|AIC members from all specialty groups are invited to attend and participate in the event “A failure shared is not a failure: learning from our mistakes,” happening on Saturday, June 2nd, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. — click here to add it to your Sched. We will gather and share our cautionary tales, including treatment errors, mishaps, and accidents, with the idea of helping our colleagues not to repeat them.
Discussing mistakes is a hot topic that has already been embraced by others in our community. Two examples of events scheduled during the month of May are: “Mistakes were made,” a regular feature at the American Alliance of Museums conference, and the lecture “Conservation Confidential” hosted by our conservation colleagues across the pond in the Independent Paper Conservators’ Group.
Participants can speak for up to 5 minutes; if you prefer to remain anonymous, a reader will be happy to present your tale on your behalf. If you are unable to attend AIC’s Annual Meeting but would like to submit a tale to be read by one of our organizers or a colleague, please reach out.
Screens to project PowerPoint slides containing your images/video will be available (16:9 format), and a Dropbox folder will be made available for submissions. Please also bring your presentation on a USB Drive (highly encouraged). Time permitting, audience members inspired by their colleagues will be welcome to present. If appropriate (and acceptable to the speaker), the floor will be opened for questions and discussion following presentations. Extra points for suggesting safeguards and solutions!
Please note that this is a forum for sharing personal mistakes and solutions only. Participants are requested not to name other persons, organizations, work places, and avoid politics—institutional, national, and global!
The event will include a cash bar, so come, relax, unwind, share, laugh, groan, and learn. We plan to publish the event for those who wish to be included.
If you are interested in participating or have questions about the event, please contact Tony Sigel at email@example.com or by calling 617-767-1900 (cell), or Rebecca Gridley at firstname.lastname@example.org by May 10th.
Please include 2-3 quick sentences introducing your topic and indicate whether you plan to use a PowerPoint with images and/or video.
See you in Houston!
This year ECPN rolled out a new program during a pre-meeting session that allowed poster presenters another venue to share their projects and research. I was very excited for this session because I have felt overwhelmed by the number of posters and limited free time to view them. A similar sentiment was later echoed at the AIC Business Meeting. I hope that ECPN (or AIC generally) considers organizing a similar session next meeting and I would encourage anyone looking for more engagement with poster authors to attend.
This session was in no way comprehensive of all the poster submissions. ECPN members received a notification about the session about a year before the meeting. However, ECPN contacted all poster authors once they were accepted to the general AIC poster session. The email solicitation encouraged “emerging conservation professionals” and “topics relevant to ECPs (not necessarily authored by ECPs)” according to Rebecca Gridley, ECPN Vice Chair and one of the organizers of the session. There were 14 presenters total this year, which were chosen from email responses of poster authors indicating an interest in participating. The final selection was chosen to offer a range of talks across specialties and include speakers spanning the ECPN demographic, according to Gridley. Unfortunately not every author interested was able to be included due to time restraints of the session, but ECPN is considering how this could be improved in the future.
This year’s inaugural Lightning Round did seem to have mostly young presenters including pre-program, graduate students, and recent graduates. It does seem that ECPN is trying to be more inclusive and the demographic of “ECP” is only loosely defined. Certainly the audience this year was more diverse than the presenters and included AIC Fellows and other more established professionals in the field. At the same time, the environment of the Lightning Round felt very safe and welcoming. We were seated at round tables, which was more casual than auditorium seating. This was a great opportunity for first-time presenters to get their feet wet. One of the speakers was a first-time attendee and presented on her first conservation treatment ever as a pre-program. This session promoted information sharing and dialogue—activities that I personally feel will only help strengthen our field.
Alex Nichols reflecting on the benefit of the Lightning Round said, “I was approached by several conservators and researchers in specialties other than my own [modern and contemporary objects] who said that they were introduced to my research through the lightning round presentations.” In comparison to the last time Nichols presented a poster (at the 43rd Annual Meeting in Miami), she had more people ask about her research, which she attributes to the exposure from the ECPN Lightning Round.
The 14 poster topics were divided into two rounds, which allowed for a necessary intermission/bathroom break. The rounds were moderated by Michelle Sullivan, ECPN Chair, and Rebecca Gridley, ECPN Vice Chair.
