The process of diploma restoration is a long, arduous, and costly one. Doubtless you've heard of large-scale projects by art museums and historical groups to salvage and restore works of art that were either badly damaged, faded over tim,e or otherwise suffered from poor environmental conditions. These professionals -- know as conservators -- work specifically on restoring paper documents. The same types of conservators who work on art from the Renaissance are those who would work on your diploma restoration as well.
Due to the high degree of specialization, enlisting a conservator to restore a diploma will always be an expensive proposition. However, expenses can be compounded by how old the diploma is, and whether or not the paper used to print was acid-free or not. Acid-free paper, which by definition yields a neutral or basic pH (7 or slightly greater) can be made from any cellulose fiber as long as the active acid pulp is eliminated during processing. However, it is a relatively modern product, having not been discovered until the 1930s, and put into mainstream use over the next two decades.
Acid-free paper has been in mainstream use since the 1970s, so if your diploma is from the 1970s or later, chances are age has not been too much of a factor in its condition. However, if you're looking to restore a diploma from the 1950s on back, a conservator will have a much more difficult job, and results will never be completely pristine.
When it comes to dealing with major damage to a diploma, such as burns, water damage, or tears, simple science tells us that these sorts of issues cannot be easily mended. With burned edges, it is unlikely that much can be done to effectively reproduce the missing sections in any sort of viable manner. The same is true for tears -- tearing can only be aesthetically mitigated, not repaired.
As for water damage, it is possible for restorers to lighten the watermarks, and in cases where ink, paint, or other pigments have faded or smeared, the conservator can work painstakingly to recreate the lines using pigments and instruments that match the original. However, this again takes a great deal of time, and you will never be guaranteed to get the results you are looking for.
There is, however, an alternative to diploma restoration, or simply replacing a diploma that has been badly damaged. Now, thanks to laser engraving technology, an original diploma can be meticulously scanned and reproduced on an attractive plaque base.
The process is not that dissimilar from the diploma restoration process that conservators engage in. The difference is that, while conservators work on the original document, a laser engraver uses high-end scanning and editing technologies to work with the digital scan of the document to get it as "clean" as possible before using it as a template for engraving. While the end product is not a direct restoration of the original document, laser engravers work incredibly hard during this process to get the best rending possible. Once committed to a stone, metal, wood, or plastic plaque, the results are stunningly accurate and timeless.
At Laser Engraved Memories, we do countless hours of restoration work on old documents and photos FREE OF CHARGE. It is simply part of the process of crafting a fine, accurate rendering of an original document or image.
If you're ready to get more ideas on how a laser engraved plaque might be a better alternative to diploma restoration, be sure to visit our custom diplomas page.
By Michael Nace