2012 Annual Meeting of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy: Call for Papers and Panel Participants

2012 Annual Meeting: Frank Lloyd Wright and Midwest Modern
Mason City, Iowa
10-14 October 2012

While early in his career, Frank Lloyd Wright began to design buildings that would have an international influence and have long been considered internationally significant as well as quintessentially American, he can also be examined as first and foremost an architect of the Midwest. That region was not only his home and the setting for the majority of his work, it was a place to which he responded with particular acuity throughout his long career. The topography and climate of the Midwest, the natural materials suitable for building, the pervasiveness of its landscape of rural areas and small towns, and the individualism harbored by many of its residents – all are embodied in his designs. Moreover, the Midwest was where Wright had the greatest impact on colleagues, both those who had worked for him and others who were inspired by his example.

The Conservancy invites proposals for papers and for panelist participation in three areas central to the theme of “Frank Lloyd Wright and Midwest Modern”:
1) The work of Wright and his followers. Proposals should focus on attributes of design and/or practice that are particularly associated with or reflective of the Midwest and what aspects of this work render it “modern.”
2) The clients of Wright and his followers. Many projects benefited from exceptional clients. Proposals should focus their distinctiveness and how they may have had an impact on the work they commissioned.
3) Wright and related arts. Wright can be seen as part of a larger pursuit of modernity that was closely associated with the Midwest and entailed landscape design, painting, sculpture, the decorative arts, and literature. Proposals may address on any one of these or other pertinent artistic spheres, focusing on how the subject relates to the legacy of Wright as well as to the region.
Proposals should be submitted as an abstract of no more than one page, single-spaced, with the author’s name at the top. The text should concisely describe the focus and the scope of the presentation. The proposal should be accompanied by a one-page biography or curriculum vitae that includes: author’s full name, affiliation (if applicable), mailing address, email address, and telephone and fax numbers. Please also note audio-visual needs.
Proposals must be received no later than 1 February 2012. Material sent electronically is preferred. Notification will be sent by 5 March.

Please submit proposals and direct any questions to:

Richard Longstreth
(American Studies Department, 2108 G Street, N.W., George Washington University
Washington, D.C. 20052, 202 994-6098, fax 202 994-8651)

Conservators “Keep Austin Weird”-WAAC Annual Meeting, Final Day

The final day of talks at the WAAC Annual Meeting did not disappoint. There was another great group of talks in the half day session that included practical information as well as papers that discussed larger ethical issues presented during certain conservation approaches.

A talk by Wyndell Faulk (Concept to Fabrication: The Deniro Collection, “Men of Honor” Deep Dive Suit Stabilization Device), a preparator at the Harry Ransom Center, explained a system he developed for displaying a very heavy canvas and rubber dive suit used in the movie “Men of Honor”. As we learned that morning, Robert De Niro donated a collection of papers, movie props, films and costumes (about 1300 items) documenting his film career. This dive suit was one of those items and Wyndell had to prepare a mount to be able to hang the suit on the wall to display it. He created an acrylic support, like a hanger, which he padded, that would fit into the neck and shoulders of the suit. The support could then be tied to the wall to display it. This was a great example of how his creativity transformed the idea of a hanger into a “deep dive suit stabilization device” to safely display this object.

Later that morning, a talk by Albrecht Gumlich (Juggling “Material Time Bombs”-Dealing with Ephemeral, Mixed Media Items from Special Collections at the Getty Research Institute), objects conservator at the Getty Research Institute (GRI), made us think about how we conserve mixed media, contemporary art made of materials that decay due to inherent vices in a collection that is accessible to researchers. Items in the collection are made from plastics that degrade, metals that corrode, have items that contain food or other organic materials that decompose. Albrecht talked about the struggle between wanting to preserve these items, knowing that the best way to do that is to keep them for example in cold storage, but needing to step back to allow researchers to look at the materials because the items are in a research collection. In order to help monitor the condition of these pieces during their life in the research collection, a system of periodic checks of the more sensitive materials, or those more likely to decay, has been implemented. Condition sheets have been made to record the condition of all the components of these “time bombs” and indicate materials that may need more frequent examination. Other staff members at the GRI, such as registrars and interns are trained to identify and record any potentially problematic items so that several people are involved in the documentation. The information will be incorporated into the GRI’s collection database and will be shared with other institutions that have similar items in their collection. Looking at the items Albrecht was discussing in his talk, it certainly made me think about how difficult it must be to preserve these ephemeral works of art that could degrade at any moment. It also brought up a lot of questions about what should we really be trying to preserve with contemporary art. Should the focus be on preserving the physical items or should we, as conservators, accept that things decay and we cannot preserve them? Should the focus be on preserving the artist’s intent, even if it means replacing materials or being able to only keep a photo of an art object and not the object itself? These are larger questions that conservators who deal with these types of collections must often ask themselves, and it definitely creates a lot of interesting ethical discussions.

