Making a Karibari board

In conservation, the drying or humidification of paper poses particular challenges when dimensional and visual characteristics of the original paper are to be retained. Because of this, the drying of an artifact is a key step in its treatment. There are a range of paper drying techniques from which the conservator can select and adapt in order to enhance the outcome of each treatment.

The traditional Japanese Karibari board is a type of drying panel that can be used in this process (Karibari in Japanese means temporary mount). The Karibari board controls and slows the drying rate while keeping the artifact under tension on the frame. Paper conservators use their judgment and experience to select the most appropriate drying technique for paper and media applied onto it.

Last January we decided to construct our own Karibari board with the experience of our visiting Conservation Trainee Hsiu-Mei Huang from Taiwan. Over seven days, we selected, cut and pasted Japanese mulberry paper of varying thicknesses onto a wooden panel and allowed each layer to dry for a full day before we proceeded to the next layer. As we began the labor-intensive construction of the Karibari board, we thought it would be interesting to document the process. On the first day local photographer Zacarias Garcia was invited for a visit to the conservation lab, and we soon realized that a video would be the best medium for showing our work.

The documentary embedded below (and available on the Folger’s YouTube channel) shows the process we went through in building the board, along with commentary and context by Andrew Hare, Supervisory Conservator of the East Asian Painting Conservation Studio at the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. We hope that you enjoy seeing the creation of this beautiful object and it can serve as a tool for further understanding the make-up of this board.

Author: Rhea DeStefano

RHEA DeSTEFANO is Paper Conservator at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She studied book and paper conservation in Spoleto, Italy from 1994-1996 and attended West Dean College, England in 1997 in the rare book and manuscript department. Before her arrival at the Folger in 2002, she worked in Berlin at the Museum of Modern Art and German Historical Museum as well as at the Saxon State Library in Dresden.

4 Comments

  1. Wow, what a great video about this, thanks. Maybe I missed it, but what wood did you use for the frame and was it prepared in any particular way before pasting?

  2. The wooden lattice we used was donated to the conservation lab 15+ years ago from the Freer and Sackler Conservation Lab, go figure! We don’t exactly know the type of wood we had but typically the lattice is made of lightweight Japanese cedar wood. In our case we had to remove a western paper that had been applied previously and lightly sanded the lattice to clean the surface. A first coat of thick paste left to dry helped seal the wood beforehand.

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