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Kunsthaus Zürich

The digitization process and the restoration challenges involved

Between January and October 2015, a total of 473 Dada works were scanned – individual sheets, multi-page brochures and books, as well as 62 drawings and prints belonging to the Collection of Prints and Drawings and the library of the Kunsthaus Zürich.

The first step was to examine each work individually. Where relevant, not only the front side but also the back side was scanned, as it often contains pertinent information, such as: annotations, signatures, additional drawings, sketches, names, stamps or old numbers. These can serve as useful art historical and technical references and leads.

Dada objects from the Archive that are not currently bound, as well as works of art on paper stored in mats and not framed, were easier to digitize than the often poorly-bound pamphlets, books and framed works of art. In some cases, works of art were unframed or released from their older mounts so that the sheet could be laid as flat as possible on the scanner. Subsequent conservation work is required in many cases to improve the condition, security and aesthetic appearance of the Dada objects. Some new mounts were created or older ones were improved or replaced. Generally, mounts and frames or the archival folders are intended to protect and prevent damages to the original surfaces and to present the artworks in a desirable fashion.

Several of the older frames are considered to be historically important and will be conserved. Some frames are too thin and require additional build-ups to accommodate the thicker mounts and glazing. A few new frames will be constructed in the older style for specific works of art on paper. Simultaneously, older and scratched sheets acrylic glazing or plain glass, were replaced with a modern Optium acrylic glazing. This has a number of advantages: it is anti-reflective, anti-static, offers a high level of protection against ultraviolet radiation and is also considerably lighter than laminated safety-glass. At the same time, it is secure and allows visitors a clearer view of the works in an exhibition without the distracting reflections.

Great care must always be taken when handling, viewing, installing or transporting these delicate works. Stabile climatic conditions are also a pre-requisite to preserve them, including specific light, temperature and humidity controls.

Restorer Jean Rosston removing a work from its frame
Photo: Kunsthaus Zürich
Restorer Jean Rosston removing a work from its frame
Photo: Kunsthaus Zürich
Scanned collage (1919) by Hans Arp
Photo: Kunsthaus Zürich
Work © 2015 ProLitteris, Zurich
Scanned collage (1919) by Hans Arp
Photo: Kunsthaus Zürich
Work © 2015 ProLitteris, Zurich