The different methods of restoration
shapes. This poses a unique challenge for restorers like Yang who have to think of specific ways to work with each piece, finding materials that best match the color and texture of the original object.
The restoration department of Shanghai Museum is renowned globally for their ability to restore objects to near perfect conditions. Looking at a restored glass shelf that Yang and her colleagues had worked on, one is unable to detect any traces of previous damage.
“Our ultimate goal is to bring out the complete historical information of a piece, and restore it to its original perfection,” said Yang.
When the archaeological department brings in pieces for restoration, Yang would first put each object in the ultrasonic cleaner to remove the dirt present. Yang and her colleagues would then use chemical glues to join the cracked areas.
In the early 20th century, when people had little knowledge about restoration methods, they would use cement to repair broken antiques. This would compromise the integrity of the antique as traces of cement can be easily seen and cannot be removed. Today, restorers can easily remove the glues, pigments, epoxy resin or other materials they add to an object.
“Usually when you heat the object up to 200 degrees Celsius, the glue will soften, and all pigments can be washed off with adequate solvent,” said Yang, who added that ceramics are hardly ever affected by this treatment process as they were originally created in kilns at extremely high temperature.
Other traditional methods of restoration include using staples to join broken ceramic pieces together. However, this method is not used by museum restorers as it involves drilling tiny holes on the glaze before inserting the stape, resulting in irreversible damage to the original piece.
Yang Yun, restorer at Shanghai Museum