Preserving Lambskin Parchment

Dear Donia,
How can I get the wrinkles out of a lambskin parchment and safely store it?



Q. Dear Donia,

I have a piece of lambskin with a symbolic crest or insignia painted on the "shiny" side. It is currently very wrinkled with severe fold lines because it was not folded carefully and was stuffed in a two-inch document case. Is there anything I can do to get the wrinkles out? What is the best way to store this item? Thank you, Erin

A. Dear Erin,

Lambskin, and all parchment in general, is very tricky to work with and I would not recommend trying to get the wrinkles out yourself. It is too easy to over-humidify and end up with translucent areas or worse, glue. Flattening this would be a job for a conservator. To find a conservator in your area, you can use the "Find a Conservator" service through the American Institute for Conservation. Once you are on the "Find a Conservator" page fill in your location information and select "Books and Paper" under the "Type of Conservation" dropdown menu. Be sure to look for a conservator who has "parchment/vellum" in the materials section to find someone with experience working with that particular material.
The best way to store the item, before and after treatment, is flat, in a folder, and in a box or drawer in a climate controlled area. Rapid changes in relative humidity will make the parchment expand and contract and become wavy again. If storing while still wavy, do not store anything on top of this folder to prevent abrasion to the high points of the insignia. You can store the parchment in a polyester sleeve but do not use polyester if any of the paint looks friable or flaky. The inherent static charge in the parchment will lift that color.
Thank you for asking "Dear Donia", and if you have any more questions don't hesitate to ask!