Paper and photographs

We conserve paper artworks in our collection and preserve the images that artists have made on paper

Photograph of an artist roll of tools

© James Deavin

The rate of acquisition for works on paper is high. All four Tate sites have busy programmes of rotating displays.

Our duties

  • Carry out research new and better ways to care for paper. One current line of investigation is anoxic display
  • Preserve works of art on paper that can be easily damaged by handling and by light and air pollution
  • Ration and rotate artworks to avoid excessive exposure to light

Challenges we face

While many artists still use paper in traditional ways, many use it in non-traditional ways. A number of complex contemporary works, such as installations, incorporate paper within them. Paper conservators must be versatile and, be ready to preserve not only the physical object, but also the essence of the artist’s intention for the work.

Even such apparently simple acts as adhering paper to a mount board during framing can result in serious damage if done unthinkingly. At Tate Japanese tissue is used with a minimal amount of starch or methyl cellulose adhesive. Modern adhesives used in commercial framing introduce the possibility of staining the paper in the long term and can in time fail.