Restoration at the Kunstbibliothek

The Kunstbibliothek (Art Library) has a restoration department to ensure the long-term preservation of its extensive and varied collection. The department’s task of conserving and restoring the library’s holdings is overseen by three qualified conservators who specialise in paper and photography conservation, as well as another member on the department staff. They are supported, when necessary, by commissioned freelance conservators.

The department’s broad range of tasks includes:

  • conservation of the collection,
  • conservational supervision of loans,
  • restoration work associated with the numerous exhibitions of the Kunstbibliothek at the Kulturforum and for the Museum für Fotografie (Museum of Photography),
  • appropriate presentation of exhibits, suited to preserving them,
  • and the storage of Kunstbibliothek holdings using custom-fitted passepartouts, book cradles, etc.

The goal of all such measures is the long-term preservation of the collection objects to safeguard them for future generations. Continuing education and specialist training is ensured through participation in national and international conferences and in-house training on subjects such as “Aerosols in Restoration”, “Mould on Paper” and “Working on the Karibari Drying Wall.” The restoration department is also involved in various internal and external interdisciplinary research projects.

One example of restoration carried out to preserve the collection is the treatment of the severely damaged drawings on transparent paper (vellum) by architect Heinrich Tessenow (1876–1950). In this case each sheet was cleaned both dry and wet, cracks and flaws repaired, the drawing smoothed, and the object mounted in a passepartout for storage.

Modern collection objects, such as the catalogue newspaper Prospect 69 published in 1969 for the Internationaler Vorschau auf die Kunst in den Galerien der Avantgarde (International Preview of Art in the Galleries of the Avant-Garde) shows significant damage due to its poor paper quality. Here the paper was cleaned and tears and flaws repaired. In addition, its wet treatment resulted in a considerable improvement of the paper fleece stability, which can be explained by an increase in the paper’s hydrogen bonds.

Another example is the famous Metropolis poster. This copy, preserved in the Kunstbibliothek’s graphic design collection, is likely the only publicly owned copy of the poster designed by Boris Bilinsky for the 1927 film. Its large-scale dimensions, approximately 224 x 304 cm, made its restoration and conservation a special challenge. Old glues applied decades ago were removed from the poster; the paper was cleaned wet and dry; its cracks and flaws repaired; and the object, which had been previously disassembled into its individual parts, was reassembled and reinforced across its entire reverse side with Japanese paper. For its conservation, it was mounted in a large, specially made frame.

A special focus of the Restoration Department is the evaluation of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s exceptional photographic collections. The goal is to develop a strategy for the optimal storage of the holdings, which comprise over three million photographs. Given the enormous quantity, a fundamental distinction must be made between the restoration of individual objects and preservation measures in the context of a bulk approach. Priority is therefore given measures that improve and stabilise the entire holding’s condition, with emphasis being placed on basic preventative steps, in particular cleaning, protecting and repacking the photographs to avoid progressive damage.