The gift that keeps on giving: Generous progress since a karibari board workshop

Karibari Board workshop participants with Eddie Jose. December 2018. 

Left: Eddie Jose (East Asian Art Studio), Anne Carter and Sam Shellard (Queensland Art Gallery) Sylvia DaRocha  (Queensland Museum) Shane Bell and Caroline O’Rorke (State Library of Queensland). 

Right: Jennifer Loubser, Hannah Nguyen and Kelly Leahey, (State Library of Queensland), Masahiro Asaka (National Gallery of Australia) Lynn Sisopha (National Archives Sydney), Hanna Sandgren (Studio M Melbourne), Rachel Spano (State Library of Queensland)

Each year State Library of Queensland announces Fellowships and Awards through the Queensland Memory Awards. In 2018, the Mittelheuser Scholar-in-Residence was awarded to Eddie Jose, a world-renowned specialist conservator of East Asian paintings based in the United States of America. The Mittelheuser Scholar-in-Residence aims to advance the knowledge in Queensland gallery, library, archive and museum sectors and enable the continued development of processes, services and techniques. Eddie’s contribution was outstanding.

Hosted and coordinated by State Library, Eddie Jose conducted a five-day karibari board workshop inviting conservators from around Australia to participate. Karibari is a traditional Japanese paper-covered timber lattice used to slow and control the drying rate of newly lined paper-based artwork collections under tension. Eight karibari boards were made during the workshop, with two remaining at State Library frequently being used in preservation and conservation of collection items.

Whilst Eddie continues his work overseas as a much sought-after specialist in Japanese paper conservation, the conservators at State Library have remained in regular contact, updating Eddie and sharing how they continue to use the boards for various conservation projects. 

Photo 1: This Theatre poster was conserved together with Eddie, as a demonstration of using the karibari, during this workshop.

Collection item: 30844 'Twelfth Night Theatre’, Hand-Painted Poster Artwork by Max Hurley, 1971. Acrylic paint on wood pulp paper. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.  Conserved November 2018.

Photo 2: This Theatre poster was conserved together with Eddie, as a demonstration of using the karibari, during this workshop.

Collection item: 30844 'Twelfth Night Theatre’, Hand-Painted Poster Artwork by Max Hurley, 1971. Acrylic paint on wood pulp paper. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.  Conserved November 2018.

Workshop participants learned about the various materials used, and the dynamics that make the boards work most effectively.  Eddie demonstrated how the boards are used for tension flattening after conservation linings are added to support fragile artworks.  Then everyone practiced, producing best results for conservation treatment.

Following the workshop, the State Library conservators were privileged to use their boards, with Eddie guiding and providing advice. Together they completed the conservation of this large pastoral map, joining two karibari boards together for the final stage of flattening.  It is a rare map of a time when North and South Stradbroke Island were still connected as one land mass. Originally made from four joined sections, the map sections were separated, washed, lined, reinforced, re-assembled, and flattened on the karibari. Without the boards it would have been very difficult to join the map pieces and establish sufficient tension to ensure an evenly flat quality conservation treatment.

Conservators Eddie Jose and Jennifer Loubser transfer the map onto karibari for flattening.

Collection item: Map of Moreton Bay region, showing runs and parishes compiled by T. S. Bailey, 1870. Printing ink and hand-drawn ink inscriptions on paper with linen backing. Accession Number RMB 841 1870 00127 E, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Conserved December 2018.

State Librarian and CEO Vicki McDonald, Dr Cathryn Mittelheuser, Senior Conservator Rachel Spano and Eddie Jose viewing map as it dries under tension on karibari. December 2018.

Collection item: Map of Moreton Bay region, showing runs and parishes compiled by T. S. Bailey, 1870. Printing ink and hand-drawn ink inscriptions on paper with linen backing. Accession Number RMB 841 1870 00127 E, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Conserved December 2018.

The Conservation team at State Library have continued to use the karibari boards for various treatment projects. It’s become part of normal conservation practice, an essential part of the tool kit to preserve and stabilise the integrity of embossed lithographs, fragile watercolour paintings, maps, plans, posters, photographs and many more heritage collections.

State Library of Queensland Scarborough and Cairns Real Estate Plans: tension-flattened on karibari boards.

Collection item on left: M E 1376 ‘Plan of balance of lots in the Hobbs Homestead Estate Scarborough’, 1889. Printing ink on paper. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Conserved March 2019.

Collection item on right:  M E 1374 West Cairns Real Estate Plan’, 1886. Printing Ink on Paper. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Conserved March 2019

‘My Dress Designs’ Scroll Conserved by Jennifer Loubser February 2020 for Big Voices Exhibition.

Collection item: 7116-0002-0171 ‘My Dress Designs’ Scroll, 1995. Watercolours and acrylic paint on bamboo paper, mounted as a Chinese scroll. Painted by Simin Zhang, aged 5, at Huangzhou County Kindergarten, Hubei, China. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Before conservation, and during flattening on karibari with Conservator Jennifer Loubser.
 

Album of Pith Paper Paintings conserved September 2020 by Jennifer Loubser for Australian Library of Arts Showcase display.

Collection item: 2936 Silk covered album of twelve Chinese export botanical paintings, 1840. Gouache on Pith Paper. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Conservator Jennifer Loubser with pith paintings on Karibari. Conserved September 2020

There are so many different types of artworks, where karibari drying boards are helpful in careful flattening.  This scroll on bamboo paper and these paintings on pith paper are extremely delicate. By using a karibari they can dry safely after controlled humidification during conservation, while nothing touches the fragile surface.

We are so grateful for the time Eddie was able to spend with us sharing his expertise and helping us to construct karibari boards for continued care and preservation of State Library collections. 

This opportunity was made possible by the kindness and generosity of Dr Cathryn Mittelheuser AM through the Queensland Library Foundation.  Dr Mittelheuser’s philanthropic leadership is truly is a gift that keeps on giving and a wonderful example of how one donation can enable years of impact and benefit for Queensland’s heritage collections.

    "Thanks Eddie, for bringing your lifetime of art conservation experience. I enjoyed teaching the karibari Masterclass with you at State Library of Queensland. We are so pleased to continue using karibari techniques with our art collections!" 

    Jennifer Loubser, Conservator, State Library of Queensland

    Dr Cathryn Mittelheuser and Eddie Jose at State Library of Queensland. December 2018.

    Looking at: Map of Moreton Bay region, showing runs and parishes compiled by T. S. Bailey, 1870. Printing ink and hand-drawn ink inscriptions on paper with linen backing. Accession Number RMB 841 1870 00127 E, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Conserved December 2018.

    The call for applications and nominations for the 2021 Queensland Memory Awards opened on Thursday 28 January 2021 and will remain open until Thursday 25 March 2021. See our website for more information on the Mittelheuser Scholar in Residence or any of our other Queensland Memory awards and fellowships.

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