Wednesday, January 23, 2013
When remodeling my house I found perfectly preserved newspapers from 1920s under the flooring.
I want to wallpaper a wall with these papers but am concerned the backside will bleed through to the front when I paste them on the wall or when I apply a protective coating over the top.
I'm amazed that they’re perfectly preserved. What a find! Are they still supple? Have they yellowed or cracked at all?
Normally I recommend having copies made when you use valuable photos or papers in decoupage or collage. That would avoid the issue of ink from the back bleeding through, as well as preserve the originals.
Having copies made with a large format laser copier onto archival quality (non-acidic) paper would be costly in your case due to the large number of pages. It would, however, eliminate the issue of ink from the backside showing through.
Now that you've uncovered the newspapers and removed them from their dark airless "tomb", time is of the essence. Newsprint, manila paper, and construction papers are highly acidic.
Light causes the acidic lignin to react with the cellulose fibers to decompose them. The paper yellows and becomes brittle. The acid reaction in the paper will also spread to objects the paper touches.
If the papers have yellowed only slightly and you can't complete your wallpaper project soon, spray them with Archival Mist, Bookkeeper, or other brand of deacidifying spray. These sprays contain an alkaline (look for methoxyl magnesium methyl carbonate) to neutralize existing acid and inhibit oxidation.
Since I haven't worked much with old book pages or newsprint for collage or decoupage, I consulted with two mixed media experts who frequently do: Cyndi Lavin at Mixed Media Artist and June Crawford at A Creative Dream.
June and Cyndi agreed that show-through of ink from the reverse side usually occurs with newsprint. It creates a nice effect in many of their mixed media works. Both mentioned thicker media work better to prevent ink show-through. June uses Aileen's Tacky Glue and gel media. Cyndi and I are partial to Golden or Liquitex Gel.
Cyndi has an excellent tutorial on how to Encase Delicate Papers for Collage but added that "even coated newspaper will break down eventually".
That said, the combination of deacidifying Archival Mist and encasing in PVA medium would likely preserve your wallpaper for 70 to 100 years. Good enough?
[The image used in the mixed media Polyurethane Transfer Collage above is a public domain copyright-free photo of famous singer and socialite, Lily Langtree, taken in 1885. Learn more about sources of copyright-free images.]