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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Mounting Many Mini Prints

by Kay Horak, Paper Conservation Intern


CAMConservation , paper conservation , cam intern , Léonard Gaultier

My name is Kay Horak, and I am a rising Senior at Smith College studying Art Conservation and Museum Studies. This summer, I had the incredible experience of interning in the museum’s Conservation Department with Conservator of Works on Paper Cecile Mear. During my internship, I worked in a variety of capacities across many departments but would like to highlight just one project I had the opportunity to complete.

Over a couple of weeks, I examined, cleaned, and rehoused a series of sixteenth-century prints by Léonard Gaultier (circa 1561–circa 1630). The museum acquired 49 of his engravings in 2022 depicting various scenes from the New Testament. They arrived at the museum stuffed into two envelopes, so creating improved storage and assessing their condition were two pressing tasks.

I began my work by inspecting each print and writing condition reports for all of them, noting any minor creases, tears, or stains. Each piece was in relatively good condition, but we decided that gentle surface cleaning would be beneficial before they were put into storage. I brushed small vinyl eraser shavings in the margins and on the back of each print to reduce slight grime and prepare them for their new housing.

Due to their small size (each print measures about 3 x 3 inches) and quantity, we needed to create a unique solution for long-term storage. We opted to mount groups of prints together on multiple pieces of standard mat board. The prints were secured with very small paper corners, affixed to the mat boards with equally small pieces of gummed paper tape. I ended up cutting, folding, and taping nearly 100 paper corners that were only ¼-inch wide! These adorable attachments are now providing much-needed personalized housing for these special prints, keeping them safe and secure for years to come.