Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Fall 2012 Newsletter

Before and After:
Norman Bel Geddes's Christmas Parade plan for R. H. Macy & Co.

Drawing. Click to enlarge.
Drawing. Click to enlarge.
Drawing. Click to enlarge.

Punch and Judy, clowns, airplane float for a Macy's parade, October 12, 1926. 41 x 91.5 inches. Pencil, ink, gouache, and watercolor on paper.

The conservation department of the Ransom Center is responsible for the care and preservation of the Center's collections. This feature highlights repair and conservation work on collection items.

For Macy's third annual Thanksgiving Day or Christmas parade Geddes produced eight design drawings between October 7 and October 15, 1926: for the inaugural unit holding a "Macy's Christmas Parade" sign; a Humpty Dumpty balloon float with band; a menagerie zoo; a Cinderella-themed third band; Punch and Judy, clowns, and airplane floats; a fourth band and Christmas tree float; and a finale Santa Claus float with "Follow the Parade to Macy's" marching snowmen. The images shown here reveal one of the seven posters for this parade in the Bel Geddes collection.


The paper support had yellowed considerably with age, but the paper had remained. There was a tear approximately three inches in length at the top right-hand corner.

The india ink and graphite media were stable, but the smooth surface and non-absorbent nature of the drafting paper prevented the watercolor and gouache media from adhering well to the surface. These media were very brittle, and, as a result of their poor adhesion to the paper and the rolled storage format of the drawing, they had flaked off the paper surface in numerous areas across the drawing.

In addition, a consolidant appeared to have been applied to keep the watercolor and gouache in place, but it was applied in a very sloppy way, and substantial haloes of yellowed consolidant were visible around several of the colored areas of the drawing.


The drawing was surface cleaned to reduce soiling using eraser crumbs and a soft, dry brush. Though the conservation team was prepared to use humidification to flatten the poster, the curl in the paper support gradually relaxed as the item was laid out on a tabletop in the paper lab during treatment.

The flaking media were stabilized by application of a dilute consolidant adhesive, which was applied directly to the flaking paint areas with a small brush.

The drawing was then framed with Optium® glazing in a shadowbox frame format, which made for an effective presentation of the large drawing since it helped prevent glare and unwanted reflections.

The Ransom Center received a Tru Vue Optium® Conservation Grant from The Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works to repair and frame this poster from the Norman Bel Geddes collection for the exhibition I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America.  

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