Looking back at the conference, I certainly enjoyed listening to such a broad range of talks and discussing many conservation issues with colleagues. It was a great first WAAC conference for me and I can’t wait for next year’s conference in Palm Springs. And as for the quote in the title, “Keep Austin Weird” is something you hear or see all over the city. Coined about a decade ago, it celebrates the uniqueness, and sometimes eccentricities, of the city and local businesses. Looking at the range of papers presented over the course of the last 4 days, you can certainly say that conservators are working on some very unique materials. By presenting our work at the conference, we, in our own way, certainly kept Austin weird.

The value of collaborating with different experts-WAAC Annual Meeting, Day 3

One of the things I’m most enjoying about the WAAC Annual Meeting is the variety of the papers that have been presented. I usually attend conferences that focus on my area of specialization or have to pick and choose which talks to go to maybe missing something that could be very interesting or relevant. The other advantage of having such a mix of topics and professionals presenting is that you can get non-conservators presenting about work relating to the preservation of art. We had two talks today from specialists who work with conservators or are interested in the field of conservation. It was great to see them take part in this conference and want to share their work with us. Conservation is a very collaborative discipline and for some of us, working with different experts is not something that is very surprising. It is always helpful, however, to be reminded that this kind of participation in conservation conferences is valuable because we can learn from another area of expertise and see information from a different perspective.

In the morning session, Jamie Hascall, a preparator with the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, Exhibits Division, presented a talk titled The multipurpose mount: An adjustable support for photography and radiography of fragile Dinetah pottery. A group of Navajo ceramic vessels, that were seized by the Bureau of Land Management, were brought to the conservation department of the New Mexico Dept. of Cultural Affairs for examination and conservation. The vessels were generally intact, though some were damaged and had a few missing areas. What was most interesting about these vessels was that some had been repaired when the vessels were in use. Cracks or broken areas had been reinforced with plant fiber ties and then had some kind of resinous material, thought to be pine resin, applied. The conservators were tasked with documenting the vessels through photography and x-radioagraphy, but because the vessels had a pointed bottom, positioning them for photography was difficult.

Having worked with conservators, Jaime was aware of the needs of the conservators in regards to documentation and the needs of the vessel in terms of stabilization. He worked with the conservators to come up with a mount that would sufficiently support the vessel but be unobtrusive in a photo. He designed an acrylic telescopic stand with a movable arm that inserts into the vessel to hold it in place. A Volara form sits at the end of the insert and expands to support the interior of the vessel. Nylon clips at the base of the stand supports the bottom of the vessel. The stand was made out of acrylic so that it could be used when the vessels were x-rayed and not appear in the xray. Instead of questions at the end of the talk, Jaime and the conference attendees started brain storming about ways to modify the mount if increased support was needed on the bottom or interior (this turned into a discussion about the use of weather balloons!). Jaime mentioned he is working on a book about mountmaking, and after hearing his creative ideas for supporting these vessels, we are all eagerly awaiting it.

