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planar deformation that alters the original shape of a work, where the support (and sometimes media) has become misshapen. Distortion affects organic materials such as wood, textiles, works on paper, and canvas. Distortion is typically caused by contact with water, high humidity, or improper temperature and fluctuations, but may also be caused by too arid an environment (Heritage Collections Council 1998).

Related Terms

Synonyms in English

Buckling, Cockling, Deformation, Dimpling, Draw, Undulation, Warping, Wrinkling


English Distortion
Spanish DistorsiĆ³n


Distortion may be general or local, for types of distortion see Related Terms above. Treatment is recommended for objects affected by distortion as areas of the support may further weaken if not treated (Morris 2014). Distortion can also cause other problems, for example with media, resulting in damage such as cleavage (Downey and Schobert 2000). Methods are available to reshape distorted objects and may include relaxing materials, such as paper, through an increase in humidity and then applying pressure to flatten (Morris 2014). It is important to note that not all works can undergo humidification treatment, such as watercolors, pastels, or any media that is water soluble, friable, or highly textured (NPS 1993). If an object is unable to undergo humidification/relaxation, then a special mat can be constructed to protect the work from further damage (Morris 2014).


AICCM. Visual Glossary. Accessed March 21, 2015. http://aiccm.org.au/resources/visual-glossary/distortion

Downey, Anne and Mary Schobert. 2000. Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, Disaster Recovery: Salvaging Works on Paper. Accessed March 21, 2015. http://www.ccaha.org/uploads/media_items/technical-bulletin-salvaging-art-on-paper.original.pdf

Heritage Collections Council. 1998. reCollections: Caring for Collections Across Australia, Damage and Decay. Accessed March 21, 2015. http://aiccm.org.au/sites/default/files/docs/reCollections/3_damage_and_decay.pdf

Morris, Patricia. 2014. Conserving Works of Art on Paper. Accessed March 21, 2015. http://www.collectorsguide.com/fa/fa010.shtml

National Park Service. 1993. Conserve O Gram 13/2: How to Flatten Folded or Rolled Paper Documents Accessed March 20, 2015. http://www.nps.gov/museum/publications/conserveogram/13-02.pdfReturn to List of Lexicon Terms