight of paper that has to be toned to match the original background colour and then fitted into place. Then the infills are retouched to match the original ink. Repairs like these can be invisible or visible. In conservation, it is often considered important to be able to distinguish the original from any later additions. Repairs are often unobtrusive at a normal viewing distance but can be easily identified on close examination.