I have come to dislike the term paper conservator. So much more is involved. Of course one must have an understanding of the components and the chemistry of paper in order to proceed successfully with a treatment. However, there is ink and watercolor and graphite and a whole gamut of graphic materials to be conserved as well. There are platemarks and blind marks and underdrawings which may require consideration. There is the art object as an aesthetic entity which at the end of the treatment must be integrated and please the eye. Finally there is the artistic intent and cultural context which comes with an object whether it is fifty or hundreds of years old. One would be fortunate if paper were the only consideration. The task would be so much simpler.

When choosing treatment options my inclination is to start first with that which is least intrusive. One watches the piece as it responds to the procedure and the conservator is informed as to the limitations and variables present in the object. Move slowly, observe, then move slowly again.

Art is created in a studio and that seems like a good place for it to be conserved. Modern analytical equipment and techniques have provided many fascinating insights into the structures and materials of artwork. Binocular magnification is a major blessing. However, in the end it is the eye and the judgment and the skill in the hand which are most important. Clever apparatus and powerful reagents are of little use when misapplied or remove evidence of use or intention. My training and subsequent research have resulted in a tendency to stress connoisseurship, theory and traditional approaches and to move slowly in regard to adopting the latest technological innovation. Most treatment procedures have the capacity to produce both negative and positive results. How these factors are balanced weighs heavily in determining the success of the treatment.

 - Mark Stevenson

Copyright 2008 by Mark Stevenson Paper Conservation. All rights reserved.  Revised: 08/23/08 01:59:29 -0400.