Mold-damaged paper showing characteristic foxing and staining
Mold makes its appearance on paper in a myriad of colourful forms. What they all have in common is a need for moisture. Mold spores are omnipresent. This can be in the form of of water vapour (found in humid environments like basements, bathrooms and Jakarta-like climates) or liquid water (as from floods, condensation and poorly trained pets). One of the most common forms of mold is "foxing," the small spots of brown discolouration often seen on artworks and documents which have had long-term exposure to moderately damp environments. Fuzzy molds often sprout between layers of damp papers and mat boards. The nastiest growths from my own point of view, are the coloured and black molds whose hyphae can penetrate deep into the paper support and cause irreversible staining. Mold can be prevented by keeping paper dry (below 65% Relative Humidity), but what should be done when a wet disaster strikes? First and most importantly, dry the artwork. Mold can grow within 72 hours, so it is important to act quickly. The response may be as simple as unframing an artwork and allowing it to air dry. Wet or damp media and paper are very fragile, so careful handling is essential. In the case of a major disaster, effective drying may require the combined resources of restoration companies and art conservators. When in doubt, call an art conservator. If mold has started to grow, drying will inactivate it, giving you time to consider treatment options. Fuzzy molds can usually be removed by surface cleaning, but mold stains can only be removed or reduced through chemical treatment. The effectiveness of stain removal will depend on the media, the paper and the extent of damage. Molds can trigger serious health problems. People who are at risk, or who have already developed sensitivities should avoid exposure. For more information about mold, visit Conservation OnLine at aic.stanford.edu
Detail of paper after drying, stabilization and treatment.
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