Summer Internship in Haarlem: Mounting of Prints and Drawings

I've been working as an intern at the Teylers Museum in Haarlem, the Netherlands, for 3 weeks. The museum, which is situated by one of the canals in the centre of Haarlem, is the Netherland's first museum open to the public in the end of the 18th century. Its collection varies from fossils, minerals and scientific instruments to paintings, drawings, prints and coins. The architecture of the museum is also very unique and beautiful. It's remained without any big change for about two centuries.

From the beginning of the internship, I have been working on preparation of a new exhibition starting on 28th September. The prints, drawings and paintings of Raphael and artists who worked around him will be on display. In the last 3 weeks, my main task has been to frame prints and drawings with mount boards, acid-free, archival quality boards.

Once placed in the mount boards, drawings will be displayed as they are in glass showcases. Drawings, which are more fragile than prints, will be put in frames before displayed in glass showcases. There might be other copies of the prints that the museum owns, and the ink used for the prints are quite stable. On the other hand, each drawing is unique and their media, such as chalk or pencil, are easily rubbed off from the surface. That is why two protective layers are in front of drawings.

Mounting itself is a pretty simple work. Prints and drawings were mounted in slightly different manners. Here, I explain the method used for the prints.

First of all, the mount boards need to be cut into big enough size to accommodate the largest print. Then, the width of each margin around the object has to be measured. Based on this measurement, a window is cut with the device shown in the image below.

This is a gigantic tool with a tiny knife (the knife is behind a silver plate with black handles). Its working mechanism is very simple. The measurements of four margins are set at the rulers placed along the edges. The knife moves along the edges and stops at the right corners. Once the knife goes along four edges, now a window with beveled edges is open.

Most of the prints had already been attached on thick papers, but only at two corners. In order not to damage other two corners while we handle the prints, they have to be attached to the thick paper underneath. For this purpose, tiny rectangular pieces of Japanese paper called lipjes, meaning lips in English, are used. (Please don't ask me why they are called lips).

I wish I could have taken much clearer photos of them, but they are too small to capture with my camera... So, I'll try my best to explain how it works.

Methyl cellulose is applied on one side of the lipjes. Then, it is folded into half: side with methyl cellulose is outside. Into the folded lipjes, wax paper cut into L-shape is inserted. And, it is placed under a corner of the print. The L-shape prevent both sides of the lipjes from sticking with each other. Half of the lipjes is attached to the verso of the print and the other half to the thick paper. Now, can you see that a lipjes works like a hinge to hold an object?

With this method, the object does not directly contact with the thick paper underneath, which makes it easier to take off the print from the paper after the exhibition. You can cut a lipjes at the folded crease or even lift it up to remove without any large stress on the print.

After a window mount is hinged with a back board, a print securely attached on a thick paper is positioned at the right place on the board. Each corner is held by a piece of paper folded twice into triangular shape. A corner is inserted into one of the folds and the triangular paper is taped on the mount board.

My supervisor was taught this method by her colleague who works as a photograph conservator. It is good because you don't need to apply any adhesive directly on your object -- no possibility to cause any stain or damage from adhesive. Also, when you need to take off the print from the board, all you'll need is just to cut the tape and open up the corner piece to release the object -- there won't be any stress on the print.

This is the preparation for prints. By now, all the prints are ready for display. They will be carried to the exhibition room next week and will be the first objects open to the public in the Raphael exhibition.

Starting with the prints I mounted, next week will be a displaying work week. I will talk about it later!