Tape Removal and the Archives War

TSLAC Conservation recently completed a challenging treatment on the House Journals of the Republic of Texas, 1842.  This volume features a rare, contemporaneous account of the Archives War, a colorful incident in Texas history with special significance to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

The volume’s pages have become unusually brown and fragile over time, likely a result of the materials used to make the paper.  Tape has been extensively applied on the many resulting cracks and tears.  This tape has caused further staining. Institutional goals for this treatment were to reduce tape staining only in the Archives War section, leaving other stains and paper issues for another day.  This established three major treatment challenges: 1) removing tape from very fragile paper; 2) working in situ, inside the bound volume; 3) avoiding tidelines and paper discoloration that would create a mismatch with the rest of the book.

Tape and staining on pp 262-263 before treatment.

Tape and staining on pp 262-263 before treatment.

Extensive testing was undertaken to devise a treatment method.  Testing focused on a variety of solvents, solvent mixtures, and application methods.  The final strategy for most of the tape was:

  1. Remove the plastic carrier by applying ethyl acetate with Tek Wipe fabric through the non-taped side of the paper;
  2. Soften the adhesive by applying ethyl acetate with cotton swabs, then gently remove it with a microspatula;
  3. Reduce the staining with ethyl acetate applied with a Fuller’s earth poultice, which slowly wicks discoloration out of the paper; 
  4. Mend with heat-set tissue.
Reducing staining with a Fuller’s earth poultice. Seen here, half the leaf detached after tape removal and had to be mended back in place.

Reducing staining with a Fuller’s earth poultice. Seen here, half the leaf detached after tape removal and had to be mended back in place.

Tek Wipe is a non-woven blend of cellulose and polyester used for cleaning, washing, and drying in conservation treatments.  It is more flexible than traditional blotter, so it follows the contours of the book’s pages and reduces the risk of tears.  Working with solvent in small areas over Tek Wipe minimized tidelines.  Other treatment strategies for occasionally-used tapes included applying water-based gel, heat, and mechanical action.

At last, the tape is gone!

Pp 262-263 after treatment.

Pp 262-263 after treatment.

Tape Removal for a P.O.W. Diary

In preparation for TSLAC’s upcoming food-themed exhibit, “Setting the Texas Table,” TSLAC Conservation worked on a WWII prisoner-of-war camp diary from the Robert P. Jones collection.  Food is a major focus of the diary, which features details of camp recipes and food aid packages from the American Red Cross.

The diary consists of a slim composition book, machine-sewn through one fold.  The back cover was torn away, leaving loose sewing behind.  Pressure-sensitive tape had been applied across the spine and inside the front cover.  The tape had begun to discolor and shrink with age, leaving sticky spots exposed at its edges.

Before treatment: tape holds the front cover and sewing in place.

I removed the tape carrier mechanically, with the additional application of heat in areas of soft, delicate paper.  Remaining acrylic-based adhesive was still sticky enough to be removed with a combination of vinyl and crepe erasers.  Residual adhesive discoloration was minimal and left in place. 

During treatment: Heat softens the adhesive to facilitate tape removal over soft paper and sewing thread.

With the tape removed, a new approach was required to stabilize the sewing and loose cover.  Slim hinges of Japanese tissue were adhered with wheat starch paste across the spine and inside the front hinge.  These hinges provided enough structure that no further hitching or sewing was needed.

After treatment: Kitakata Japanese tissue has replaced the exterior tape.

The diary will be on display along with the rest of our “Setting the Texas Table” exhibit in TSLAC’s lobby this fall.