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Subject: Retaining pressure sensitive tape

Retaining pressure sensitive tape

From: Harry Campbell <campbell.12>
Date: Thursday, February 9, 2006
Nicole Gilroy <nicole.gilroy [at] bodley__ox__ac__uk> writes

>Has anyone worked on an item where pressure sensitive tape was
>applied by the creator, rather than as a repair? I have a manuscript
>containing both modern and late medieval paper, as well as some
>parchment. The manuscript is made up of single leaves hinged
>together with Sellotape into a book format, and each leaf is used to
>mount a manuscript fragment, sometimes with gummed tape but often
>with Sellotape. The tape has become sticky and is dicoloured, as
>well as the 'binding' having broken down. But to remove all of the
>tape would be to interfere with the compiler's intention. Does
>anyone have comments or suggestions on the ethics of this?

The question of retaining original pressure sensitive tapes is an
interesting one, especially in regards to the intended use and
purpose of the artifact.  Visual art, annotated maps, charts,
working drawings, studies, theatrical scene and costume designs
often contain a variety of tapes put there by their
creator--sometime to serve a functional purpose, and occasionally as
an intended visual element.  In the latter case the decision may be
more obvious, that is, to retain the tape and replace the adhesive
if possible (or replace the tape with a stable product that looks
identical or at least very similar).

For artifacts that contain tape--any variety of tape, not just
pressure sensitive--that is annotated, the decision is likewise more
obvious to retain the tape.  However, the decision whether to remove
and stabilize the tape and adhesive, or to allow the tape to remain
with its original adhesive is not always so easy.  If the adhesive
is failing, intervention is called for, but if the tape appears
stable, even if its general type has a history of failure, is it ok
to leave it?

I have recently worked on theatrical designs which contained masking
tape used to adhere flat samples.  The tape was placed very boldly
around the edges of the samples, and even though these working
drawings were intended for use in the scene shop, they are now part
of a special collection of the designer's work.  The decision
reached, in consultation with the curator, was to retain the present
appearance because that is how they originally appeared and had
always been seen--by the scene shop crew, as well as later
researchers.  In fact, the masking tape--which was still strong, but
beginning to stain the underlying surface--was replaced with a
stable paper tape with acrylic adhesive, toned and shaped to
replicate the look of the original.

In another case I recently worked on a map with 56 year old masking
tape used as annotated place-markers.  The adhesive was still doing
its job and there were no other obvious problems, so the decision
was made not to intervene in any way, at least for now.  Both of
these cases illustrate an important aspect of this issue. The visual
appearance is important not just because the creator had a certain
intent, but that the work has always been experienced a particular
way by viewers/users, and it is important to preserve that continuum
of experience--which, in fact, would have been the creator's intent.

The artifact described by Nicole Gilroy sounds like a hand-made book
or album, intended to display the manuscript pages in a sequential
process (like a book).  If the book format was used simply for its
convenience, and not as an integral part of the visual presentation
(I assume this is not an "artist's book"), then the question of the
creator's intent may not come into play.  However, if it must be
considered. I suspect that like many tapes used in book repairs or
for mounting in albums, clear tape was chosen for its
invisibility--so as not to conflict with the important matter.  Now
that it is failing in several ways, including being visually
intrusive, some intervention is necessary.  I doubt if the creator
intended the tape to discolor and fail, or that it was important to
feature tape as part of the presentation.  In fact, probably just
the opposite is more likely.

Harry Campbell
Ohio State University Libraries
1858 Neil Ave.
Columbus, OH 43210

                  Conservation DistList Instance 19:38
                 Distributed: Monday, February 20, 2006
                       Message Id: cdl-19-38-004
Received on Thursday, 9 February, 2006

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