The National Archives’ collection contains the Baltic-German artist Eveline von Maydell’s fond with about 1000 detail-rich scissor-cuts in it. In 2014 the National Archives and the Estonian Art Museum arranged a joint exhibition titled Eveline von Maydell. The Black-and-White World where about 200 scissor-cuts were displayed.
The preparatory work of the exhibition embraced the conservation of the collection and making storing wraps for the items. Above all, the fragility of the objects had to be kept in mind throughout the conservation process. The special skills and talent of the artist is in these pieces expressed in her minute details that would disappear forever if treated carelessly or applying unsuitable methods. And these were just the minute details that had been damaged most – being either wrinkled, grated or broken loose. Thus the main implements on the conservator’s table were the magnifier, needle, fine tweezers and brushes that helped to smooth the details millimetre by millimetre and then fix them on the base.
The glue was wheat-meal paste mixed with methylcellulose that had to be carried on the contact surfaces with a fine brush in minimum doses. What made the work complicated was that the black and matte scissor-cut was slightly sensitive to water and mechanical damages. The glue had been well chosen as it had a gelatinous consistence and was viscous, dried quickly and did not need long-time pressure. The artist herself had glued her silhouettes on the base with a single drop of glue only. Taking this into consideration, the conservators fixed only the most minute or most-damaged details.
High quality, archive-safe Hahnemühle’s cardboard (300 and 400 g/square m) was used for the double wraps. The slip-sheets had to be slightly transparent and gently fix the scissor-cut. In order to protect the partially or totally loose fine scissor-cuts from further damages the surrounding material was provided with a micalent paper cover that could be easily folded onto the back for viewing or for display.
Work on Eveline Adelheid von Maydell’s scissor-cut collection was a time-consuming, but instructive assignment that offered us much beauty and satisfaction. The National Archives are really proud of having this magnificent collection to keep and to care for and will continue doing their best to continue doing it.