AIC 2011, Day One Notes

Hello from hot and humid Philadelphia and the AIC Annual Meeting. The theme of this meeting is ethics and decision-making. In the spirit of getting information out there fast I’m not doing a lot of markup or cleanup of my notes so please read them as such (especially under the notes from treatment discussions…always do your research first). If you have any notes or commentary to share, please do so in the comments. On to coffee and day two!

Restoring the Spirit and the Spirit of Restoration
James Janowski, Associate Prof., Hampden-Sydney College

• Conservation is about balancing various and competing values and meaning, involves tradeoffs
• Religious and historic issues not to mention aesthetic issues must be taken into account
• Frauenkirche Church in Dresden, Germany may pose a solution to the Bamiyan Budhas; burned in bombing in 1945 and collapsed; the ruin itself had meaning and some urged not to destroy or rebuild it; 45% of recreation consists of original stones
• Bamiyan Buddhas destroyed by Taliban in March 2001; should the Buddhas be resurrected? it would require international support
• Much of the original sculpture materials exist and have been carefully cataloged
• How much of it is usable is in question, can it be done? should it? who decides?
• Whose interest counts? who owns them?
• Are the meanings and values restorable?
• UNESCO is undergoing a feasibility study for the smaller Buddha; the larger one is what the Afghans want reconstructed
• $30-50 Million per sculpture estimated for their reconstruction (the same price as one Formula One car)
• Meanings and values of resurrected sculptures may outweigh those of the empty spaces;
• We have a fiduciary responsibility to the site for future generations; consider what the site means and what it might mean over the next millennium
• Bringing back even one Buddha would be a huge project and would restore religious value; Buddhas should proudly display their ‘band aids’. The should be resurrected in a way such that historical values would not be lost.

Restoration Ethics, Cleaning and Perception: A Case Study
Bill Wei, Senior Conservation Scientist, Conservator, Curator, Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage
• Reconsider what you are doing before decisions become too routine (e.g. should you always remove varnish layers)
• Awareness of “entire” decision making process
• Awareness of different points fo view
• What is a “good” restoration?
• Socratic dialogue should be undertaken

Legacies from the Past: Previous Repair
Deborah Bede, Stillwater Textile Conservation Studio, LLC

• Context and interpretation will effect our treatment decisions
• Characterization of repairs: initial repairs during their original use (alterations, patches, etc.) vs. conservation repairs later.
• Prior repairs can be merely distracting to the eye, or damaging to the object
• Previous interventions might have their own value (provenance)
• Harm vs. benefit: physical consequences of leaving a repair vs. removing it; how does aesthetic of repair balance with chemical/physical stability; how will repair aid longevity of object; what are the priorities for collection

Digitizing Archives: Does it Keep or Destroy the Originals?
Gabrielle Beentjes, Senior Conservation Consultant, National Archives of the Netherlands

• Government records, bound together: binding hid information, disbinding would destroy original order
• Goal of treatment was said to be discovering as much of original writing as possible
• Does the physical condition of object allow digitization?
• Does the physical appearance obstruct consultation?
• Can the original be consulted in its current appearance?
• Does it fit under the scanner in its current shape?
• Can the digitization workflow be changed to accommodate the original object as it is?
• Does appearance of the original add value (provenance)
• Can you accept a loss of value (or information) to aid digitization?
• You can’t save everything in every instance but we need to stop and think before taking everything apart just to digitize it. What is the long-term consequences to the object and the information? how stable is the digital surrogate vs. the object?
• Do you have sufficient financial resources to do the work? before and after?
• [She has really good decision-making flow charts in her presentation that are too small to read.]
• If value of original bindings is minor compared to value of digitized object, prepare it for digitizing and digitize; if original is more valuable consider not digitizing it.

Museum Environmental Guidelines and the Implementation of Change, Charles Costain, Director, Research, Conservation and Scientific Services, Canadian Conservation Institute
• Videos and transcripts of 2010 AIC/IIC Plus Minus Dilemma are online
ASHRAE 99 guidelines written in the language of engineers and scientists; design parameters, system selection
• Classes of control, AA (50%rh +/-5%; 75 deg F +/- 4degreesF) ; Class A (50%rh +/-10%; 75 deg F +/-5degrees w/ seasonal offset)
• Building Types, vaults and display cases AA, A, cool, cold, dry; Museums, galleries, exhibits, storage, AA, A, B possibly with seasonal drift
• On site risk assessment: value pie lists value of components of collection (building, collections)
• “Saving Money, Preserving Collections” dialogue gave an overview of evolution of guidelines for museum environment; operation of facilities; conditions for loans/funding
• Purpose built facilities 50% +/-5 summer, 43% +/- 5 winter; temp 21C
• Agreement on the following: when lending objects the museums will not demand better conditions than they have at home facility; national museums will lend objects containing hygroscopic materials to institutions that can achieve Class A conditions; Class A conditions are required for federal grant applications
• Rules based approach moves to risk based approach

Practical Applications of Lascaux Acrylic Dispersions in Paper Conservation
Samantha Sheesley, CCAHA

