Conservation in Action: Preserving Nirvana, October 2016

Conservation and Collections Management

With all the individual mounting sections lined and stretch dried, and the painting repaired and similarly lined and dried, preparations are underway for the next big stages of treatment involving reassembly of the scroll and the application of two more overall supplementary linings.

The inner and outer suji borders, or accent lines, need to be replaced as they could not be salvaged from the old lining. A plain, unpatterned silk similar to the original is dyed to match the previous borders, and lined with usu-mino paper. This section is then cut into long narrow strips and joined together into lengths to completely encircle the painting.

Materials are also prepared for the two overall linings that will be applied to the scroll once it is joined together. The first of these is the naka-ura, or inner lining, made of misu paper similar to what was previously used for the supplementary linings on the separate mounting sections and painting. The second (being prepared below) is for the so-ura, or the overall final lining that comprises the entire outermost layer on the back of the scroll. This layer uses a unique paper called uda, which is made from the same kozo, or paper mulberry, fiber as the other lining papers, but has a fine clay mixed in to give it a supple, opaque, and alkaline quality.

conservators preparing materials for so-ura lining
Conservators preparing materials for so-ura lining

Next, a thin, unpatterned silk is dyed indigo blue and lined to use as the uwamaki-ginu, the section of silk applied to the top of the scroll on the back. This silk protects the scroll when it is stored rolled. Two support strips for the bottom roller are also prepared from this same silk.

conservator lining indigo silk
Conservator lining indigo silk

Conservators then begin final preparations for the reassembly of the scroll. The joining process needs to be completed in one full day in order to minimize the distortion caused by the drying of the overlapping seams. (The "Joining Order" video below illustrates the specific order by which sections must be assembled.) This means that all materials have to be prepared in advance, and the day carefully choreographed. The activities carried out the day before reassembly include reconfiguring the workspace and trimming all of the mounting sections to the desired proportions.

Watch the order of the joining process

The process to assemble the pre-cut sections of lined silk takes about nine hours to complete.

See Time-lapse of joining day

Finally, the painting is turned face down and vertical edges of the scroll are trimmed to the proper width. The painting is then turned face up and left to dry.