In the afternoon session, Michelle Bushey, a chemistry professor at Trinity College, and one of her undergraduate chemistry students, Madeline Corona, presented on a series of interdisciplinary research projects combining art and science in a talk titled Have (XRF) gun, will travel-To museums and historical sites! Interdisciplinary studies at the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Alamo. Like the presentation we heard yesterday by JoAnn Peters, Michelle also teaches a course that introduces undergraduate chemistry students to conservation science. The projects discussed included collaborations with chemists, geologists, curators, conservators, art professors and students. Michelle talked a bit about the course and then Madeline took over to talk about the 3 projects they worked on: the study of markings on Greek pottery, the analysis of a marble sculpture of Antinous, and a study of Spanish colonial pigments at the Alamo. The department was able to purchase a portable XRF unit and used that technique for most of the analysis. Though the work on some of these projects is still ongoing they’ve already obtain some interesting results, such as finding the remains of gilding on the back of the head of the sculpture. This is another great example of the way conservation, art and science come together and can create great collaborative projects between chemists, conservators and museums. This is also a wonderful opportunity to educate students about conservation and chemistry. As a result of her work with Michelle, Madeline has decided to pursue a degree in art conservation.

These two presentations are just a sampling of the types of collaborations that occur in the field of conservation between conservators and other experts. They certainly highlight the interdisciplinary nature of the field. They also illustrate the importance of working with other specialists and the value their expertise has to our work, conservation education and outreach.

Let the Talks Begin-WAAC Annual Meeting, Day 2

Restoration of a video installation, disaster response due to Texas wildfires, conserving a sandstone facade, cold storage of photographs, treating paper collections in 12 Alaskan museums and developing an architectural conservation plan for a university…those were just some of the topics presented today on the second day of the WAAC Annual meeting.

Conservators from all over the western part of the US came together today for the first day of talks. A broad range of topics and specialties were presented to the approximately 60 WAAC members attending the meeting. Here are some of the talks I found particularly interesting:

Luminous: How Conservation Studies, Treatment and Advocacy are Integrated in an Exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum
Nicholas Dorman, Seattle Art Museum

Nicholas Dorman discussed a current exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, Luminous: The Art of Asia, that has incorporated the information gathered from the research and treatment conducted on the materials in preparation for the exhibit, into the didactic material presented to the public. Detailed images to highlight technological features or materials identified, xrays and CT scan images provide additional information to viewers and are an opportunity to educate them about conservation and the activities of SAM’s conservation dept. The website for the exhibit includes several videos highlighting the treatments and examinations conducted to give the public an inside view to the contribution the conservators made to what they see on display. This is great example of public outreach about conservation and integrating the hard, and of course interesting, work conservators do into an exhibition.

Color: Review of the Main Color Producing Mechanisms and Illustration with Feather Colors
Christel Pesme, Getty Conservation Institute

Christel’s talk demonstrated that the way that we perceive color is very complex and affected by many factors such as the material we are observing, the light used and how that material interacts with the light. Christel has been working on a project to look into the fading of feathers in California featherwork and showed us how looking at this material changes the way we think about the color we see on artifacts. The way that color is structured in feathers is very complex and through visual examples, she showed us that the same feather in reflected light can be two different colors on either side. She also showed us that transmitting light through a feather drastically alters the color and makes a blue and red macaw feather look brown. Her talk certainly made us all think about how we view color and how that affects our determination of what we observe as and determine to be fading. I know I’ll never look at something again and not wonder if whether the light, and the object itself, is playing some trick on me and drastically changing the way I view the color it contains.

What to Do When a Chemist Comes Knocking on the Door: Identification of Plastic Materials in Museum Collections through Collaboration with and Undergraduate Chemistry Program
JoAnn Peters, Central Washington University

JoAnn Peters is an organic chemist who teaches at Central Washington University and became interested in conservation science after attending an NSF funded workshop on chemistry and art. This interest, and work that she did with the Royal British Columbia Museum on the identification of plastics in their collection, inspired her to create a collaboration between museums in her area and the undergraduate chemistry students she teaches. As part of her work at the university, JoAnn teaches students about chemistry and conservation science while having them identify the types of plastic materials found in the collection of the Yakima Valley Museum. The information is used to help the museum determine how best to care for these objects. The students have so far only used microchemical testing, but JoAnn hopes to be able to use infrared spectroscopy as well, a technique that is taught as part of the undergraduate chemistry curriculum. The creation of this collaboration is a great example of the benefit of such partnerships between institutions and universities/scientists, which also extends to the education of students both in chemistry and conservation science. The collaboration seems to be positive for both institutions and hopefully can be a model for other museums and university faculty to follow.

