Delaware Public Media

Winterthur-UD students restore Italian map

May 11, 2018

Three Winterthur-University of Delaware graduate fellows are working to restore a historic map from the University's collection.

A graduate fellow lifts a piece of the map using a sheet of batting.
Credit Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

 The map of Hadrian’s Villa by Piranesi the younger dates back to the late 18th or early 19th century.

“It’s a gorgeous Italian baroque print, it’s huge, it’s in 6 oversized leaves, and we have three students working collaboratively because it’s such a challenging project in terms of size and the treatment steps,” said Joan Irving, paper conservator and assistant professor in the Winterthur-UD Program in Art Conservation.

A stain running through its center and small tears around the edges currently prevent the map from being exhibited. But the students hope restoration will allow it to be viewed publicly one day.

Treatment steps include gently rubbing the map with shredded erasers to remove surface dirt, soaking it in a chemical bath with carefully calibrated acidity, and patching tears with a special paper mixture.

Used eraser shavings (grey) compared to unused eraser shavings (white) shows how much surface dirt the technique removes. The brown stain pictured runs through the whole map.
Credit Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

Emily Farek, one of the graduate fellows, says conservation ensures people get a chance to see the etchings of this second century Roman emperor’s vacation complex.

“They would be fine if we didn’t treat them, but they would probably spend their life in storage,” she said.

Instead, she says the door is now open for UD to exhibit the map someday.   

Graduate Fellow Victoria Wong says documenting the restoration process is important.

“I think it also adds to its value,” said Wong.

Liquid from the first round of soaking (right) compared to the second round of soaking (left) show degradation products removed from the map. Both liquids started out clear.
Credit Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

  According to University officials, the map was found in storage during a renovation of Old College in 1982.

Delaware Public Media' s arts coverage is made possible, in part, by support from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.