In the spirit of the “Lightning Round” each presenter was given two minutes and three content slides to summarize their poster at the podium. This seemed like a daunting task and like I might not receive much more information than the title of the poster. I was really impressed with how clear and concise all the speakers were (I think the tambourine—symbolizing time’s up—only had to be used once). I learned a lot from the brief presentations and there was even time for one or two questions for every speaker. Having the visual component of the slides I felt took this beyond what a written abstract can offer. The Q & A was also very lively and I think emphasized how valued the poster presentations are to the conservation community.
I found this Lightning Round useful not only for the direct information, but also in helping me be more efficient with my time in the exhibition hall with the posters. Each PowerPoint included the poster number for easy reference to the location in the exhibit hall. Feeling similarly, Claire Curran, Assistant Objects Conservator at the ICA, also in attendance, and reacted, “definitely visiting this one—sounds really cool” in response to a treatment of a Hopi Katsina doll. The room was filled and there seemed to be a strong positive response to the session.
To keep things light and encourage additional networking during the ECPN Happy Hour (which immediately followed the Lightning Round) a fun fact about each presenter was announced in addition to his/her professional bio. For example, Sarah Giffin was introduced as the “meat whisperer” because of her delicious slow cooking brisket recipe.
I am embarrassed to say that I did not know that the posters are published on the AIC website after each Annual Meeting. You can access them here.
To help your exploration of the .pdf files online, here are some of the highlights each presenter chose to emphasize during the ECPN Lightning Round.
#30 Conservation in Miniature: The merger of museum object and historic interior in the treatment of a Victorian era dollhouse
- Applied in situ treatment methodology used for full-scale interiors to miniature interior of Horniman dollhouse
- Mist consolidation with nebulizer using Klucel G in acetone (tests in water solubilized tannins in wooden walls creating issues with tidelines)
- Condensation in the small tube was a challenge and had to tap out liquid droplets at times
#60 Conservation and Art Historical Data goes Digital at the Art Institute of Chicago
- Interactive website for conservation treatment of a collection of Alfred Stieglitz photographs and some contemporaries
- Used WordPress platform because easy interface and allowed for frequent updates to content
- Provides links to art historical information as well conservation/ technical information and research
#44 Applying Fills to Losses in a Flexible Polyurethane Foam Chair at the Museum of Modern Art
- Research and analysis to confirm type of foam composition of the chair
- Bulked methylcellulose and grated polyurethane foam for consolidation and filling of losses; liquid nitrogen helped harden foam enough to easily grate and shape
- Inpranil DLV/1 is a traditionally favored consolidant for polyurethane foam but has been challenging to acquire
#92 Chemical Cleaning and Intervention Criteria in a Brass Dial Clock from the XIX Century
João Henrique Ribeiro Barbosa
- Clock face (only surviving element of the clock) composed of three different metals joined together with rivets
- Previous cleaning by polishing left white residues and new corrosion products developed underneath
- Ammonium citrate solution addressed polish residues with “DTCNa” or sodium diethyldithiocarbamate solution addressed corrosion products
#24 History, Treatment, and Preparation for Digitization of 14th-century Estate Rolls
- Surface cleaning, humidification, repair with Japanese tissue
- Rehousing to handle during treatment, digitization, and future research
#42 Treatment and Reconstruction of a Badly Damaged Hopi Katsina Doll Made of Gourd
- Gourds painted in acrylic
- Treatment included surface cleaning, consolidating cracks, introducing new internal armature to help with reassembly and stabilization
- Used silicone self-adhering bands to secure while mends were setting
- Armature was set in place before doll head was reattached; tensioned wire extending to wings before head was placed back on
#10 Towards Nondestructive Characterization of Black Drawing Media
- Redon drawings were used for case study
- Redon working period overlapped with commercial materials available in 20th century
- Macro XRF scanning used to map elements combined with micro Raman spectroscopy
- Characterization relied on peaks in fingerprint region and peaks indicative of known additives to distinguish between different carbon-based media
- 785nm laser for Raman because of heavy use of fixatives on the drawings
#27 (I Can’t Get No) Documenation: Preservation reporting in the Archives
- Established a template “Preservation Report” for standardized documentation and condition reporting
- Focus on up-to-date condition and documentation of current status of projects and personnel involved; address realities of institution with changing/temporary staff and disruptions project workflow
- Format based on feedback from other institutions and existing condition reports in the archive
#80 Bedbugs: A pesky problem
- Addressing infestation of a Lakota teepee in private hands installed behind owner’s bed
- Freezing unsuccessful likely not able to achieve low enough temperatures throughout
- “Solarization” using hatchback car appeared to work (i.e. no live bugs remained)
- For domestic infestation chemical treatment often necessary for bed bugs; they are night feeders and hide during the day
#32 Treatment of a Shattered Bark Basket from Australia
Marci Jefcoat Burton
- Basket likely eucalyptus bark sealed with natural resin
- Consolidated with B-72; bridged with tissue and blend of Lascaux adhesives
- Removable internal support for storage constructed of backer rod (trapezoidal shaped Ethafoam strips) shaped to the contour of the basket and padded with Volara
#84 Lifting the Microfiber Veil: Utilizing Evolon fabric at the Mauritshuis to remove aged varnish from Hendrick Heerschop’s A Visit to the Doctor
- Evolon is 70:30 polyester: polyamide spun-bond fabric
- Evolon originally developed as anti-bug fabric
- Used to lift and remove aged varnish; gentle and appropriate for surfaces with extensive lead soap networks
- Polyamide fibers are hydrophilic and contribute to aqueous cleaning
#22 Captain America Encounters Klucel M
Michiko Adachi and Cathie Magee
- Captain America pages had been stapled together in case binding
- Mending utilized solvent reactivated tissue to avoid solubility issues and tidelines from acidic migration of newsprint substrate
- Klucel M used as adhesive because of strength and transparency
- Klucel M artificially aged by Library of Congress and seems to have similar properties/behavior to Klucel G
#67 Initial Treatment Techniques for Japanese Lacquer-based Metallic Thread and Cut Paper Applique
Elinor Dei Tos Pironti
- Solubility testing was used to characterize original adhesive for metallic paper threads on a Japanese garment
- Urushi was used to consolidate metallic threads
#31 Under Close Observation: A pilot study monitoring change in objects’ conditions
- Summarizing current research and findings of the Managing Collections Environment Initiative at the Getty
- Comparing different methods of monitoring conditions of objects including photographic documentation (DSLR, point and shoot camera, iPhone), caliper measurements to monitor cracks, acoustic emissions
- 14 objects representative of materials found in institutional collections used for case study; exposed to humidity cycling
AIC would like to share the following message from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):
“I am pleased to announce the creation of a new joint award with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The ACHP/HUD Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation will honor historic preservation efforts with affordable housing and community revitalization successes. Agencies, developers, and organizations are encouraged to nominate projects or activities that advance the goals of historic preservation while providing affordable housing and/or expanded economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income families and individuals.
Preference will be given to projects and activities that do the following:
- Promote the use of historic buildings for affordable housing, community development, and/or expanded economic opportunities
- Include HUD funds or financing
- Meet preservation guidelines
- Contribute to local community revitalization efforts
This is an annual award. Nominations for the 2017 cycle are due by 11:59 p.m. PDT on March 27, 2017.
Nomination details can be viewed at https://www.huduser.gov/portal/sites/default/files/pdf/HUD-Sec-Award-excellence-historic-preservation-2017.pdf. Questions may be addressed to email@example.com.
We look forward to learning about your achievements!
Milford Wayne Donaldson FAIA
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation”
Session Chairs: Glenn Corbett, American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR), and Suzanne Davis, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan
We are seeking abstract submissions for the Cultural Heritage Management session(s) of the American Schools of Oriental Research annual meeting, which will be held in Boston, MA, November 15-18, 2017. This session welcomes papers concerning archaeological conservation and heritage management in terms of methods, practices, and case studies in areas throughout the Near East. For the 2017 meeting, we are especially interested in presentations focusing on:
· site conservation and preservation activities
· site management planning
· engagement and education of local communities
Interested speakers should submit a title and abstract (max. 250 words) by February 15, 2017. Please see ASOR’s call for papers and instructions for submission here: http://www.asor.org/am/2017/papers.html. Note that professional membership ($130) and registration for the Annual Meeting (~$175) are required at the time of abstract submission. Student rates are discounted.
As the conservator and ongoing custodian of the historic murals at Rincon Center, 55 Mission St. in San Francisco, I have often been asked to render my opinion on the significance of these important artworks. In September of 1986, The San Francisco Business Journal wrote that I
“withheld my personal opinion on the art and preferred to talk about the restoration process itself .”
Due to the highly charged political content of these murals, I felt that it was not my position as a professional art conservator to render such an opinion. I have never experienced a need to comment on them from an artistic, historic or political vantage point until now in our current political climate.
These 27 panels represent the largest and most expensive single mural project ever awarded under the Depression era programs established to put artists to work. Many refer to these various projects as part the WPA program or Work Progress Administration. The Rincon Center murals specifically, were commissioned under a program directed by the U.S. Treasury Department, the last of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal art projects of the mid 20th Century. More importantly, they represent a moment in American history when art and history itself were put on trial.
The Rincon Annex Post Office murals were painted by Russian born artist Anton Refrieger in the post-World War II era between 1946 and 1948. It was a time when tensions revolved around the cold war and suspected subversions on the Homefront. Conservative and patriotic values ran high in the U.S. and America stood at the forefront of a new world order.
Refregier’s preliminary designs were envisioned and drafted in the late 30’s and early 40’s near the end of the Great Depression. World War II interrupted the completion of the commission and work was resumed in 1946 at the end of the war. In contrast to the political landscape after World War II, the artist painted California’s history in a frank, honest and judgmental interpretation that was inspired by the hardships of an earlier and depressed era. He was not preoccupied with the aggrandizement of our state and nation’s past. For many, his works were perceived as dark passages from regional history that questioned the nobility and grandeur of early settlers. Many considered the character and themes of these paintings “un-American”.
Significant attempts were made by conservative political forces to remove these murals. The artist is said to have worried that conservative “thugs” would come along in the middle of the night to destroy his masterpiece. However, San Franciscans rallied and the murals were saved. But the controversies surrounding this now preserved landmark continue to be an indelible part of San Francisco’s famous and infamous history.
Politics have always played a major role in attempts to record or destroy history. Art and history have been repeatedly put on trial throughout the ages. It’s happened many times before the McCarthy era challenges to the Rincon murals and it has happened many times since. That’s the inherent nature of art, particularly as it exists in the public realm.
Long before the Rincon Murals were challenged, Hitler’s vigorous attempts to eradicate the art, the history and the memory of all that displeased him were among the many atrocities associated with Germany’s Third Reich. More recently, the world was shocked in 2001 when the Taliban destroyed important monuments in the Bamiyan Valley of Afghanistan because they were inconsistent with the Taliban’s own religious views and ideology. And in even more recent times, the scourge of ISIS has devastated the art world. Historians, preservationists and the world public at large are equally appalled by the destruction of long treasured antiquities in the Palmyra Valley and elsewhere throughout the Middle East The impact is best described by William Webber of the UK based Art Loss Registry. “If you’re going to eradicate someone’s identity, the best way is to eradicate their art”
It’s been said that censoring history is an act of cowardice It can come from the left as well as the right. In 2014, a feminist group in France rallied to have the iconic VJ Day statue of “The Kiss” destroyed because they found it offensive to the feminist agenda. And there are many in this country that still rally to destroy any vestiges of what remain of the Judeo-Christian heritage that has played a significant role in the development of our nation, as we know it today.
Almost thirty years have past since I restored the murals at Rincon Center. Irrespective of my own political inclinations, I’ve come to further appreciate Refregier’s honest attempts at conveying the darker sides of history. I view such attempts as something requisite in the achievement of a more enlightened society. His work remains as yet one more reminder that, “those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”
In this understanding, I feel that the artist Anton Refregier and I are more alike than different, with a convergence of minds and ideologies from two polar ends of the political spectrum. As a politically conservative art conservator, I am as determined to honor and preserve the past as the socialist artist was to paint it. Any attempt to alter history is an affront on truth however it may be perceived and interpreted.
