Geographicus Antique Maps is proud to offer a full range of conservation services. We can flatten, repair, back, clean, preserve and generally stabilize your treasured antique maps and prints. Good restoration only increases the value of your artwork.

How do I know if my antique map needs conservation work?

If your map needs conservation work it will be obvious. While most paper from the 19th century will benefit from a de-acidification product such as Bookkeeper, the need for more advanced work will usually stand out. Your artwork may have large stains, rips and tears, or disfiguring creases. It may be crumbling or missing sections. It may simply be falling apart. All of these problems can be fixed with careful restoration and conservation work. Some less obvious things to look out for are old framing, repair, or backing work. Early framing and repair work was rarely up to today’s standards and can often cause serious damage to your art. Regarding framing specifically, many early framers tended to mount prints to a highly acidic cardboard backing. This type of work often involved caustic adhesives which will eventually cause the artwork serious damage. If you notice any of these problems, conservation work is usually called for.

What can be done?

The sky is the limit. It mostly depends on how much you want to invest in your artwork and what its value is. Almost any damage can be repaired, but sometimes the cost of restoration is higher than the value of the map itself. Common jobs are:

Flattening: A lot of early paper prints were folded or over time acquired disfiguring creases. This is especially prevalent in regard to folding maps and other prints which were often produced with very thin paper. Using a carefully controlled humidification processes we are able to fully relax the paper fibers and restore the map to its original flattened state. With very thin papers it is usually a good idea to back the map with linen to give it the extra support it needs.

Cleaning: Old paper can be surface cleaned, washed, or subjected to a deeper chemical or natural bleaching process. Bleaching (there are many techniques) is usually required to eliminate disfiguring water stains and often leaves the artwork fully white – as if printed recently. This process is only appropriate for certain types of map. Generally speaking, any cleaning beyond surface cleaning will cause a loss in original color – which will need to be repainted. On the other hand, it is often surprising just how much of the damage some maps sustain is due to simple surface dirt.

Re-backing / Backing: This process removes the original linen backing and applies a new backing – either Japanese paper or linen. This is important for many older sectional maps where the original backing has dried out, cracked, ripped, or frayed. It is also necessary for wall map restoration and is a frequently recommended process for thinner papers.

Rips & Tears: Most rips and tears can easily be repaired with conservator’s tape, Japanese backing materials, or for the most valuable pieces, fiber fills. Missing areas on printed maps can also be repaired with some effort.

Wall Maps: Early school maps are some of the most heavily damaged maps out there. Most all suffer from ailments due to factors inherent in their manufacture process, heavy use, and poor storage: rips, crackling, intense browning (resulting from the varnish applied to the map by the manufacturers) and large water stains are the most common. The process of restoring a 19th century wall map begins with removing both the original linen backing and the browned varnish. Once the varnish is removed we can begin reconstructing the original paper map and repairing missing zones and areas of damage. Once the paper map is stable, we then back the map with linen (akin to the original), edge it, and reattach it to the original rollers. We do not reapply the varnish, which will only cause further degradation. Good restoration can bring most any wall map back from a near disastrous state.

How long does it take?

Because conservation work is highly skilled and often very difficult labor, it usually takes several months to complete.

How much does it cost?

Good conservation work is expensive, just like good art, nontheless, the final product is almost always worth it. Each project is unique and will require a custom quote reached after examining the artwork and consulting with our clients. Please feel free to call our customer service number with any questions.