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a separation in flexible material such paper, canvas, or textile. The separation typically begins at the edge of an object and follows along areas of weakness such as folds. (AICC n.d.)

Related Terms

Tear in a 19th century paper document
Tear in a textile

split; separate

Synonyms in English

rip; divide; sever


English tear
French déchirer
Spanish rasgar
Portuguese lágrima, rasgo
Italian lacerare
German reißen
Russian рвать
Arabic تمزق


Tears are usually initiated by mechanical force such as pulling or wrenching and result in partial or complete separation of parts with ragged or uneven edges.

Paper deteriorates rapidly when folded and refolded. (Long 2000) The repetitive manipulation causes paper to tear along fold lines. Tears are repaired for several reasons: to keep them from lengthening, preventing fragments from separating, making artifacts safer for handling, and improving artifact appearance. (NEDCC, n.d.) Tears in paper can be repaired through mending, filling losses, and lining the support structure. Aqueous adhesives, starch-based paste (wheat or rice), or methyl cellulose are used in mending, along with reinforcing paper strips when necessary. Losses can be filled with insets, pulp, or by lining. Fills can be toned to match support. (Asiarta Foundation 2011)

Textiles deteriorate as a result of chemical changes, mechanical wear, and improper handling and storage. (Long 2000) Exposure to light, high temperature, and low relative humidity cause fibers to break down. This breakdown increases fragility, leaving textiles vulnerable to tears. Sharp creases in textiles can also result in fabric splitting and tearing. Weaknesses along lines of sewing can be hand stitched with thread of comparable type and thickness. Darning, with a similar or lighter weight (finger) thread as used in the original weave of the fabric, can repair other types of tears. Additionally, a support fabric of similar weight can be couch stitched behind a tear. (V&A 2014)

Patching or lining can be used to repair a tear in canvas.


AIC. BP Chapter 5-Written Documentation. "Glossary of Terms." Accessed 16 March 2014. Retrieved from http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/BP_Chapter_5_-_Written_Documentation#5.6_Glossary_of_Terms.

AICC. "Tear." Accessed 8 March 2014. Retrieved from http://www.aicmm.org.au/visual-glossary/tear.

Asiarta Foundation. "Paper conservation techniques." Last modified 2011. Retrieved from http://www.asiarta.org/introduction-to-conservation/works-of-art-on-paper/paper-conservation-techniques/.

Getty Research Institute. Art and Architecture Online Thesaurus. "Tear." Last modified 2004. Retrieved from http://www.getty.edu/vow/AATFullDisplay?find=tear&logic=AND&note=&english=N&prev_page=1&subjectid=300254138.

Long, Richard, W. Caring for Your Family Treasures. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2000.

National Park Service. Museum Handbook, Part I, "Collections." Last modified 2006. Retrieved from http://www.nps.gov/history/museum/publications/Museum%20Handbook%20with%20Quick%20Reference.pdf.

Northeast Conservation Documentation Center. Conservation Procedures 7.3 Repairing Paper Artifacts. Accessed 8 March 2014. Retrieved from http://nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/7.-conservation-procedures/7.3-repairing-paper-artifacts.

Reading, Paulette. Mountain States Art Conservation. "Textiles." Last modified January 2014. Retrieved from http://www.msaconservation.com/paulette-reading-textile-conservation/.

Victoria and Albert Museum. "Repairing and Restoring Textiles." Modified 2014. Retrieved from http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/r/repairing-and-storing-textiles/.

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