The Watercolors of Charles Russell: An Examination of the Artists’ Materials and Techniques on the Montana Fronter
Jodie Utter, Amon Carter Museum

The next to last paper of the day was presented by Jodie Utter, a conservator of works on art on paper who for the last four years has been studying the materials and techniques used by artist Charles Russell who painted watercolors depicting the Montana Frontier. Using techniques such as polarized light microscopy, XRF, infrared reflectography and UV light, Jodi has been able to trace the changes in his technique and the paints he used throughout his career. In the examples she showed us, we got to see how his early paintings had detailed underdrawings and his figures had no shadow, but as he gained more experience and practice, his underdrawings became sketches and his paintings more sophisticated. His use of paints changed over time as well, choosing initially watercolors that would give the scene a transparency and luminescence to later choosing more opaque paints and employing the impasto technique to give a three dimensionality to his work. Jodi is working on this technical study for a book that is being written for an upcoming exhibit of Russell’s work. I’m sure the viewers will be as interested in the technical information she discovered about Russell’s paintings as much as seeing the paintings themselves.

At the end of the day the WAAC attendees made their way to the Byrne-Reed House, a historic home that was restored by the Humanities Texas who uses it as a place for exhibits and offices. We enjoyed good food and drink on the beautiful open porch of the house and in the restored living room. We also got tours of the upper floors of the house and got to see rooms that still kept the original floor plan, the sleeping porch with a section of original railing and some beautiful plaster work on the upper exterior walls. It was a wonderful way to end such a great first day of talks.

Wonderfully WAAC-Y: the WAAC annual Silent Auction

For the last seven years, WAAC meeting attendees have eagerly anticipated what has become a staple event at the annual meeting, the Silent Auction. An idea conceived by conservator and former WAAC board member Beverly Perkins, the Silent Auction is usually held over two days of the meeting to raise money for a local organization in need. WAAC attendees are encouraged to bring items to donate to the auction, and WAAC board members are typically major contributors as well. The items in the auction range from practical art conservation items-tools, materials, and conservation books-to fun, silly, handmade and/or locally-inspired items, which are some of the most popular among bidders.

Suzanne Morris surveying the auction items and contemplating her strategy


This year, auction items included gingerbread pancake mix from local favorite restaurant Kerbey Lane Cafe, a cowboy hat, Keep Austin Weird: A Guide to the Odd Side of Town by Red Wassenich (who is also the spouse of Austin-based conservator Karen Pavelka), a plush Clara Barton doll, a glass plate negative, an attractive pair of extra large ladies sunglasses, Amelie on DVD, and Josef Alber’s Interaction of Color. Bidding wars really broke out for items such as Changing Views of Textile Conservation by Mary M. Brooks and Dinah D. Eastop, a Teflon spatula, colorful vegetable and fruit-print cloth napkins handmade by conservator and WAAC newsletter editor Carolyn Tallent, Russell Brand’s memoir My Booky Wook, and for those feeling particularly daring, several mystery items, donated by LA-based conservator Albrecht Gumlich.


The colorful cloth napkins handmade by Carolyn Tallent were popular items in the auction


The highly coveted Russell Brand memoir


This year’s auction was a great success, raising over $600.The proceeds will benefit art and artifact preservation activities at the French Legation Museum in Austin, TX.


Beverly Perkins calls the end of the Silent Auction



Post by Molly Gleeson and Vanessa Muros



2011 WAAC Annual Meeting, Day 1

Austin, Texas. This is where the 2011 Western Association for Art Conservation (WAAC) annual meeting is being held and where I’ll be for the rest of the week (Oct. 19-22). I’m excited about being here. It’s my first time at a WAAC meeting and my first time in Austin. And I’ve only heard good things about both.

Today was the first day of the conference. Conference attendees had the option of going on tours of different conservation labs on the campus of UT Austin. To kick off the conference, an opening reception was held at the Harry Ransom Center. Due to flight issues, I missed most of the day’s activities and arrived just in time to catch the tail end of the opening reception. The lobby of the Ransom Center was a nice venue for the reception, and the food (and glasses of wine) certainly hit the spot after a day of traveling.

Conservators ready for this year's WAAC conference


Though I’ve never been to a WAAC conference before, and I have only participated in a very small portion of it so far, it already has a different feel than the large AIC Annual Meetings I always go to. I know it’s smaller in size in terms of number of attendees and papers, but I think that it gives the conference a more intimate and laid back feeling. It will actually be easier to speak to presenters about the work they just shared, catch up with colleagues, and meet new ones. I’m looking forward to the format of the conference where the sessions combine papers on different specialties and I’ll have the opportunity to listen to information on topics I don’t normally hear about. From what I’ve heard, Austin seems like a great city to hold the conference in, filled with many great places to eat, to hear live music and maybe even take in some line dancing.

Tomorrow is the first day of presentations and am eagerly awaiting to hear about the work being conducted by fellow conservators. I’m also looking forward to the banquet tomorrow night (which I hear is always fun) and exploring more of Austin while I’m here. It looks like it’s going to be a great week.

Checking out Austin after the opening reception. Food and drinks at the Spider House Cafe.

AIC-Member Research Trip to Cuba: Only a Few Spaces Left

Also, there is still space available in AIC’s upcoming research trip to Cuba. For nine days explore conservation, preservation, cultural, and humanitarian activities in Cuba, focusing on the UNESCO World Heritage cities of Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad de Cuba, and the countryside between those cultural centers. The trip will be led by AIC member, Rosa Lowinger and Cuba Tours and Travel. The trip is open to Associate, PA, and Fellow members who are full-time conservators. Visit our website for more information, to view a draft itinerary, and to sign-up for the trip. The trip is limited to 30 Members, so register today to reserve your spot. For more information and to register, visit www.conservation-us.org/cuba.

5 Reasons to Take an Online Course from the FAIC Online Education Program

Many face-to-face and online courses, and many books, describe how to organize and manage a small business. The FAIC Online series is the only information source designed specifically for the community of art and artifact preservation specialists. The courses are led by experienced online teachers who have an intimate knowledge of conservation as well as their subject matter, and are able to provide advice and solutions based in the reality of a conservation practice today.

Not convinced? Here are five reasons to take an online course offered by the FAIC Online Education Program.

Availability and Timeliness

At present, the FAIC Online Education program includes eight courses:

Five different courses are offered each calendar year. You are never more than about eighteen months from the next offering of the course(s) you want to take. (Desperate to know now? Ask about minimum fees and participant numbers for a special offering of the course you want to take.)


It’s easy to fit an FAIC Online Education course into your schedule. You have 24/7 access while the course is taking place. You can be anywhere, as long as you have a computer or smartphone and an internet connection. Check into the site when you have a minute or two. Respond to requests or comments as the mood strikes you.

Build Your Skills

Each week of every course introduces new activities for all skill levels. Learn what you need to know now. Use the basic activities as a review. Reserve more advanced assignments for later. Don’t find what you need on the site? Ask the leader: He or she has the expertise to help you with the questions you’re facing. Don’t forget that you can also ask questions of your colleagues in the course. You’ll find them a source of real-world experience and you can be confident that they understand what a conservator does.
The online environment accommodates your learning style, too. Whether you’re someone who constantly asks and answers questions or the one at the back of the classroom who watches and learns but prefers to remain silent, there is room for you to learn best what you need to learn the most.

Create a new network

The FAIC Online Education courses provide an opportunity to work with conservators beyond your existing network. Meet with and learn about colleagues in other specialties, who work in different regions of the U.S. or the world. You develop a new node in your network: a cohort of people who know you and your skills, people to whom you can turn for advice—and with whom you can share referrals—even though they are not in your backyard.

Expense. Or Rather, the Lack Thereof.

Each FAIC Online Education course is four weeks long. Each week is the equivalent of a very full, daylong conference. AIC members pay $200 per course. It’s like attending 4 seminars at $50 each.


Courses remaining in the FAIC Online Education series for 2011:

Want more information? See the FAIC Online Education page on the AIC website. Take the quiz, “Is Online Learning Right for You?” Talk to one one of the more than 500 program participants.

