Conservation Glossary

Conservators who deal with paper and books have developed a particular set of terminology to describe materials and procedures. Here is a glossary of terms commonly used in conservation projects at MoDA.




scratching or scraping away of the media or paper surface


Accretion matter attached to surface of item (eg biscuit crumb/dead insect stuck on book page)


Acetone colourless aromatic solvent used for removing substances such as adhesives from paper. It is the main ingredient in nail polish remover.
Acid free tissue

lightweight tissue paper


Archival wrapper protective folded sleeve for museum object made from neutral material


Boxboard laminated archival board used to make boxes and wrappers
Brittle loss of flexibility leading to cracking


Calendered paper paper which has been rolled between metal rollers resulting in smooth, sometimes shiney surface


Cartridge paper heavy weight (European) paper made for drawing or writing on


Chalk Mineral-based drawing media


Charcoal black carbon drawing material made from heated wood
Chemical sponge inert latex sponge used for removal of particulate dirt from surface of objects aka: smoke sponge


Coated paper paper with layer of pigment or size applied during manufacture (often magazine paper)


Coloured pencil Artists’ media consisting of combined wax or oil and pigment in stick form, which is drawn onto paper surface with an appearance and consistency similar to lead pencil (ie fairly stable and hard to smudge or blend)


Condition report description of item with details of damage for exhibition, loan, or conservation planning


Condition survey summary description of group of materials used for exhibition, loan or conservation planning


Conserve to protect from physical and chemical damage
Consolidation reintegrate fractured/detached media fragments or particles, usually by using an adhesive


Copy paper semi transparent paper (generally hard beaten to provide paper which enables tracing through)




a line or ridge formed in paper or textile. Usually regarded as damage, whereas a fold would be

deliberate, and often functional (eg:centre fold in a magazine/book leaf)


Crepe eraser small block of coagulated latex with a rippled surface, used in industry for the soles of shoes. The material can be used to remove tacky adhesive substances from the surface of museum objects (primarily residual adhesive from self adhesive tapes)


Dahlia spray fine mist water spray


Deckle edge rough edge of untrimmed hand made paper




to draw out paper fibres to make a feathered edge (often using water to separate fibres)


Disbind to take apart a bound book


Dry cleaning to clean the surface of an object without solvents (using soft brushes, erasers, latex sponge)


Dry media artistic medium that is applied without moisture (ie chalk, pencil, pastel, charcoal)


Dust jacket paper book cover


Environmental control setting best parameters to limit local atmospheric factors that damage MoDA’s collections, such as light, humidity, particulate dirt, temperature.


Esparto grass fibre used to make paper


Fixative sprayed coating for drawing which prevents media from smudging or falling off paper surface


Foredge opening side of a book (may refer to edge of cover boards or pages)


Foxing small brown spots which can appear in aged paper


Fracture split in media layer or paper support


Fraying edges of woven textile which have become loose or worn


Friable crumbly – in the case of materials such as pastel or charcoal, the media particles are not stuck together or to the paper support with a strong binder, and easily become detatched or moved even with static forces.


Gampi tree derived fibre used for making washi


Glass plate negative photographic negative developed on glass support (19th century). In MoDA’s collection these usually comprise a gelatine emulsion with developed out light sensitive silver salts forming a negative image.


Glassein paper highly calendared transluscent paper with glossy sheen used for archival storage of photographs and friable materials


Gouache paint medium similar in appearance and constituency to watercolour with more opacity du to addition of white filler material (usually chalk) and higher proportion of pigment particles.




black/grey carbon & clay mix drawing material often used in pencil form. Often referred to as                                                                 ‘lead’ in pencils, but does not, in fact, contain lead.



Grass paper

wall covering made from (bamboo) grass blades sewn against a (Japanese) paper backing.




coloured band consisting of leather/paper thong wrapped in silk/cotton thread running across top of spine of a book over textblock


Historical damage environmental or physical damage caused to a museum object prior to accessioning (eg: soot from coal fires, light exposure staining, rust staining from paper clips or drawing pins)


India ink aka Chinese ink. Made from water and lampblack (fine soot) in Asia from 3rd century for writing, drawing and painting. Coloured india inks also available, using a range of organic pigments. India ink does not have the same corrosive qualities as iron gall ink.


Interventive conservation conservation involving physical or chemical treatment of museum objects


Iron gall ink ink made from the ball like swellings found on (eg oak) trees in Europe from 4th century into early 20th century. Acidic nature of the ink can degrade paper supports, burning through the paper entirely (this process is accelerated in conditions of raised humidity). Parchment supports are less easily corroded.


Japanese tissue long fibred lightweight paper made from gampi/kozo/mitsumata fibres in the Japanese style. Conservation uses include local repair, lining, hinging and inlaying European and Asian papers.


Jin shofu Japanese wheat starch paste used for lining materials.


Laid paper paper with ridged texture derived from paper making mold used in early European papermaking.


Light degradation damage caused by exposure to (UV) light, includes yellow/brown staining of paper supports, and fading of media.


Lining attaching a backing support paper to repair tears, fractures and losse


Manila buff coloured heavy duty paper historically made from fibres derived from hemp rope
Mechanical damage damage caused by physical handling (tears, creases, finger print transfer of dirt)


Media mark making material used to make image or text (ie paint or drawing materials)


Melinex transparent polyester used to sleeve designs and textile samples


Methyl cellulose


conservation adhesive


Museum board


cream coloured archival standard board for mounting


Preserve To use conservation techniques and materials to prevent damage through aging processes such as light exposure, fluctuations in temperature and humidity and unrestricted access. This can involve re-housing, environmental control, access restrictions, reprographics


Preventive conservation using conservation methods such as re-housing and environmental control to reduce the risk of damage to museum objects


Re-back replace the spine of a damaged book


Recto front of an object




providing protective archival sleeves wrappings or boxes for storage


Restore to return an item to its original state


Selvedge edge of woven fabric finished to prevent fraying
Sizing coating a paper in a protective layer to prevent damage (gelatine is a common si


Sugar paper coarse coloured paper originally used to wrap sugar aka construction paper


Surface dirt particulate dirt on object


Tracing paper transluscent paper aka transparent paper


Tyvek woven polyethelene fabric used for wrapping textile samples


Verso back of object


Washi Japanese paper


Wove paper smooth textured paper


One Reply to “Conservation Glossary”

  1. Great post as always …

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