Collection & Research
Preservation and Maintenance
  • Conservation:

    Mildew-Damaged Printing Master Plate Restoration Project

  • 1. Project Scope and Purpose:

    The focus of the project is on the preservation and restoration of printed paper in the Museum collection. The “Printing Master Plate” artifact in the Museum collection was stored in poor conditions before being obtained by the Museum, so it has become affected over time by mildew, water stains and warping. Despite emergency treatment by Museum staff in controlled environments, very obvious black mildew marks remain. To ensure that cultural artifacts are properly cared to extend their storage life, Assistant Professor Fei-wun Cai from the Graduate Institute of Conservation Cultural Relics at the Tainan National University of the Arts was commissioned to carry out the 6-month “Mildew-Damaged Printing Paper Restoration Project”. Our division also commissioned a team to produce a full-length documentary on the restoration process and the history of printing master plates.
    Conservation of cultural relics is a specialty that has recently been redefined in Taiwan. It is a trans-disciplinary field that requires scientists, historians and restoration technicians work together to accomplish tasks. The “Mildew-Damaged Printing Master Plate Restoration Project” was no exception and it drew on the expertise of experts in different fields. As mildew damage is quite prevalent in Taiwan, experts on biological pests are consulted during the restoration project to determine how the mildew should be removed. Before restoration can begin, technicians must fully understand the history of printing master plates, craftsmanship, materials, factors that can damage cultural relics as well as the appropriateness of repair methods to ensure proper restoration and conservation.

  • 2. Background:

    The Museum's collection of printing master plates and other templates dates from the 1970's. Though it was only produced a few decades ago, it is an example of Taiwan's craft history. The rapid advances in Taiwan's economy and industry is considered a modern economic miracle. A side effect of the rapid development was that many products of the transition period disappeared before any thought was given to their preservation. The paper models collected by the Museum are one such example. People tend to forget about the side products of progress, one of these being the printing master plate. Though it is not the actual machine or lead type, it was a part of the printing process and a corroboration of oral and written records. It is therefore an important and valuable historical artifact well worth preserving. Printing master plates are evidence of advances in movable type. Modern movable type is based on the lead-tin alloy movable type process invented in 1450 by a German named Gutenberg. In a lead movable type, every character is cast in lead. To print a page, the characters were arranged in rows on a letter tray. This particular approach simplified changes and corrections. Its downside was the need to retain the tray for printing. If the workshop had multiple jobs in progress at the same time, it must have a sufficient number of trays on hand. The printing master plate was invented to solve this problem. Once the movable type was set, it was first printed on strong and tough paper. The paper plate was then used to cast the lead plate. When the master printing plate was complete, the movable type can be reused.
    The history of master printing plates in Taiwan can be divided into several different stages. Master printing plates were used by newspapers in the 1930's, though it was mainly used by printing workshops between the 1950's ~ 1970's. While advances in movable type meant that this method was abandoned by Taiwanese movable type printers after just 20 years, the method lived on for a another decade due to Japanese printing requirements in the 1970's. The Museum's collection is a representative of this particular era.

  • 3. Project Methodology and Procedure:

    Literature:Overseas articles on master printing plates, their history, as well as methods of treating mildew damages were collected and reviewed.
    Material Analysis:The master printing plates were examined under the microscope and samples of the mildew taken for analysis. By identifying the species of mildew, an appropriate restoration method can be selected.
    Simulated Restoration:The condition of the artifact was simulated and tested with the mildew treatment methods collated from the literature in order to select the best method.
    Restoration Treatment:The restoration process for the master printing pates included inspection, registration, pre-restoration photography, devising the restoration plan, executing the restoration plan, post-restoration photography and restoration treatment report.

  • 4. Expected Results:

    The inspection, indexing and effective management of cultural artifacts.
    Improvements in the methods and materials used for relic conservation to facilitate their long-term storage.
    Restore damaged relics and stabilize their condition for long-term storage.
    Evaluate methods for treating mildew damage and providing information on restoring mildew-damaged artifacts for future reference.
    Establish a professional restoration procedure for the Museum's reference.