In the historic lobby of Rincon Center, stark and sometimes unpleasant truths associated with the American journey are displayed front and center. A corridor adjacent to the historic lobby leads to the newer atrium area where the more recent 1980’s paintings by artist Richard Hass adorn the walls. These newer additions to the old Rincon Annex Post Office were once referred to as “a monument to capitalism.” The Hass paintings depict the abundance and sense of well being often associated with the accomplishments of free enterprise and the American Dream. There are obvious contrasts and a distinct irony associated with the juxtaposition of these two very different works of art. But I believe that standing between them gives one a great sense of what it means to be uniquely American.
As conservators, historians and preservationists, we must adhere to our own distinct and unique version of the “Hippocratic” oath. Aside from our own personal and political proclivities, we are bound by obligation to honor the past and the truths associated with it. I would like to believe that Anton Refregier would agree.
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE ANNOUNCES THE 2017 PRESERVATION TECHNOLOGY AND TRAINING GRANT FUNDING OPPORTUNITY
WASHINGTON –The National Park Service (NPS) today opened the application period for 2017 Preservation Technology and Training Grants (PTT Grants) to create better tools, better materials, and better approaches to conserving buildings, landscapes, sites, and collections. The PTT Grants are administered by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT), the National Park Service’s innovation center for the preservation community. NCPTT has set aside $300,000 for the grant program, pending the availability of funding.
Kirk Cordell, Deputy Associate Director for Science, Technology & Training, said “NCPTT’s grants program supports innovative projects that develop new tools and technologies to improve the preservation of the nation’s historic resources.”
The competitive grants program will provide funding to federal agencies, states, tribes, local governments, and non-profit organizations. PTT Grants will support the following activities:
- Innovative research that develops new technologies or adapts existing technologies to preserve cultural resources (typically $25,000 to $40,000)
- Specialized workshops or symposia that identify and address national preservation needs (typically $15,000 to $25,000)
- How-to videos, mobile applications, podcasts, best practices publications, or webinars that disseminate practical preservation methods or provide better tools for preservation practice (typically $5,000 to $15,000)
The maximum grant award is $40,000. The actual grant award amount is dependent on the scope of the proposed activity.
NCPTT does not fund “bricks and mortar” grants.
NCPTT funds projects within several overlapping disciplinary areas. These include:
- Collections Management
- Historic Landscapes
- Materials Conservation
In order to focus research efforts, NCPTT requests innovative proposals that advance the application of science and technology to historic preservation in the following areas:
- Climate Change Impacts
- Disaster Planning and Response
- Modeling and Managing Big Data
- Innovative Techniques for Documentation
- Protective Coatings and Treatments
Other research topics may be considered for funding.
Who may apply?
- U.S. universities and colleges,
- U.S. non-profit organizations: museums, research laboratories, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. that are directly associated with educational or research activity, and
- government agencies in the U.S.: National Park Service and other federal, state, territorial and local government agencies, as well as Hawaiian Natives, Native American and Alaska Native tribes and their Tribal Historic Preservation Offices.
Other organizations can participate only as contractors to eligible U.S. partners. Grants funds support only portions of projects that are undertaken or managed directly by U.S. partners and expended in the U.S. and its territories.
How do I apply?
Applications must be submitted using Grants.gov. Search in Grants.gov for Funding Opportunity #P16AS00579, under Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number 15.923 or 2017 Preservation Technology and Training Grants.
When is the deadline for applications?
Applications must be submitted by 11:59pm EDT Thursday, November 3, 2016. If the project is funded, applicants should expect to be able to begin work no sooner than July 2017.
For questions about the please contact NCPTT at 318-356-7444.
Providing assistance in war-torn areas in Syria and Iraq is a complicated matter. The humanitarian crisis has resulted in protests in Syria against the government while a civil war led to the emergence of extremists groups, the most active threat being daesh (ISIS/ISIL). Collateral damage to the area has resulted in the militarization of archaeological sites and historic neighborhoods being obliterated. Organizations such as the ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives (CHI) are continually working on meeting the challenges of this cultural heritage crisis. Through diligent monitoring, CSI is able to assist the nations by documenting damage, promoting global awareness, and planning emergency and post-war responses.
LeaAnn Barnes Gordon gave an insightful presentation into the complications of providing international support to local residents and institutions. A highlight of Gordon’s presentation was showcasing CHI’s extensive digital mapping of over 7,800 cultural heritage sites. These maps help to assess the affects on cultural heritage by analyzing different types of damage as well as current and prospective threats. By utilizing satellite imagery, CHI can monitor changes over time in areas that have been damaged by military occupation or that have been illegally excavated. Information is compiled into reports using photographs and textual records of observations; some of these records are currently available online and others are being added regularly.
CHI is standardizing documents and terminology to avoid ambiguity during documentation (e.g. threats vs. disturbances). In the presentation, Gordon provided examples of types of documents utilized including field guide assessment forms, photo-documentation guides, and technical advice in Arabic to assist those currently living/working in Syria and Iraq. In addition, CHI is providing resources and funding for local institutions for efforts such as cleaning and removing debris and erecting temporary structures.
The presentation discussed ongoing CHI projects as well as general challenges faced when attempting to protect cultural heritage in conflict zones. Constant monitoring allows CHI to identify potential damages and share this information with conservation/preservation specialists in the area. These measures help prevent and decrease future damage to culturally rich sites and collections as well as helping to create standardized documents that can be used in other areas of conflict zones.
To learn more about CHI and the important work they are doing, please see:
Dean Koga and Michael Schuller gave an interesting and useful talk on the protection of original Tiffany stained glass windows at the Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City during heavy renovation work there. The talk gave a clear outline of what they did and how others can prepare for such events. It should be noted that there was little warning between the time that the Congregation was informed of the work and the start of the work.
They carried out the following actions (which I would strongly recommend):
- Look for local engineering expertise in vibrations and the monitoring of vibrations. Michael Schuller represented this company.
- Look at existing (inter)national standards for the protection of buildings due to vibrations including those caused by construction work. These included building codes for New York City, international codes for France and Russia, and the vibration literature.
- Document fully any preexisting damage in the stained glass windows
- Look at the levels of current existing vibrations due to, for example, traffic, wind, opening and closing of the windows or doors. This showed that such events, as well as the opening and closing of the windows themselves were also a source of background vibration and shock.
- Determine limits for vibrations including a warning limit, and a limit where work has to immediately stop. These were 0.15 in/sec (3.75 mm/s) and 0.2 in/s (5 mm/s) for the low vibration frequencies expected.
- Negotiate with contractors to use more “gentle” construction methods. The contractors agreed to avoid using a wrecking ball for razing the old part of the synagogue, and to use augured piles for the foundation instead of pile driving.
The precautions were successful. No damage was found after demolition work, and only one new crack was found near an operable window. It was interesting to hear that wind pressure on the windows actually increased due to exterior protection. The authors were aware that the vibration sensor they used, a geophone actually designed for earthquake monitoring, was too heavy for the job, but time constraints limited their choices. A lightweight (several grams) sensor placed on the window frame or horizontal supports would have been better.
The authors recommended more studies on systems to protect stained glass windows, and testing to determine how much deformation/displacement such windows can tolerate. I would certainly agree with that.
Craigflower Manor National Historic Site (1853-6) in Victoria, BC is one of the oldest remaining farmhouse buildings in British Columbia and opened to the public in 1969. In January 2009, during an unusually cold winter, a fire started on the first floor. It was probably a “delayed ignition” (also called long term low temperature ignition) fire, caused by an electric heater warming and drying the area over time. There was no fire suppression in the house; fortunately, firefighters arrived in minutes, and extinguished the fire before it reached flashpoint.
Most of the damage was limited to the central staircase, adjacent to the ignition site. There was extensive charring of the structure and millwork, in some places total loss. There were also charred and blistered finishes and soot damage, but relatively little water damage. The restoration of Craigflower took four years, and along with cleaning included replacing wood elements (reusing the hardware as much as possible).
