- This barkcloth was included as part of Conservation in Focus exhibition (Sept 2008 Room 3), where conservators worked in open gallery. Surface cleaning and some humidification was carried out there. Conservation was completed in Orsman Road studio.
The barkcloth was initially vacuum cleaned on front and back surfaces, using low powered vacuum suction and soft brushes. It was then further cleaned using chemical sponge, which removed much dirt. Splashes of bird droppings were swab cleaned, using cotton wool slightly moistened in deionised water.
The whole piece was humidified, using dampened cotton cloths and Goretex placed beneath the barkcloth. It responded to moisture quickly, but repeat humidification was necessary in order to reduce the strong fold lines. Localised humidification was also carried out to reshape some of the cut zigzag edging. Strong folds and creases were removed but remain visible. The piece remains fairly distorted, cockled and undulating with 'wavy' edges.
Following humidification, the barkcloth was turned face down in order to assess the overall structural condition, and a Melinex tracing was made to assist in treatment, marking all splits, small holes, punctures and weak areas.
It was felt that the whole piece was more structurally vulnerable than at first apparent. The spread of splits and small holes was concentrated most closely along the fold lines, but also in other areas across the whole. Areas of the barkcloth were also weak and thin due to its laminated structure, in particular in one corner where it was quite 'lacy', and a section behind the European female figure.
It was decided to apply a partial support lining with Japanese paper and starch paste adhesive. Initially small infill patches were applied using Japanese tengujo paper coloured shades of brown using acrylic paints much diluted in water, to match the front face of the barkcloth. These patches were primarily cosmetic visual infill, and were cut (water-torn) quite small only extending a few mm around area of loss. Because of the number and extent of the holes, (rather than their size), it was felt desirable to colour the support (to avoid a 'spotty' appearance on completion), but because the acrylic paint can alter the character of the Japanese paper and may affect the adhesion to the barkcloth, and also because the colour suitable for the front of the barkcloth was not really suitable for the back of the object, it was felt undesirable to use coloured paper for the whole support lining. The infill patches were applied using arrowroot starch and sodium alginate paste (9g: 1g: 100mls water, cooked in microwave 1 minute). The paste was undiluted further, but spread very thinly out on the patch prior to locating it in position with tweezers and tamping down with brush. The main support patches were then applied after this, using uncoloured tengujo paper. A 22cm wide support strip was applied vertically at centre of piece, backing one of the main fold lines and a major area of weakness. Further horizontal strips (8cm wide) were applied running right across the piece supporting the other fold lines. Two further large patches were applied, one behind the section depicting European lady, and one corner. The support patches are clearly documented in photographs. The method of applying the main support patches was as follows. The barkcloth was locally humidified using strips of Goretex for approximately 30 minutes prior to applying. The paper was water torn to shape, placed on Vilene, misted with deionised water to dampen prior to application of the paste. The same arrowroot starch and sodium alginate paste was used again, this time diluted after cooking 50:50 paste : deionised water. The choice of adhesive was made after having tried other combinations of wheat starch and more dilute concentrates on samples of more fibrous barkcloth from study collection. Arrowroot paste was felt to be more flexible than the wheat starch; although needed to be at 50:50 dilution in order to achieve good bond; wheat starch was perhaps better bond but felt stiffer, and got the barkcloth much wetter, which was not felt to be desirable because only applying in patches rather than complete support, and there might be risk of causing water marks and staining. The paste was applied in cross hatch brush strokes using soft paste brushes, and then the paper was lifted on a bamboo skewer in order to layit in position on the barkcloth, before tamping into place with suitable heavy brush to achieve good physical contact and adhesion. Sections of paper were joined with couple of mm overlap. Where areas of damage were not covered by these main patches, smaller patches were applied.
Once support was applied and dry, the barkcloth was turned face up, and checked over. Because of the laminar structure of barkcloth, there were some areas not caught by support applied from back, and some small repairs were carried out from the front to secure lifting sections, with adhesive applied directly on fine brushes (both arrowroot starch and also 20% Klucel G in IMS). The support paper was cut away from edges as necessary.
Storage, preparation for transport:
Constructed padded roller to help give cushioning and prevent creasing and pleating when rolling the naturally undulating barkcloth. Jiffy foam sausages to insert in roll.
Agreed that is to be displayed in full on angled fabric covered board.