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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:09

Video transcript

- [Voiceover] A fundamental role of a museum is to care for its collection and preserve it for future generations. European drawings from the 1300s to the late 1800s, or Old Master drawings, are particularly vulnerable. They're on paper and hundreds of years old. Conserving an Old Master drawing is a balancing act. All drawings have their own set of condition issues that need to be assessed individually. Here, a Getty conservator carefully examines a 500-year-old German drawing. She first removes the drawing from its mount, or support. She inspects the drawing, lit from below. This makes it easier to see the marks left by the wires of the paper mold, stains, a watermark, a tear, with a darkened area that shows where it had been previously repaired. And at the corner, the shadow of a piece of paper that had been used to attach the drawing to a mount. Next she examines the drawing under ultraviolet light. The brown spots are called foxing. These are marks left by mold. Finally, she studies the drawing under a microscope. Now the conservator tests the solubility of the ink to ensure it won't bleed during treatment. She places the drawing on a vacuum table, a device that extracts the liquids used in the treatment out of the paper. She uses a small brush to apply an ammoniated water solution to reduce the brown foxing. This solution subtly releases the color of the foxing, which distracts from the appearance of the drawing. She carefully alternates the application of ammoniated water with that of ethanol in order to reduce tide lines, irregular lines or blemishes left behind as the ammoniated water solution dries. Wearing magnifying lenses, she examines tears and prepares them for mending and reinforcement. She takes a piece of Japanese tissue and carefully applies wheat starch paste to mend the tear. Japanese paper has very strong fibers, is chemically neutral, and can easily be identified and removed. She allows the paste to set by putting the drawing between blotters and weighing it down with glass blocks and weights. To complete the conservation treatment, the entire drawing is humidified and then placed under weights with blotters to remove the moisture and flatten it. This process extends over a two-week period, and the blotters are repeatedly replaced to facilitate drying. The goal of conservation isn't to make a drawing look new again. Rather, it's to safely reduce the damage that distracts from the design and bring the sheet closer to the artist's original intent. Evidence of age is still present, but now recedes into the background so that you may focus on the drawing.