Preserving a Stained Diploma

Repairing and restoring diplomas and certificates is a familiar task in my conservation practice.  Diplomas come in a wide variety of sizes and formats.  They may be made of parchment or paper, and the inks used vary from printing inks to iron gall inks, India ink and even felt tip pen ink.  

When a client brings their family diploma in for treatment, my first objective is to evaluate the inks and paper/parchment substrate to see how well they will respond to treatment.  Performing conservation treatment on a diploma may be as simple as surface cleaning it to reduce grime and debris, and deacidifying it to reduce its acidity (this last treatment is for paper diplomas only).

Above, before & after images of a diploma that required surface cleaning.

If the diploma has suffered water damage, tears or previous tape repairs, the conservation treatment plan may be more complex and involve tape removal, washing to reduce staining & acidic components in the paper, as well as humidifying and flattening.  

I recently completed a project for a client whose grandmother’s diploma had been stored in a basement for many years and had suffered water damage, as well as yellowing due to age and acidic framing materials. This diploma is very significant to my client as she was quite close to her grandmother. The diploma represents a huge achievement, as her grandmother was the first woman in her family to complete a degree in higher education. After reviewing the diploma in detail, I determined that it required washing to reduce the acidity of the paper and the staining in the bottom left corner. It also needed to be humidified and flattened to reduce the bends and distortions in the paper’s surface.

Above, a diploma with hand-drawn calligraphic inks that has suffered water damage.

Care had to be taken to protect the soluble inks during the washing treatment, which involved a series of baths in pH adjusted waters on a thick cotton blotter.

Above, the same diploma after it has been treated to reduce staining and acidic degradation in the paper.

This was a fun and rewarding project. In the end, I was pretty pleased with the results, as the staining was greatly reduced. The diploma is now ready for archival framing and display!

No matter what condition your family diploma is in, I am here to help you preserve it.  Feel free to submit an inquiry via the contact form on my website for a complimentary evaluation and estimate.

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