Art conservators have a lexicon to describe the damages and the condition of artwork. Many of the terms are used on a conservation treatment record, a report which documents conservation. A treatment record will describe damage and give details of the condition of an artwork prior to conservation. It also specifies what procedures and materials were used for conservation. But, conservation treatment vernacular is used by more than conservators. Galleries and dealers rely on these terms when buying or selling artwork. Auction catalogs and internet sites use these terms for detailed descriptions of artworks as well as books and ephemera. Anyone wishing to buy, sell or trade art may profit from understanding these terms. Although there is some overlap between textiles, paintings and works of art on paper, the following terms are specific to paper.
1. Abraded – Loss of media and/or paper fibers caused by friction.
2. Accretions – Opaque substance on top of support paper but not impregnating the paper fibers.
3. Acid migration – The transfer of acid from an acidic material to a less acidic material. This may occur directly, when two materials are in contact.
4. Acid – A substance with a pH below 7.0 Acids can weaken cellulose in paper, board and cloth. Acids may be introduced in the manufacture of paper and may be left within intentionally (as in certain sizings) or incidentally. Acids may also be introduced by migration from other materials or from atmospheric pollution. See also pH and acid migration.
5. Acid-free – Materials with a pH of 7.0 or higher. However free of acid a paper or board may be immediately after manufacture, over time the presence of residual chlorine from bleaching, aluminum sulfate from sizing, or pollutants in the atmosphere may lead to the formation of acid unless the paper has been buffered.
6. Adhesive Residue – Glue, paste or pressure sensitive tape residue.
7. Alkaline – Substances with a pH over 7.0. They may be added to materials to neutralize acids or as a buffer for the purpose of counteracting acids forming in the future. A buffer may be added during manufacture of during de-acidification. The most common buffers are magnesium carbonate and calcium carbonate.
8. Alkalinization or De-acidification – A chemical treatment that neutralizes acid in paper and deposits an alkaline buffer to counteract future acid attack.
9. Archival – A non-technical term that suggests that a product is permanent or chemically stable. The term is not quantifiable; no standards exist that describe how long an "archival" material will last.
10. Bleaching – De-coloration of a stain which may temporarily enhance the appearance of the support. A restoration treatment which is not a reversible.
11. Buckling – Soft random distortions of the support.
12. Buffer – See Alkaline.
13. Cockling – A soft waving or rippling of the support.
14. Crease – A line of broken paper fibers, the residue of a fold.
15. Cut – Sharp edged linear break in support paper.
16. Dimple – A soft convex/concave distortion caused by differential expansion.
17. Discoloration – Alteration of color or darkening of paper tone.
18. Dog Ear – An edge or corner with multiple folds and creases.
19. Dry Cleaning or Surface Cleaning – Removal of accretions by mechanical means.
20. Faded – Loss of color.
21. Fiber Content – A statement of the types and percentages of fibers used in the manufacture of a paper, board or cloth. Important because the quality of the fiber significantly affects both the durability and chemical stability of the material.
22. Fold – A turn in the support where the front or back makes contact with itself.
23. Foxing – Yellow/brown circular staining of paper.
24. Fugitive – Unstable media or color.
25. Hole or Puncture – A break without paper loss.
26. Inherent Vice – A material or method of construction in an art object that causes or aids deterioration of the object.
27. Light Stain or Light Burn – Darkening or bleaching of support from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet and/or heat from sun or artificial light.
28. Lignin – A component of the cell wall of plants. It is largely responsible for the strength and rigidity of many plants but its presence in paper and board contributes to chemical degradation.
29. Loss – Missing support.
30. Mat Stain or Mat Burn – Darkening of support caused by contact with acidic vapors of wood pulp mat board.
31. Neutral – Having a pH of 7; neither acid or alkaline.
32. Permanence – Ability of a material to resist chemical deterioration.
33. pH – A measure of acidity or alkalinity. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14, and each number indicates a ten-fold differential. Seven is pH neutral; numbers below 7 are acid with 1 being the most acidic. Numbers above 7 are alkaline, with 14 being most alkali. Paper with a pH below 5 is considered highly acidic.
34. Preservation – Activities associated with maintaining materials for use, either in their original form or in some other format. Preservation is considered a broader term than conservation.
35. Reversibility – Ability to undo a process or treatment with no change to the object. Reversibility is an important goal of conservation which must be balanced with other treatment goals and options.
36. Secondary Support – Mounting support, stretcher, backing or backboard.
37. Shell Mark – Small semi-circular crease usually caused by handling.
38. Sizing – Chemicals added to paper and board that make it less absorbent, so that wet media will not bleed. Acidic sizings can be harmful and cause paper to deteriorate.
39. Skinning – An abrasion where a thin layer of the paper surface has been removed.
40. Soiling – A greasy or sooty discoloration that penetrate the paper fibers.
41. Split – Soft edged break in the center of support.
42. Stain Reduction – Removal of one or more components which contribute to making a stain.
43. Stain – Color change within paper fibers.
44. Support – A sheet of paper with an image.
45. Tear – Soft edged break in support paper.
Laura Stirton Aust is a conservator at, ARTcare, Inc.