Before (left) and After (right)

1919 YWCA Lithograph

This large (40” x 28”) poster made of extremely thin, brittle paper was severed completely in half, was riddled with smaller tears, and had ragged edges.

Conservation Spotlight: 1919 YWCA Lithograph

Before (left) and After (right)
Before (left) and After (right)

Occasionally, an object in the Museum Collection appears to be in such bad condition that it is assumed that repair is impossible. Take the featured poster below – a 1919 lithograph promoting the YWCA Division for Foreign Born Women. It was among a very large and spectacular collection of World War I posters donated to the Museum by Mr. Henry C. Holcomb, ironically (or deliberately) during World War II.

This large (40” x 28”) poster made of extremely thin, brittle paper was severed completely in half. It was also dirty, riddled with smaller tears, and had ragged edges. There was also evidence of previous mends with linen patches and glassine tape.

With painstaking effort, paper conservator Louise Baptiste slowly aligned and reattached the two halves using wheat starch paste. This is not an easy feat because the paste contains moisture that swells paper fibers, causing distortion. So each side of a tear must be swollen proportionally when adhered to one another for proper alignment of the image.

As you can see from the after photo, Ms. Baptiste executed the tricky mend flawlessly. Additionally, the poster was surface cleaned, losses were filled, and tears were mended with kozo Japanese paper. A small amount of inpainting was done in areas of image loss. Finally, conservation grade framing was locally done using UV-light blocking glass to protect the ink from fading.

This poster is currently on display in the upper level exhibition The Yanks are Coming!, an exhibition that serves as a tribute to the veterans of World War I.