Fundamentals of Paper Conservation


In this course it is intended that the student acquires a horizontal knowledge about the nature of graphic documents and causes of deterioration, so as to perform the diagnosis of pathologies of the document heritage. In that context, the main objectives are:

1. Develop theoretical and practical knowledge for the identification and characterization of art on paper and archival/library materials, as well as, understand its historical evolution.

2. Study and comprehend the main deterioration processes and causes of alteration of paper based materials.

3. Learn how to do a survey and a pathologies diagnosis for these kinds of documents.

4. Introduction to preventive conservation decisions and techniques.

 5. Hands-on working experience by the application of the methods learned to case studies.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Maria da Conceição Lopes Casanova


Weekly - 5

Total - 56

Teaching language



Available soon


ROBERTS, J.C., -“The Chemist of Paper”, The Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, 1996.

STRILIC, M. K., Ageing and stabilisation of paper. Ljubljana: National and University Library, 2005.

IVESSALO – P., Fiber Atlas: Identification of Papermaking Fibres, Springer, 1995.

MOST, P. et al, Archives Damage Atlas - A tool for assessing damage, The Hague: Metamorfoze, 2010.

Ash, N. , Homolka, S. , Lussier, S. et alDescriptive Terminology for Works of Art on Paper, ed. Renée Wolcott, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, USA, 2014.

Teaching method

Practical and Theoretical presentations, studio-based work and observation and evalutaion of different case-studies, as well as full diagnosis of a specific case study

Evaluation method

Units of assessment: Practical session/classeroom participation; Presentation and final report evaluation; Written evaluation (test).


1. One test or final exam, accounting 30% of the final grade.

2. Diagnosis of pathologies of a case study that includes the preparation of the report and an oral presentation and discussion, accounting 60% of the final grade.

3. General behaviour in the classroom and Lab individual and team work. It accounts 10% of the final grade. 

The student must have a positive grade in each evaluation unit in order to conclude de discipline

Subject matter

1. Intangible and material characterization of Graphic Documents

1.1.Main concepts involving the graphic document and the importance of a common terminology: graphic documents characterization.

1.2. Main materials used as writting supports

1.2.1. From papyrus to parchment.

1.2.2. Paper and its historical evolution.

1.3. Medium materials used in a historical perspective.

1.4. The production of the codex / book: terminology and book construction.

2. Main causes of deterioration of graphic documents and means for its control

2.1. Deterioration causes of single documents.

2.2. Deterioration causes of sewn books.

2.3. Preventive conservation techniques and brief introduction to the intervention methods.

3. Diagnosis and conservation condition: study and analysis of case studies.

3.1. Systematic review of the ''''''''major syndromes'''''''' / nuclear pathologies that can affect the graphic documents.

3.2. Material characterization of the case studies.

3.3. Aplication of examination and analysis techniques.

3.4. Pathology mapping exercise.

3.5. Impact study of the nuclear pathologies on the different types of Graphic Document: considering changes in value / significance of the case studies.


Programs where the course is taught: