|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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 617-767-1900 (cell), or Rebecca Gridley at email@example.com 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!
The Shelburne Museum in Vermont is home to a renowned collection of American wildfowl and fish decoys. During renovation of the Dorset House where the decoys are usually on display, Nancy Ravenel, Objects Conservator, had the opportunity to examine some decoys more in depth. In the process, she explored the pros and cons of two type of three-dimensional x-radiography: computed tomography (CT) and volume rad tomosynthesis (VolumeRAD – a GE Healthcare trademark). Since the museum does not have its own radiography capabilities and is located in rural Vermont, there was no access to industrial imaging resources. Instead, Ravenel explored how best to maximize the capabilities from the local medical community through collaboration with the University of Vermont Medical Center.
For this exploration of radiographic techniques, the decoys proved to be excellent patients since they are somewhat simple in construction, yet personalized between makers and specific when used for hunting versus collecting. As an added bonus, they are easy to transport to the medical center. Ravenel used the Barnes swan as a case study while she looked for a maker’s mark at the head / neck joint.
With the CT scan, Ravenel found that the metal elements cause flares, which can be distracting. Beam hardening on the image was also apparent. Since CT scanning requires specialized equipment, it is harder to schedule causing limited availability. On the other hand, CT data offers 360 degree data with options for viewing in a variety of ways. Examples of CT imaging on two ducks in the Shelburne collection can be viewed here https://youtu.be/FFjRmEat5xE and here https://youtu.be/bH3zEtzKRWs.
In contrast, the VolumeRAD technique captures data with the same equipment as standard radiography offering better accessibility. It also requires less radiation so there is less impact on the image from beam hardening. Cons to the technique include that the data is non-isotropic, the edges are not distinct, and there are fewer options for how the data is viewed. Ravenel also pointed out that it collects data of a short depth, so she has to identify where the imaging should take place, otherwise the results can be fuzzy. This can require some trial and error.
In the end, Ravenel felt that the VolumeRAD technique shows considerable promise and felt that she was better able to visualize the hollowing bit marks, dowels, and saw marks, which were all more distinct than in the CT scans. VolumeRAD, as a new technique, has considerable room for development and refinement.
An additional note beyond the presentation, there was some follow up discussion on viewing software. Ravenel noted in her presentation that she uses OsiriX, a DICOM viewer, for working with the data once back at the museum. An audience member pointed out that ImageJ is being widely used. Ravenel confirmed that she feels most comfortable with OsiriX and finds it to be more user friendly, while the audience member was quite happy with ImageJ and felt that it had deeper capabilities for the conservation community.
For more images of Shelburne decoys with radiographic images, visit their Flickr page here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/shelburnemuseum/albums/72157650406031226.
In this talk, Marianne Webb presented some findings from her ongoing research into the degradation of Asian lacquers.
She produced 11 different samples of lacquer formulated with Urushiol-based lacquer (sourced from Japan, China, and Korea), Laccol-based lacquers (from Vietnam or Taiwan), oil, and pigment. The sample boards were all prepared in the same manner, coated on both sides with raw lacquer, a layer with inert clay filler applied to both sides, and then ground smooth after drying in a wet box. The different lacquer formulations were then applied. The samples were artificially aged in a weather-ometer, exposing a new section of the sample each week for four weeks.
The degradation was evaluated using five factors: color, gloss, surface pH, autofluorescence, and microcracking.
Color – Fading was not a reliable assessment of degradation of black lacquer, but worked well for red lacquers. Microfadometer tests have placed red lacquers between Blue Wool 2 & 3, indicating that lacquer has similar light sensitivity to paper or textiles.
Gloss – Each sample had a different original gloss, with laccol on its own having less gloss than urushi, but becoming very glossy with the addition of oil. Transparent urushi retained its gloss well, but formulations with added oil lost a significant amount of gloss after aging.
Autofluorescence – chemical changes in lacquer seemed immediate once exposed to light (after 12 hours, the differences were obvious) but there is a maximum point at 1 week, then the autofluorescence decreases.
