Backing, wrapping, encapsulation

Written by fine art collection manager Jeana Dallape

Behind every artifact exhibited at the museum, there is a team of people who helped get it there. Famous people have entourages to make them look effortlessly perfect in public, but in museums, it’s the famous (and not so famous) artifacts that have the entourages. The famous Lincoln artifacts in our premiere exhibit of 2010, With Charity for All, are no different.

Jeana Dallape works with photographs from the LFFC.

Jeana Dallape works with photographs from the LFFC.

There are two of us (Jeana Dallape and Gaby Kienitz) who have been working for the past few months in conservation preparing the artifacts for their big debut here at the museum. With Charity for All contains more than 200 artifacts from the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, the majority of which are paper-based artifacts, such as broadsides, photographs, stereocards, sheet music and period lithographs. The methods we use to prepare artifacts for exhibition have to be reversible and non-damaging. We don’t use any method that might leave holes, or a residue or cause a stain. This exhibit will employ three types of mounts for the paper artifacts: backing and wrapping, encapsulation and framing.

Backing and wrapping and encapsulation are very similar but are used in different situations. Backing and wrapping an artifact involves cutting an acid-free backing board a little larger than the piece, then wrapping the whole package with a thin polyester film, which is secured to the backing board with archival double sided tape. This is used mainly for thicker paper artifacts.

Conservator Gaby Kienitz works with items from the LFFC.

Conservator Gaby Kienitz works with items from the LFFC.

Encapsulation uses a sheet of the polyester film for the front and another for the back. We have a special machine that fuses the polyester sheets together at the edges without affecting the fragile paper object between the layers. Then an acid-free backing board is cut just slightly larger than the artifact, to which the artifact is safely secured

When matting and framing museum pieces, we use an acid-free rag board and UV blocking acrylic sheeting in the frame to protect the artwork.  The Lincoln collection features several types of artifacts that will be framed, including letters to and from Abraham Lincoln, political cartoons and lithographs large and small.

The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection was given to the State of Indiana in December 2008 by the Lincoln Financial Foundation. The Indiana State Museum is home to the historic objects and art while most of the books, documents and photographs reside at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne.

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