Conservation of posters

Posters as shown in 'The Chairman Smiles' were originally meant to be used for a short time and then thrown away to be replaced by other posters. Collectors are doing something fundamentally unnatural, and therefore have to resort to special measures. Storage conditions have to be optimal to prevent deterioration of paper and ink: constant temperature and humidity, absence of light, the use of acid-free packing materials.

But sometimes this is not enough. Posters are often printed on cheap paper that inevitably turns yellow and becomes brittle with age. Another big problem is the damage caused by use: small holes, tears, traces of glue and adhesive tape. Worst of all are inept attempts at conservation, such as backing with inferior material or the use of adhesive tape with aggressive glue that causes discoloration and is extremely difficult to remove.

In such cases, good storage conditions can not prevent the ultimate loss of a poster. Active conservation is necessary: removal of dirt, tape and glue, de-acidification of paper, repair of tears, reinforcing weak parts or backing of the whole poster with so-called Japanese paper. In some cases further restoration can be considered: affixing of missing parts, retouching damaged details. With today's materials and expertise, posters that seem to be beyond hope can be repaired to near perfection. Needless to say this is very time-consuming work for skilled specialists, and therefore expensive.

In 1996, the IISH received a grant from NOG Verzekeringen, a Dutch insurance company, for the conservation of a part of the poster collection. Thanks to this grant, 'The Chairman Smiles' includes some wonderful posters that previously were in a condition that did not allow exhibiting. The IISH would like to thank NOG Verzekeringen for its valuable contribution.