Research project on animation artwork in EYE Collection Centre

A traditional cel: paint on a transparent cellulose acetate sheet

5 April 2017

In the EYE Collection Centre, the project ‘Materials in Motion’ has started, a two year research project into a possible conservation strategy for analogue Dutch animation artwork from the period 1930-2000.

In the EYE Collection Centre, the ‘Materials in Motion’ project has started two years of research into a possible conservation strategy for analogue Dutch animation artwork from the period 1930-2000. The research is a response to the recent expansion of EYE’s collection of animation artwork due to the adoption of the archives and artwork collection of the Netherlands Institute for Animation Film, which had to close its doors  in 2013.  EYE is now the custodian of a large variety of materials used in the production process of animated films, such as concept art, storyboards, drawings and cels (image on transparent plastic foils). The purpose of this project is to gain insight into the magnitude, composition and condition of the collection in order to develop a preservation plan for this unique Dutch film heritage. During the research project, EYE plans to collaborate and forge relationships with several international film archives and research institutes that deal with similar conservation issues. 

EYE holds an artwork collection of more than 50 different Dutch filmmakers: individual artists like Karin Wiertz, Jacques Verbeek, Børge Ring and Gerrit van Dijk as well as animation studios like Toonder Studios or Joop Geesink’s Dollywood. In their films, artists often play with technique, form and content and experiment with a wide variety of materials such as plastics, paper and photos and artist's materials such as pencils, crayon, makers and adhesive foils. 

The collection includes roughly 80.000 cels. Different forms of decay have been identified: papers are discoloured, layers of paint  are flaking and peeling away, old adhesives cause brown stains in papers and photographs and plastic cels begin to warp, lose colour and acidify. Especially the decay of the plastics is worrisome because it is an self-catalytic process: once it starts, it is not possible to stop and without intervention the process will accelerate. 

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Project managers are paper restorer Aafke Weller and animation specialist Mette Peters. The project is funded by Metamorfoze, the Netherlands' national programme for the preservation of paper heritage.