Caring for a 120 year old painting
Recently the Galt Museum & Archives purchased a water colour painting created by Miss Edith Fanny Kirk in 1892. The museum has another painting Kirk made of Banff and Miss Kirk's mother's Victorian workbox or sewing box in its collections.
Miss Kirk painted the street scene in York, England when she was 34 years old, 13 years before she immigrated to Canada. After living in many locations in British Columbia and New Brunswick, Kirk moved to Lethbridge in 1918. There she taught sketching and painting to young students, sold landscapes created in the area, attended Alpine Club of Canada camps, spoke about art at the Mathesis Club and inspired artists in the Lethbridge Sketch Club.
The York painting arrived at the museum framed with a gold mat. Paper Conservator Juliet Graham was asked to examine the piece and recommend some treatment to stablize the artwork. Juliet noted the colours and paper had been negatively impacted by tape used to attach the painting to the mat so it was decided to remove both.
When Juliet carefully removed the loosened tape, she discovered the remains of many insects which had been attracted to the adhesive. None of the insects were alive but they and the tape were immediately removed from the museum. In the future, more conservation will be directed to recovering some of Kirk's original colours from the now acidic paper.
The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery was kind enough to allow Juliet to work on the Kirk painting at their cost.