Recently a client approached us with a collection of 39 etchings that he had great concern over.

Not only did the individual etchings suffer from foxing and acidic contamination, but they were also being contained within two very old and frail portfolios that were barely intact.

The below photograph shows one of the portfolio cloth covers, which offered little to no protection for the etchings inside.

For art collectors, their primary and understandable concern is regarding the condition of their artworks.  How to protect, display and store artworks appropriately for longevity is something that often is put to one side.

In this case, the restoration of the individual etchings was safely and successfully undertaken by our paper conservator with fantastic results.

Below is a selection of the etchings before they were treated.

The etchings had become discoloured and were suffering from foxing. We were able to remove the etching from their inappropriate backing (which had also further discoloured), clean the collection and treat the foxing using suitable solutions.

As you can see in the before and after photographs below, the artworks were vastly improved after treatment and fully stabilised. The contaminants were lifted, inappropriate acidic backings were removed, and the whole look of the artworks became much fresher and healthier.

We showed our client the results after initially proceeding with two etchings, and on seeing the fantastic difference achieved, they decided to proceed with the remaining 37.

As our client had not contemplated how he would come to have the newly restored etchings displayed or stored, we raised this for discussion. We advised that appropriate display and storage for such a collection was vital to ensure they were protected going forward.

As our client wished to have regular access to individual etchings and they would not be publicly exhibited, we advised a solution to have the etchings carefully displayed in a museum-standard archival ring binder box. This type of storage and display solution is suitable for protecting works on paper to conservation standards and is moisture and vermin resistant. In addition, the individual etchings were to be inserted into museum-standard pockets to allow for easy and safe access. Made from chemically inert polyester material, this would provide long-term protection for the etchings against fading, colour loss and yellowing.

As you can see from the photographs below, the archival box was a smart and safe solution for our client’s requirements. It meets the conservation needs of the artworks while also being a practical and functional resource.

It is important to understand how and where artworks will be stored once restoration work is complete, whether on display, in long or short-term storage or elsewhere. Providing relevant advice and storage solutions will further protect artworks and minimise the risk of any future damage or deterioration.

If you have similar works on paper or would like our advice for looking after a large collection of artworks, please contact us for our no-obligation help.