The worst damaged wood (judged as 50% or less of sound wood remaining) was removed. CO2 pellet blasting was used to remove char and soot from other areas, which worked well to quickly expose undamaged wood. Unfortunately, the plastic sheeting intended to contain all the material blasted off the surface was inadequate, and dust was deposited all throughout the house, requiring extensive cleanup in areas with no fire damage. While CO2 blasting companies will often claim that the process does not generate waste or leave behind residues, we should be aware that all the material blasted off during cleaning will go somewhere! Before using CO2 cleaning technique, test to determine how much dust will be generated, and make sure adequate extraction and abatement enclosures are in place before blasting. In the end, traditional mechanical removal of the char using chisels etc. may be more controllable and preferable.
Natasa Morovic, Conservator of Frames and Gilded Surfaces at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF), addressed the conference theme Practical Philosophy, or Making Conservation Work in her presentation of the immense gilding project undertaken over 16 months in an 18th-century period room, the Salon Doré, at the Legion of Honor.
The Salon Doré was designed as a receiving room for guests in the Hôtel de La Trémoille (a family mansion) in Paris, but has since existed in six different locations and seven re-configurations. The Salon was donated to FAMSF in 1959 by the Richard Rheem family (of HVAC fame) and first displayed at the Legion of Honor in 1962. The room was reinstalled in 1996 as a ‘paneled environment’; that is, without its ceiling, window, doors, or floor. The original parquet floor was sold in the 1990s. Indeed, museum period rooms in this era often served as backdrops in which to display French objects and furniture not specifically related to the rooms’ histories. The re-presentation of the Salon Doré in 2012-2014 sought to revise this approach.
The Salon was returned from a rectangular to a square format based on original floor plans. A second 18th-century parquet floor, coved ceiling, windows, furniture, and new lighting were installed. Meanwhile, Natasa’s team was responsible for the conservation of the Salon’s gilt white oak paneling, or boiserie, including five dedo panels, four doors, four cornices with cast plaster ornaments, and high relief linden wood detailing.
Two hundred separate sections of gilt wood were deinstalled and relocated to an adjacent gallery turned temporary conservation lab, in view of the public. Visitors were thrilled to see the work in progress, remarking “you are our favorite exhibit!” iPad didactics introducing the conservation treatment steps and illustrating the Salon’s epic history were available in the galleries (see a preview here and don’t miss the French accent in the Kid’s Corner).
A dozen gilders, conservators, technicians, architects, electricians, and a master carver worked in the open lab daily. Accommodation of all the large paneling, work benches, and people within a tight space was challenging. All treatment steps had to be executed simultaneously due deadlines, with no running water and limited electrical. Gilding efforts were impacted by dust from the adjacent construction area, which quickly settled on the prepared surfaces, and drafts that caused the gold leaf to fly.
The condition of the Salon’s carving and gilding was extensively compromised by the room’s repeated moves, resulting in differing surface finishes as well as mold damage. Two gilding and inpainting campaigns were present: water gilding over orange-red bolle over gesso, water gilding over dark red bolle over new gesso, as well as brass powder and acrylic inpainting.
The treatment objective sought to preserve as much historic surface as possible. No aqueous solutions were used during surface cleaning so as not to interrupt the water gilding. Natasa received several questions after the talk on what materials were used. Here are the particulars: shellac coatings were removed with ethanol poultices, overpaint and soiling were removed with acetone:ethanol mixtures, and paint stripper was sparingly used in tenacious areas of oxidized brass powder paint. Flaking gesso was consolidated with <25% Paraloid B-72 in acetone:ethanol. Flügger was used for small fills, over which traditional gesso and gilding was applied.
Larger wood fills were freshly carved, based off of existing ornaments in the room, and water-gilded so as to replace ‘like with like’ (though it is acknowledged that oil-gilding would have sped up the process). The majority of fills were gilt before attachment; however, in situ re-gilding, or in-gilding, was done where necessary to match adjacent surface conditions.
In total, $22,000 of gold leaf (11,500 leaves) and 27 gallons of acetone were used during the campaign. The result is a glowing re-presentation of the Salon Doré’s opulence, reflecting – quite literally, due to the mirrors, rock-crystal chandeliers, and gleaming gilding- its importance as one of the premier examples of French Neoclassical interior architecture in the United States.
(A quirky review of the Salon project with working images can be found here).