Repairing Historic Newspapers

Clients often come to me with historic newspapers that are in need of repair. These documents are frequently oversize and extremely fragile due to the nature of newspaper manufacture. Newspapers were intended to be ephemeral in nature, so in many cases these documents have not aged well. My work typically consists of treating them to reduce acidity, wash away soluble acidic degradation and staining products, and to mend the pages to make them whole. The labor involved in this process is greatly affected by the condition of the newspaper, which is impacted by the original quality and relative thickness of the paper, as well as how it was stored. In many instances, these documents have been stored or folded, perhaps with rubber bands or string tied around them, and placed in attics or basements without climate control for many years. In some cases, they have been exposed to sunlight for long periods of time, or have suffered staining from water damage. Regardless, much benefit can result from conservation treatment. Washing and stain reduction reveal the amount of yellowing materials many times present in the papers. For example, see the image below of a newspaper undergoing washing treatment. You can see that the solution it is bathing in has become extremely yellow, due to the degradation products washing out of the paper itself.

Soluble acidic degradation products washing out of a newspaper as it is bathed.

The process of washing the newspaper typically dramatically brightens the appearance of the paper for this very reason. The paper can also be treated to reduce its acidity and create an alkaline reserve within it, which will prevent further embrittlement and help ensure the longevity of the newspaper. Careful testing is required prior to treatment to help prevent bleeding of inks and determine the appropriate solution required to effectively treat the newspaper. After washing, stain reduction and alkalization, the pages can then be mended with archival tissue and made whole again. At this point, the newspaper can now be safely viewed and will last for many more years to come.

If you would like to learn more, feel free to visit the Contact form on my website and submit and inquiry. I look forward to helping you preserve your historic newspapers.

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