Surface pH – The pH of lacquer doesn’t necessarily drop as it ages. Transparent lacquer seems to have the lowest pH after aging because the light can penetrate it and therefore it gets more light damage. There was not direct correlation between the amount of oil and pH after aging, but they generally had higher pH. After approximately 1 week the pH reaches a plateau and then after 3-4 weeks it goes back up. Clearly, lacquer’s pH does not have a linear relationship to aging. Disclaimer: All pH tests damage the surface of lacquer since they require water to solubilize degradation products, leaving a void.
Microcracking – All of the samples showed changes after exposure to light. The patterns were distinct and all different.
The level of detail in the investigations and results of the study was incredibly impressive. The study emphasized the number of factors that one should consider when approaching each individual piece of lacquer. The author also indicated a desire to investigate formulations with Thitsi lacquer (from Burma and Thailand) and the sudden fogging phenomenon sometimes observed when lacquer is exposed to heat and moisture in the future.
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.
Lisa Ellis, Conservator of Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), presented collaborative work on the study of boxwood prayer beads and miniature altars from the early 16th century (c. 1500-1530). The beads and altars are very small, complex, and intricately carved artifacts whose construction has not been well characterized. Teams at the AGO and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) are exploring the carving techniques and joinery strategies using careful examination, micro-computed tomography (µCT scanning), and physical deconstruction of select artifacts to better understand how the pieces were created.
Because of their depth and small size, traditional photography has been inadequate to capture the various layers in focus within one image, making distance sharing and comparative work impossible. In order to better share between institutions and scholars, the AGO set out to photodocument these artifacts with high resolution images that are in focus throughout the depth of the artifact. In order to do this, they are taking a series of photos at various focal depths, then stacking the images to maintain sharpness. The image quality is profoundly improved from the old hazy images that made it impossible to understand the detail.
Through preliminary x-radiography, they found that the artifacts can be grouped in to two broad classes: artifacts created in simple relief and artifacts created with a complex design. The complex artifacts were then µCT scanned, revealing the multiple elements joined together. Using medical imaging software, they were able to better understand the parts and see that the beads were created in layers. With the software, the various layers could be virtually deconstructed so that each layer could be examined and stacked, as if each piece were separate. At the MMA, Pete Dandridge, Conservator and Administrator, was able to disassemble a bead to physically see the pieces, which further helped to interpret the µCT data and reinforced the understanding of the layers. Since not all artifacts can be taken apart, the µCT scans provided to be invaluable in examining the construction and documenting the process. One example showed a bead attached to a rosary that had multiple roundels set into the main structure. The roundels could be virtually removed with the µCT scans and software, revealing a numbering system beneath.
In addition to examining the construction, they also looked at the limited polychromy present on some beads. Although most pieces were unpainted, a few pieces had painted details in blue, black, or red. These elements, along with adhesives and coatings, are being analyzed at the MMA and the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) with a suite of techniques.
These artifacts and findings about them will be presented in an exhibition, Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures, opening in Toronto on Nov. 5, 2016. The exhibition will feature over 60 boxwood carvings from institutions and private collections across Europe and North America. Following its debut at the AGO, the exhibition will open at the The Cloisters at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Feb. 21, 2017, before travelling to the Rijksmuseum on June 15, 2017. For more details about the exhibition and related programming visit www.ago.net and follow #miniAGO on twitter and instagram.