Want to be informed of next year’s schedule when it’s available? Contact Abigail Choudhury, FAIC Development and Education Associate, achoudhury[at]conservation-us.org.

Second International Mountmaking Forum

Second International Mountmaking Forum

Hosted by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

May 5-6, 2010

Reported by BJ Farrar

Following the first Mountmaking Forum held in Los Angeles at the Getty Villa, in 2008, the Smithsonian Institution hosted the second International Mountmaking Forum in May 2010. The two-day conference was well attended with over 250 international participants from all over the U.S., Canada, England and some as far away as Japan and Australia.


The first day of the Forum, held at the National Museum of the American Indian, included a full day of presentations from nine presenters.

. Marian Kaminitz, Head of Conservation at the National Museum of the American Indian gave the opening remarks, stressing the importance of mountmaking and its “coming of age” as a profession. She discussed the integral roles of mountmaking within the museum as ensuring the safety of the objects on display, while fulfilling the curatorial and exhibition designer’s vision.

. McKenzie Lowry, Mountmaker in the Antiquities Conservation Department at the Getty Villa was the first presenter of the day. His presentation, titled Exploring Designs for Concealing Objects Mounts covered a variety of concepts and mount designs that would minimize the visual impact of a mount. The range of ideas addressed included material choices for mounts, finishes, internal supports, integrated mounts in display furniture, working with conservators to incorporate the mount into a restoration, and the use of isolators to minimize the size of a visible mount.

. The second presenter of the day was Jenna Wainwright, Associate Conservation Preparator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Her presentation, titled From Pole to Puzzle: Crafting a Mount for a Bark Cloth Figure documented her design and fabrication of an internal mount for a very large Oceanic headdress. At 175 inches tall, extremely fragile with a cantilevered display orientation, the object presented many challenges. The presentation was a good follow-up to McKenzie’s topic of internal mounts and illustrated the use of a mount that not only provides excellent support for a fragile object, but fulfills the desired display orientation while being virtually invisible to the viewer.

. The last speaker for the morning session was Keith Conway, Exhibition Specialist at the National Museum of African Art. His presentation, titled Challenges and Solutions in Complex Mountmaking: Iranian Tile and Bwa Mask, examined two case study objects and their mounting solutions; detailing their mount designs from conception through installation. The first example was a heavy and unstable Iranian stone tile. The piece required casting an epoxy putty interface to compensate for an uneven bottom surface and wall-mounted retaining clips at the top of the object. The second example was a very tall and fragile African mask that required a welded, wall-mounted steel main support and a smaller secondary brass mount. Both examples emphasized the importance of having a good understanding of various mount materials and fabrication techniques.

. Dianne Niedner, Senior Program Officer, Office of the Under Secretary for History, Arts and Culture, Smithsonian Institution welcomed the group back after lunch and started the afternoon session. Ms. Niedner again stressed the importance of mountmaking as a specialized field and its integral role within the museum.

. Gordon Lambert, Exhibit Preparator/Mountmaker at the Seattle Art Museum started off the afternoon session. His presentation titled A Beginner’s Mannequin: Museum Action Figure or Crash Test Dummy? looked at his development of an articulated mannequin design that would allow the figure to be displayed in multiple orientations, while providing a secure support for a large Native American headdress on top of the mannequin. Gordon followed with a subsequent example using a similar design for an African mask and woven suit. Both examples also explored the aesthetic details of the mannequin design, looking at what elements could be reduced, thereby highlighting the object.

. Matthew Cox, Lead Mountmaker/Preparator from the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City discussed his approach in working with the dedicated jewelry exhibit space in the recently opened museum building. His presentation, The Fabrication and Mounting of a Rotating Jewelry Gallery at the Museum of Arts and Design, focused on the challenges of design and installation of jewelry mounts for the museum’s rotating permanent collection. Matthew talked about his varied and elegant approaches to mount design and installation that take into account a quick turnaround between exhibits, minimal case repair and fabrication that could be done without having a dedicated mount shop.

