How To Restore Antique Maps

As any collector of old world maps will tell you, the biggest problem with the hobby is the condition of the actual maps. Most of them were actually used in the field – whether they are global maps or simply a map of the mountains behind your home. And unless it’s probably cared for, any type of paper bears the mark of time as it passes.

How can you restore and protect your antique map?

You might start by working an actual map conservator. Finding someone whose mission in life is to preserve old maps and other antique paper work can be difficult, but it’s often well worth the effort. Even if you don’t hire the individual to do the restoration work on their own, they will often agree to consult and advise you as you do the work yourself.

Remember, now that you have gone and spent all that money getting the map in the first place, you don’t want to skimp on the investment now. Even a single meeting with a professional conservator can provide a lot of helpful information.

Of course, you might want to do the work on your own. Plenty of collectors believe that a hands on approach is a great way to learn more about maps. It’s also relaxing work, if you don’t mind the rigorous attention to detail.

First, flatten the map on a level surface. Use books with dust covers to anchor it. Then, using soft but thorough strokes, go over the entire map with a soft-bristle hair brush. Your goal at this stage is to remove any grime or debris that is clinging to the map’s surface. Don’t work too hard – you can easily tear the map. Remember, this is the first step, not the whole process.

Patience is essential to this process. You have to pay attention to what you’re doing and you have to focus. If your mind drifts, you might find yourself brushing far too hard and doing damage to your old map.

If your map has any glue or adhesive reside, you can get if off by using a spatula. Plastic ones work best because they don’t pose any risk to the material. Just be sure that you aren’t using a spatula that actually sees any real kitchen action. The last thing you want to do is soak the map with even a drop of grease.

If the map needs to be flattened, you can get the process started with a natural sponge. Gently brush the map’s surface with a moist sponge until it is thoroughly damp. Then place it between a pair of blotters. These will help facilitate the drying process. Remember, less is more in this instance. Too much water can cause real damage. And you can always repeat the process if you feel that the map isn’t responding to your efforts.

Be sure that as you work on the map, you always move it with both of your hands. In other words, apply pressure to each side of the map. If you don’t, then you run the risk of tearing the map. Remember that the paper – even if it feels relatively sturdy – is not. Act as if you are holding the most fragile piece of paper on earth and you’ll probably be fine.

Don’t be afraid to bring in a professional if you find yourself facing a particularly large problem – a tear, a whole, a large blemish. Again, even if all you do is hire them as  a consultant, the payoff can be very significant.

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