Duvy Argandoña, Conservation Assistant, holds up the silkscreen poster after receiving preservation treatment.
Guest post by Scott Reinke, Preservation Administrator
EDITOR’S NOTE: Antonio Fernández Reboiro (b. 1935) is a renowned Cuban graphic artist best known for the film posters he designed for ICAIC (Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográficos, or Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industry). Created in 1959, ICAIC was charged with producing posters for all films made in Cuba and for foreign films shown in Cuba.
Reboiro, as he is best known, was born the son of Spanish immigrants in Nuevitas, Cuba in 1935. He studied architecture and design at the University of Havana and from 1964 worked as a poster designer for ICAIC. In 1975, he won the Grand Prix at the Poster Expo at the Cannes International Film Festival. Since 1982 he has lived in Spain, where he continues to work as a graphic artist in various media.
In 2004, we received from Dr. Samuel Yelin of Miami Beach a generous donation of 91 silkscreen posters, 91 offset posters, three giclée prints, and magazines, pamphlets, and other works designed by Reboiro. Dr. Yelin gave these posters in memory of Saúl Yelin, who established ICAIC’s Film Poster section in 1964.
The 91 silkscreen posters are of special interest as they represent the bulk of Reboiro’s production for ICAIC and include one poster by Eduardo Muñoz Bachs (1937-2001). They also presented us with the largest preservation challenge. When our Library established a preservation laboratory in 2010, we brought the Reboiro posters to the attention of our colleagues Scott Reinke, Preservation Administrator, and Duvy Argandoña, Conservation Assistant. What follows is a description of the work they undertook to repair and better preserve this beautiful and engaging collection of posters.
CHC’s collection of Reboiro posters was selected as the first major project for the new conservation lab after it was noted that damage was likely to occur to this important collection.
The materials were transferred to the conservation lab. The Conservation Assistant, Duvy Argandoña sorted the posters according to the type of damage that was present. This created two work flows: 1) 70 posters that were not damaged were deacidified and encapsulated; 2) the 21 posters that were damaged went through the process outlined in this posting.
The posters were printed on low quality bagasse, a sugar cane based paper that has become acidic with age. The thick layer of pigment from the silk screening process increased the brittleness and this resulted in tears and loses to some of the posters. Previous intervention using tape saved some of the pieces, but added another layer of difficulty to the treatment.
Each damaged poster was reviewed by Ms. Argandoña and decisions were made about the course of treatment. Tape carriers were removed using a heated Teflon spatula and stainless steel spatula. The remaining adhesive was removed using an adhesive pickup square originally used for rubber cement, but is useful for the mechanical removal of many adhesives. This produced excellent results and no solvents were needed.
Once the tape was removed, the tears were mended using wheat starch paste. Overlapping tears were carefully aligned and paste was applied directly to the tears. These mends were re-enforced with toned Kizukishi Japanese paper applied to the back of the poster. Pieces that were detached from the poster when the tape was removed, or were found in the original storage folders, were re-attached using the same method of mending. After paste is applied, the mends are weighted using Hollytex and blotter until the mend dries.
After the mending is completed, the posters were deacidified using the Book Keeper Spray System. This system uses compressed air to spray magnesium oxide in a non-aqueous suspension. The magnesium oxide neutralizes the acid in the paper and raises the pH to help neutralize future acids. Testing has shown that the useable life of a piece of paper can be extended 3 to 4 times through this process. The reason acid builds up in paper is more technical, but it is basically the result of residual chemicals from the papermaking process and/or pollution in the air reacting with water to damage the cellulose matrix of the paper. Only the back of the posters were sprayed to ensure penetration into the paper.
Using the ultrasonic welder produced by Bill Minter, each of the posters was encapsulated. Encapsulation joins two sheets of polyester film around the perimeter of an item. Ultrasonic welding is a safe way to bond the polyester since it uses high frequency waves, 40,000 cycles per second, to join the sheets and produces almost no heat during the process. This structure offers support and protection for the item when it is being removed from storage or is handled by a patron. Like many of the treatments performed in conservation, this is a reversible process, and the welds can be cut and the item removed unaltered. Before the final weld is made a slip of buffered paper is placed inside indicating the collection, whether the item inside was deacidified or not, and when the encapsulation was performed. This provides future conservators with some information about the item.
The final step in the process is trimming off the excess polyester film using a board shear and rounding the corners with a corner rounder. This step provides a finished and consistent look to the items before they are returned to storage and future patron use.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.