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Thread: Mat conservation for a vintage Laura Gilpin print ??

  1. #1

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    Mat conservation for a vintage Laura Gilpin print ??

    I recently found a 1940 print of my uncle by Laura Gilpin in the attic. The print was not stored under ideal conditions. Print may be platinum - about 8 inch by 9 inch. It is in perfect condition. The cardboard mat is about 14 inches and 18 inches. She signed the mat in pencil so I want to perserve it.

    As you can see on one of the attached, the vertical edeges of the mat are warped - perhas 1/64 th of an inch. So it is not a great warp but it is visible since it does not lie flat on the photo. The horizontal edges of the mat are perfectly flat.

    Does anyone have suggestions for flattening the mat? Can it just put the mat in a hot press and then turn off the heat and let it cool for a couple of hours?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails img0001.jpg   img0000.jpg  

  2. #2
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Mat conservation for a vintage Laura Gilpin print ??

    That could work. Close the mount press for a minute or so, then open the press -- do this a few times to drive out the moisture.

    Another possibility is cutting another window on 4 ply matboard, with the window big enough to include the signature.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  3. #3
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Mat conservation for a vintage Laura Gilpin print ??

    Oh my. Congratulations on the find. But you've got a dilemma. The overmat might not be of the best sort for sake of the paper on which the print itself is made; it would have to be tested for acidity. If there is no discoloration on the edges of the print itself, it might not be an issue. But because Laura's signature is on the mat itself, it becomes important to the image itself, as you have noted. Your idea about a press is not bad, if the heat is modest; but you might not need any heat all all, just a good flat weight like a heavy piece of sheet glass for awhile.

  4. #4

    Re: Mat conservation for a vintage Laura Gilpin print ??

    As a first step, I would try to find someone with professional training and experience in the area of art conservation and restoration who can advise you on the best way to proceed. If you encounter difficulty there, you might then try contacting Martha Sandweiss at Princeton University - she was Curator of Photography at the Amon White Museum in Fort Worth which has a collection of Gilpin prints, and in that capacity she authored a beautifully-illustrated book on Laura Gilpin titled "An Enduring Grace," which I am fortunate to have in my library. Dr. Weiss may be able to point you in the right direction. I too have ideas about flattening the mat in incremental steps, but I think the recommendation I offer here is a better beginning than throwing out the method I would use if I were to attempt this on my own. Congratulations and good luck with your discovery. I hope it turns out well.

    N. Riley
    http://normanrileyphotography.com

  5. #5
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Mat conservation for a vintage Laura Gilpin print ??

    That sounds like overkill for a fairly straightforward problem. But that book, Enduring Grace, is one of my favorites.

  6. #6
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Mat conservation for a vintage Laura Gilpin print ??

    Quote Originally Posted by NER View Post
    As a first step, I would try to find someone with professional training and experience in the area of art conservation and restoration who can advise you on the best way to proceed...
    A good idea -- you might find out some interesting information about the print as well. If you have the year when the photograph was made, that will help. If the photographer was consistent in her use of materials during that period of time, you might find out its make-up, as well as the brand of platinum paper used, etc. Knowing its value would be good for insurance purposes.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  7. #7

    Re: Mat conservation for a vintage Laura Gilpin print ??

    I don't view this as a straightforward problem because I don't see this as a straightforward print.

    N. Riley
    http://normanrileyphotography.com

  8. #8
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Mat conservation for a vintage Laura Gilpin print ??

    The point is, is he willing to drop several hundred bucks on a pro conservator for doing something redundant? Just because it's a commercial portrait by Laura doesn't mean the cost benefit ratio is going to be commensurate. But an expert on her might indeed be the one to best adjudicate that specific question. Conserving an old photo like that is fairly easy once one knows the ABC's. Note that I say conserve, and not restore, which is apparently the situation in this case. Normally curators don't do appraisals; it's not their job.

  9. #9

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    Re: Mat conservation for a vintage Laura Gilpin print ??

    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    That could work. Close the mount press for a minute or so, then open the press -- do this a few times to drive out the moisture.

    Another possibility is cutting another window on 4 ply matboard, with the window big enough to include the signature.
    This is the most practical suggestion which has been made. The warping is definitely caused by moisture absorption. It was absorbed over a long period of time,and should be driven out in a like manner.
    The temperature should be modest, certainly not above 200 deg F. let the mat get warm,not hot, open the press for a minute or so, and repeat the process 8-10 times. Then Unplug the press and let it cool overnight. By morning the mat should be flat and relatively dry.

  10. #10
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Mat conservation for a vintage Laura Gilpin print ??

    Hard to say, Jim. The mat might simply reabsorb humidity and end up the same way because the warpage pattern has become rather entrenched by now. It might take a period of time under pressure to get seriously cured. I've done this kind of thing numerous times. It isn't just photographs I've framed. One also has to be careful with press heat if the signature is in an unknown ink. Pencil should be OK.

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