Image of tape failing and yellowing

What this?

  • A felt-tip pen drawing from the 1980s, drawn on computer paper.

What’s happened?

  • A rubber-based sticky tape has been used to hold these pieces of paper together. The sticky tape has discoloured on ageing, causing the paper to become stained. Sticky tape adhesives can also cause colours to discolour or bleed.

Can the damage be repaired?

  • The tape carrier (the plastic bit) can usually be removed quite easily (as it has been here), but the remaining stain will require solvents and specialist equipment to remove. Treatment can be especially complicated if the stain and the felt-tip pens are soluble in the same solvents.

What could have been used instead?

  • A paper conservator would have used a long-fibred tissue paper and wheat starch paste to join the two pieces together. These materials have been used for a long time and are known to be inert and easily reversible, if necessary. However, it’s not easy to do this kind of repair yourself, as wheat starch paste is quite wet when applied and can cause staining and distortion if not applied properly.
  • Sometimes the least invasive option is to put the damaged item into a storage sleeve or box, so that all the separate pieces can be kept together.
  • If a tear must absolutely be repaired and you can’t make it to a conservator, a gummed tape (moistenable with water) is a better option than an acrylic or self-adhesive tape, as it has a better chance of being reversible later. Use as small and thin a piece as possible and put a paperweight over the repair as it dries.

From AICCM member Alice Cannon

Special Interest Group:
Book and Paper