Handling East Asian Scrolls


Pictorial art and calligraphy mounted as scrolls demand careful handling and viewing practices. The mounted scroll is a complex laminate structure engineered to support and protect the artwork. With their unique components of silk and paper, metal and wood, scrolls are meant to be unrolled, viewed for short periods of time, rolled, then wrapped and stored in a protective box.

Scrolls are subject to damage from improper handling, inadequate storage, and exposure to harmful environmental conditions. Preventive measures, in the form of condition assessments and recommendations for handling, exhibition, and storage, will protect scrolls from further damage.

The following are guidelines for collections of East Asian scrolls. If a scroll appears to be damaged, it is best to seek the assistance of a conservator. When examining any object, it is important to prepare a clean, flat surface free of sharp implements, liquids, or pens. Clean, smooth weights are needed to support the scroll while unrolling. Hands must be clean and free of jewelry. Dirt and perspiration can stain paper, silk, lacquer, and metal. Because of the complexities of the scroll format, it is recommended that two people be present to handle a hanging scroll or handscroll.