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The research project set out to conduct a preliminary study of a series of pencil drawings on cellulose acetate support from the Olivetti Historic Archives (Ivrea). The actual works were technical drawings illustrating the typefaces of Olivetti typing machines.
The sheets, gathered in folders subdivided by font and currently kept in the Archive deposits, were in a very poor state of conservation, mainly due to what is known as “vinegar syndrome”, which affects acetate-cellulose materials over time; they were also severely deformed and crumpled to the point of rendering the content unrecognisable in certain cases.
The main aim of the project was to draft a protocol for characterising the drawings in chemical terms, as well as the degradation of the cellulose acetate support.
Through the collaboration and support of a team of experts, new hypotheses were formulated on the correlation between the specific mechanisms of degradation, typical of artworks on cellulose acetate, and the signs of deterioration visible in this particular category of art. The purpose of the study was to determine the relationship between the chemical-physical properties of this type of cellulose acetate film, the deformation of the support, the migration of the plasticiser and the production of acetic acid. After this characterisation phase the project proceeded to identify the appropriate methods to conserve the drawings.
The project was conducted in collaboration with the Chemistry Department of the Aldo Moro University, Bari and Antonio Mirabile, curator of artworks on paper and preventive conservation consultant.