Art Conservation Project: Drawings from the The Wind in the Willows (1970)
Hello! I am Emily White, a conservator at Toronto Public Library. In September 2020, I started the conservation treatment of a series of new drawings in our Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books.
In 2019, Toronto Public Library acquired 55 drawings from the 1970 Anglia Television adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s children's book The Wind in the Willows (1908). The TV show and book follow the adventures of four animals: Toad, Mole, Rat and Badger.
Artist John Worsley produced a total of 550 drawings for the 18-episode series. The drawings were either filmed as an entire scene or the camera would zoom in on different details in a single drawing. Some even feature multiple vignettes, with each vignette forming a distinct scene as the camera panned across the drawing.
All 55 of the drawings in the collection are watercolour on board with black crayon. Some have touches of opaque watercolour and others have traces of graphite.
Most of the drawings were determined to be in good condition. There were some minor tears at edges or corners, some moderate surface soil and a moderate amount of offset media (i.e. colours from one drawing transferring to another drawing). The offset media was mostly from the black crayon present on every drawing. It would have been transferred from one drawing to another through close contact, likely during previous inappropriate storage.
Close examination revealed that the artist applied corrections with opaque watercolour to cover previous inscriptions or "erase" previous versions of a scene. These corrections are useful to conservators because they can help us determine the original colour of the paper before it was soiled or yellowed.
Because the drawings were in generally good condition, the treatment that followed was minimal and focused on long-term preservation.
Minor tears were mended with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste. Brown paper tape was also removed from the verso (back) of two drawings using a local application of steam. This tape was not original to the drawings, and it covered inscriptions about the scene and the cameras used for filming. These inscriptions were legible once the tape was off.
The most extensive treatment involved removing surface soil and offset media from each drawing. Surface soil was carefully removed with a chemical sponge, while some areas of ingrained dirt were cleaned with a white vinyl eraser. It was important to avoid image areas to avoid disturbing the media layers.
Long-term storage solutions were needed to prevent media transfer from reoccurring. Of the 55 drawings, 42 measured approximately 52 x 55 cm, and 13 measured approximately 75 x 100 cm. The smaller drawings are now housed across four archival boxes, interleaved inside custom-made folders which help prevent the drawings from shifting during retrieval or transport. The larger drawings are now housed across four custom-made portfolios. Like the smaller drawings, they are also housed within an interior folder and interleaved with sheets of lightweight folder stock.
Thank you to the Friends of the Osborne Collection for generously funding this conservation project.
- Art Conservation Project: Watercolours of an Early Ontario Naturalist
- Conservation of a Vintage Alice in Wonderland Poster
- Conserving the Treasures of Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver
This blog post was written by Emily White, Conservator.