Material Spotlight: Housing a Soviet Era Star Wars Poster

This is a guest post written by Jennifer Phiffer. Jennifer is a Conservation Technician in the General Collections Conservation Section. Her primary  duties are the housing and repair of collection materials.

Earlier this year I was very excited to receive a new acquisition from the European Division, a movie poster that needed a custom oversized portfolio. This poster was created for the 1990 release in the Soviet Union of the motion picture Star Wars: A New Hope (Zvezdnye Voiny” in Russian). At the time advertisements made outside the Soviet Union were prohibited, two Soviet artist Iurii Bokser and Aleksander Chantsev were commissioned to create four original posters to commemorate the film’s release. Because Bokser and Chantsev had not seen the film, they used their imaginations to design the posters. This resulted in designs that had a limited association with the movie’s characters or set designs, but were, nevertheless, unique and original works of art. The poster acquired by the Library represents a design loosely based on the “cantina” motif of the film.”

Front image of Soviet Union Star Wars movie poster

The poster itself had been backed with what appeared to be cotton or linen, and rolled for storage. This created a problem when preparing it to lay flat. How to safely reverse the warp without damaging the poster? I consulted my co-worker Jon Sweitzer-Lamme, and mused whether heat application or humidification might help. Jon suggested matting the poster which mechanically restrains the warp, and would not risk damage to the print.

After researching the effects of buffered and un-buffered mats on common print methods, I settled on un-buffered. I could not be certain of the exact method of printing used for the poster. I had discovered that offset printing used a “Dampening System” to prevent oil-based inks from sticking to the parts of the plate that were not being printed. I did not want to take the chance that a buffered mat (alkaline) would interact with an off-set print (acid). I proceeded to cut a hinged sink-mat (a mat with an interior frame to prevent the window from touching the object).

Oversized Portfolio detail image, Jennifer Phiffer, 2021

Oversized Portfolio interior image, Jennifer Phiffer, 2021

After the poster was safely matted, I could concentrate on constructing the portfolio to house it. The portfolio is made up of a four flap envelope adhered into the hard cover portfolio shell. The envelope is a pH neutral 20 point card stock, custom sized to the mat. The envelope is adhered to the cover to prevent it from slipping out while being handled or on the shelf. The portfolio shell is rigid board covered by dark red buckram cloth. The buckram will ensure the portfolios durability and longevity. I’m very pleased with the opportunity to house this interesting and oversized item!

Oversized Portfolio interior image, Jennifer Phiffer, 2021

Oversized Portfolio closed cover image, Jennifer Phiffer, 2021





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