And the Answer Is

I’m sure you’ve all been pondering my question about tape removal.  So, how long does it take a new conservator to remove items taped into eleven books compared to removing eleven centimeters of tape from a nineteenth century blueprint?

The answer is about two hours for each.  It took just under two hours to remove the holding information from the pile of books.  Overall, it was very satisfying.  The job went quickly, and it was hard to tell that there had been any tape in the books when I finished.

I cannot say that the two hours spent removing the tape from the plan was as satisfying.  I don’t have photos of removing that particular piece of tape, but here’s one from another area of the plan.  Even after removing the tape there is a stain, and of course there is also a tear that will have to be repaired.

Why the large difference in productivity?  It’s all about the materials I was dealing with.  Most of the books were relatively new with end sheets made from a high-quality paper.  The plan from 1916 was printed on rather low-quality paper, making it very difficult to lift the tape without lifting the top layer of the paper,  which is referred to as “skinning.”

More importantly, I was dealing with two different types of tape.  The tape in the books was newer and very likely had an acrylic-based adhesive.  Acrylic adhesives don’t tend to discolor, and the adhesive mass does not soak into the paper.  The adhesive on the plan was most likely a rubber-based adhesive.  As these age they start to yellow and the adhesive mass gets very sticky.  It didn’t take me that long to remove the top layer of the tape, what we call the “carrier.”  I spent most of the time removing the adhesive that remained.

As you can see, the taped area was still very sticky after I removed the top layer of the tape.

To remove this stickiness, I cut a small piece off a crepe eraser and used it to gently push the adhesive into little piles which I picked up with tweezers.  It was a slow process that could not be rushed without increasing the risk of tearing the plan further.

If anyone is interested in learning more about tape removal, the article “Pressure-Sensitive Tape and Techniques for Its Removal from Paper”  in the Journal of the American Institute of Conservation provides a nice overview.

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