. Helen Weir, Exhibition Specialist at the Natural History Museum, London gave a fascinating talk on the new Large Glass Case display at Darwin Centre Cocoon. Her presentation: Layering Life: Mount Making for the Darwin Centre Cocoon, documented the display from beginning concept to its completion, highlighting the many technical mounting challenges she and her colleagues encountered along the way. Helen discussed the complexity of the display, where careful planning and mock-ups were crucial for it success. In the process new mounting techniques were devised to mount and display extremely fragile (and numerous) specimens in transparent cases that created a seamless finished display.

The session ended with an informal question-and-answer period with the first six speakers, where a number of good questions were raised by the audience, enough to consider a roundtable session at the next Forum.

. Following a brief afternoon break, Jonathan Pressler, from On the Verge Design, in the Washington D.C. area, gave an informative presentation, “Arctic Studies Center, Anchorage, Alaska: Mount Challenges and Solutions for Northwest Coast Objects for a Study Collection in an Earthquake Zone“. The presentation highlighted a number of objects and their mounting solutions for a very large and complex project that not only required the objects to be accessible as a study collection, but to address the many issues associated with artwork on display in a seismically active environment. Jonathan’s presentation also successfully illustrated the integral role of the mountmaker as a collaborative member of an exhibition team, working closely with the curators, conservators, and exhibition designers.

. Carl Schlichting, Mountmaker from the Museum of Art, University of British Columbia, presented mounting solutions for the Museum of Anthropology’s newly renovated visible storage gallery and the challenges faced with creating mounts for over 1500 objects. Carl’s presentation: Mounting MOA’s New Visible Storage, discussed prototyping in the development of adaptable mounting systems as well as modular connecting methods to further streamline the mount designs. Carl also went on to describe how the project also required the setup of a mountmaking shop and the training of staff in mountmaking techniques, as neither existed at the Museum prior to the project.

. The final presentation of the day was given by Susanne Gänsicke, Conservator of Objects at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, titled: New Mounting Systems for Ancient Objects for the Special Exhibition, The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC. This was a very interesting presentation as it documented two highly complicated projects involving extremely fragile and heavy objects. It also highlighted the importance of collaboration between conservators, mountmakers, contract engineers, and contractors. The first project example consisted of large, painted cedar coffin panels that were not only extremely fragile due to their painted surface, but quite heavy as well. The second example described was a large, heavy stone sculpture that needed to be removed from its existing display base and mounted on a new structural support. In both examples, Susanne described how new mounts were designed to fulfill a number of important purposes ranging from the aiding in the long term preservation of the objects to facilitating safe transport, all the while providing a clean visual display aesthetic.

There was a brief question-and-answer period following the afternoon session, and a number of questions were raised to the speakers.

. To round out the day’s presentations, keynote speaker Matthew Crawford, author of the bestselling book, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, gave a thoughtful talk of his impressions on the field of mountmaking. He touched on a number of points that highlighted the uniqueness of our profession.

After a full day, we were treated to an informal reception at the S. Dillon Ripley Center, where the next day’s poster session was to be held. This was a great opportunity to catch-up with colleagues and to make new acquaintances.


Day two of the Forum was a well attended poster session held at the S. Dillon Ripley Center with posters from eight presenters (in alphabetical order):

. Poster by Naomi Abe, Assistant Registrar at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, presented: An Introduction to Cost Effective Techniques for the Creation of Costume Mounts and Mannequins: The Hidden Lead Pellet Technique. She documented a very useful technique developed to incorporate bagged, leaded pellets into the lower sections of a mannequin form to provide ballast and help stabilize the figure while displayed in unusual positions.

. Margot Brunn, Conservator at the Royal Alberta Museum presented a poster titled: Animal Mounts- How Realistic do they Need to be? This was an interesting presentation of the aesthetics of support mounts in the form of animals, such as horses. Traditionally these mounts have been presented in a very realistic fashion, which can often compete with the primary display. Margot’s presentation included many successful examples where she reduced the animal form to a point where it is still fully recognizable, but did not interfere with the primary display object, providing a very clean aesthetic to her exhibits.