• Lascaux 360HV and 498HV
• pH 8-9; can be thinned with water but when dried is insoluble in water (will be soluble in acetone when dry)
• 360HV dries tacky, 498 dries hard
• 498HV used for reactivated tissue with heat or solvent; evenly brushed out on silicone polyester (Mylar) and dried with hair dryer. Tengujo on top of Lascaux and heated (use silicone release paper between materials and iron). Reactivate adhesive with heat or ethanol after cutting into strips.
• Lining with 498HV: mist water onto metal table, lay down polyester sheet, apply thin coating of Lascaux on top of polyester, dried with hair dryer; Japanese paper on top of dry adhesive, iron with low iron (150 degree) with silicone release paper buffering it; Peel away polyester film to reveal adhesive; line object using iron (attach first with tacking iron in a few places to keep it from shifting); fills w/ toned J.paper
• Good for hydrophobic papers (thin or brittle)
• 360HV and 498HV to repair photo button: equal parts of each adhesive combined and toned with acrylics in 2:2:1 brushed onto polyester and dried. Small strips cut out of adhesive and rolled into a “jellyroll” and inserted from front; heat activated with 170 degree tacking iron through polyester film; excess Lascaux cleaned with solvent
• Lascaux Method good for mending tears, lining supports, filling losses

When a Silk Flag is Dust and They Still Want to Exhibit It, Helen Alten, Conservator and CEO, Northern States Conservation Center
• Flag dated 1862 exhibited in a frame; painted lettering with gold/gilding, pressure mounted on a wood tongue and groove panel board covered with velvet and in a glass/oak frame; glass had UV absorbing film on the glass, but small crack allowed her to put an acid strip inside the frame, w/in 24 hours it turned green
• Layer of fine soot on flag surface, attached w/ nails that had rusted, label glued on one corner; uneven pressure from wood backing cased lines in fabric; fading; prior repairs; no intrinsic strength to fibers, fibers powdered when touched or when air moved across the surface. Basically it was “flag shaped dust”.
• Used Groomstick to remove surface dirt (put a glob of groomstick on skewer, shaped very smoothly)
• Removed tacks and nails w/ needle nosed pliers padded wth 1/8 inch Ethafoam
• Humidification done by placing Tyvek over the flag, misting full sheets of blotter paper with distilled water, applying damp blotters to Tyvek.
• Paper label came off with warm water
• Constructed padded backing board with alumninum honeycomb panel
• Silk crepeline was blocked and dried on glass then they applied an adhesive to it to attach the flag.
• Used Lascaux 360 and 498 1:1 then mixed in 1:8 adhesive to water and brushed onto crepeline and dried
• Flag humidified and applied to adhesive side and heated with warm iron set at 140F
• Stitched edges with undyed hair silk and covered with silk crepeline

The Conservation of Letterpress Copying Books: A Study of the Baird Collection
Beth Antoine, Smithsonian Institution Archives

• Iron gall ink with additives: colorants, humectants (sugar, glycerine), mordants
• Very thin paper with short fibers expand when wet, very sensitive to moisture
• Multiple transition metals were found along with the iron using X-RF
• Treatment generally involves a three pronged approach: arrest acid catalyzed hydrolysis (calcium phytate), deactivate transition metal ions (calcium bicarbonate), and strengthen weakened substrate (gelatin); this “standard” treatment is not appropriate for copy books due to aqueous nature of treatment and their vulnerability to moisture.
• Tetrabutyl ammonium bromide (TBAB) stabilizes iron and other transition irons and can be used non-aqueously in ethanol. TBAB found to be less effective than aqueous treatments in their experiments.
• Aqueous treatments with calcium phytate and gelatin removed Fe (II) ions, increased pH, and restored strength.
• Digitization challenges: bound, fragile paper, translucence of paper, cockling, transparency of paper; best results were from placing a interleaving photo paper under the sheet; ring flash attached to lens; faded inks looked better under ultraviolet light

Online Access to and Preservation of a Multi-Component Sketch Collection
Marjorie Jonas, Acting Conservation Technologist, Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology

• Had to create a finding aid, started by defining terminology for substrate, drawings and added materials such as fabric swatches
• Used General International Standard Archival Descriptions ISADG, Ottawa 2000 as a starting point, then assigned unique numbers to the sketches
• Finding aid has links to online images (JPG) and condition reports (PDFs)(used Filezilla)
• Sketchbooks had drawings, media, photos and fabric swatches and clippings attached with a brushed on glue
• Decided to disbind the comb bindings and box the single pages in boxes, interleaved each page with three ml polyethylene envelopes

The Hours of Catherine of Cleves: Exhibition, Conservation and Analysis of an Illuminated Manuscript
Francisco Trujillo, Morgan Library

• Isinglass used for consolidation for all pigments prior to sending it off for exhibition
• Imaging used: Fuji IS Pro, X-FR, false color infrared


One Response

  1. Beth,
    Thank you VERY much for posting this. VERY helpful encapsulation of the events thus far.


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