Yesterday’s papers, preserved.

“Inherent vice,” observes Lisa Forman as she peers over her half glasses at a stack of newspapers. To a paper conservator like Forman, vice isn’t about sloth or greed or lust. It’s about rag content and acidity. The newspapers, printed by Japanese Americans interned by the U.S. government during World War II, are crumbling, partly because the newsprint contains the seeds of its own destruction--in conservator’s language, inherent vice.

Working out of her mid-Wilshire studio, Forman is one of only a handful of L.A.-based conservators who specialize in paper objects. She divides her time between institutional projects such as the internment newspapers, archived at Cal State Northridge, and those brought to her by private collectors. One of the latter rests on a large table, layers of moist rayon, Gore-tex and yards of interfacing gently humidifying the transparent drafting paper and its exquisitely rendered insitutitional lighting fixture, drawn at the turn of the century by the L.A. architectural firm Wagner Woodruff.

“I rarely lust after what people bring in for me,” says Forman, eschewing whatever inherent vice her profession might provoke in the rest of us. “But this"--she murmurs, leaning over the colored pencil drawings--"this is beautiful.”