. Poster by Luba Dogvan Nurse, Andrew Mellon Fellow in conservation at The National Museum of the American Indian presented: A Support Mount Made from Nomex® Card for Flat Storage and 3-D Display of an Incomplete and Fragile 19th Century Straw Bonnet. Luba documented the successful use of Nomex® card as a support mount, which allowed for the bonnet to be stored flat to maximize storage space, while still retaining the ability to display the bonnet in 3-D shape.

. BJ Farrar, Mountmaker, Antiquities Conservation at the Getty Villa presented a poster titled A Preliminary Review of Some Alternatives to PhillySeal R. The paper was an overview of the search for and testing of a number of epoxy resins that might be a suitable replacement for the discontinued PhillySeal R epoxy putty. Initiated at the Getty Museum in 2007, BJ with museum conservator Jeffrey Maish and Mara Schiro of the Getty Conservation Institute, sought a replacement product that would fulfill many of the qualities that made PhillySeal popular with museums. While they did not find a direct substitute, they did find a number of other resins with different, but useful properties.

. Poster by Abby Krause, Preparator at the Colorado Historical Society presented: Old Monarch, New Mount. Abby’s presentation documented the process of designing and fabricating a new mount for “Old Monarch”, a beloved cross-section of a very large cottonwood tree that was cut down in the late 1800’s. The new mount, fabricated from steel, replaced an old bulky wood easel and incorporated a number of beneficial features such as a stronger, reduced mount size, and a design that allowed the object to be safely and easily transported on the mount.

. David La Touche, Co-founder of Benchmark presented a poster titled: Mounting Necklaces as Worn. This was a very interesting presentation on a technique used to display difficult, multi-part objects such as necklaces. The concept of David’s design is to create a support mount, or jig that resembles a multi-strand brass mop. The jig allows many smaller mounts for the necklace elements to be properly placed and connected. Once the desired orientation is obtained and the smaller mounts connected, the jig mount is removed leaving a very clean display.

. Poster by Mair La Touche, Co-founder of Benchmark also presented: New Mannequin Designs for Fragile & Hard to Handle Parkas. This was a great documentation of a mannequin design for very fragile, hooded parkas on loan to the new Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Not only did the mounts need to support all the elements of the fragile objects, but should also allow the parkas to be safely studied periodically by the Alaskan Native populations. Mair’s ingenious, but simple mount design, much like a hanger with a carrying handle, found a nice balance between the long-term preservation of the objects and the accessibility required by the lender.

. Marla Miles, Fashion Arts and Textiles Preparator and Cynthia Amnéus, Curator of Fashion Arts and Textiles at the Cincinnati Art Museum presented a poster titled: Fosshape and Its Application for Costume Mounts. Marla and Cynthia’s presentation focused on an interesting product they experimented with called Fosshape, an Oddy passed non-woven polyester material that is similar to a thick felt in a raw state. The product, when applied with wet or dry heat, shrinks about 25% and can be easily shaped over a form; it retains its shape once cooled, making it ideal for low-cost costume mounts. This seems like a truly versatile product that could have a number of useful applications for mountmaking and conservation.

Also throughout the second day, the Forum offered participants the option to take guided tours at a number of the Smithsonian’s various mountmaking shops and gallery spaces. This was a great opportunity to see some of the fantastic facilities at the Smithsonian. I only wished there was enough time for all the tours!

Thank you to all the speakers and poster presenters who contributed to this year’s Forum. And a BIG thank you and congratulations to Shelly Uhlir and her colleagues at the Smithsonian for hosting a very successful Mountmaking Forum. Due in part to their efforts, our group is gaining momentum and moving in a positive direction that will benefit the field of mountmaking.

Blogging from the 2009 WAAC Annual Meeting

The Western Association for Art Conservation (WAAC) held its August 19-21, 2009 Annual Meeting in Juneau, Alaska. The abstracts of the talks, which centered on the theme “Where the Wild Things Are: Conservation in the Extreme” will be printed in the upcoming WAAC newsletter. But, summaries of the papers, as well as information on the impromptu flood recovery efforts at the Alaska State Archives, the “Angels” project at the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Juneau and other conference activities are posted on participant and co-organizer Ellen Carrlee’s blog http://ellencarrlee.wordpress.com/