For images and further details on the work being carried out at the AGO, visit this link at the CODART eZine: http://ezine.codart.nl/17/issue/45/artikel/investigating-miniature-boxwood-carving-at-the-art-gallery-of-ontario-in-toronto/?id=119#!/page/1
Investigation on these materials have been on-going. For some background on earlier work that started this process, visit this link on the AGO website: http://www.ago.net/idea-lab
Other collaborators not mentioned above include: Alexandra Suda (AGO), Andrew Nelson (Sustainable Archaeology, Western University), Barbara Drake Boehm (MMA – Cloisters), Elizabeth Moffatt (CCI – retired), Jennifer Poulin (CCI)
The latest issue of JAIC (Journal of the American Institute for Conservation) is now online, and print copies are mailing shortly. This issue, Vol. 53, No. 2, features the following articles:
- EDITORIAL, by Julio M. Del Hoyo-Meléndez, Editor-In-Chief
- SHORT COMMUNICATION: GOBERGE, SHIMBARI, GO-BARS: THE USE OF FLEXIBLE STICKS FOR CLAMPING, by Tristram Bainbridge, Shayne Rivers, Yoshihiko Yamashita, Andrew Thackray, Nicola Newman
- CHOOSING AN ADHESIVE FOR EXTERIOR WOODWORK THROUGH MECHANICAL TESTING, by Rian M. H. Deurenberg-Wilkinson
- SOURCE CODE ANALYSIS AS TECHNICAL ART HISTORY, by Deena Engel and Glenn Wharton
- RAISING MERET-IT-ES: EXAMINING AND CONSERVING AN EGYPTIAN ANTHROPOID COFFIN FROM 380–250 BCE, by Kathleen M. Garland, Johanna Bernstein, Joe Rogers
- BOOK REVIEWS, by Vanessa Muros and Cybele Tom
AIC members and journal subscribers have online access to these articles now, before the print issue arrives. We hope you enjoy these articles, which bring some very interesting techniques and research to light.
Michaela Neiro spoke about a great treatment of bamboo furniture for exhibit at Quincy House, a historic home in Quincy Massachusetts built in 1790 (part of Historic New England). http://www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/quincy-house
Photographs from the 1880’s show bamboo chairs in the first floor hall, but they were subsequently lost. Fortunately, acceptable substitutes could be selected from the Historic New England collections.
Rattan and bamboo are two light but sturdy construction materials that became popular in America as a result of trade with China and the East, and remain commonly available today. Furniture made from rattan is called wicker.
The HNE chairs were constructed by heat bending the bamboo into curves, and securing joints with wood dowels and wood pins. No adhesives or metal fasteners were used. The seats were caned, and many small pieces of bamboo were joined to create intricate decorative patterns in the back, sides and base.
In addition to dirt and failing coatings, some of the small rattan and bamboo pieces were missing. Luckily there was enough information from the small “pin” holes left in the frame to figure out the original pattern. All the losses were filled with new rattan, which can be ordered in various thicknesses. The rattan was shaped by bending lengths around nail and board jigs while it was wet and pliable; when it dried it maintained the shape of the jig. The new rattan fills were toned to match the original bamboo and rattan using dilute acrylics before they were attached.
You can read more about the conservation project here:
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).
When a drunk driver crashed into the parlor of Marrett House (1789) in Standish, Maine, the staff of Historic New England was able to see first-hand how well their disaster plan worked!
The damage was serious: clapboard smashed, wall studs snapped, wainscoting was knocked out, and furniture was displaced inside the room.
Local staff were on the scene quickly to secure the area. A team drove up within hours of the crash, to add temporary supports for the 2nd floor and to board up the hole in the house. The insurance company was called, and the policy was able to cover some recovery costs.
With such extensive damage, recovery was not straightforward. The floor carpet (dating to 1857) was undamaged, and due to its size, it was rolled and boxed to remain in the room during construction work. Furniture and objects had been removed from the room immediately, to be treated and stored. The house remained open for tours during the entire process.
The conservation and restoration of the structure was carried out with the goal of maintaining as much of the original materials as possible. The 1857 wallpaper and paint finishes were protected in situ. Where new support beams were needed, the modern additions were marked with copper tags to identify them as non-original. Plaster, lathe, and wainscoting were replaced; in the end, only spot retouching of the paint on the paneling was necessary.
Only three pieces of furniture were actually damaged (two chairs and a card table), and one vase fell during the crash. No pictures fell off the walls, and the rug was totally fine. Overall, they feel lucky that the damage was not worse.
Here are some tips they shared for disaster response:
-photograph the damage before starting recovery: this is good documentation practice and can help with insurance claims
-don’t throw anything away: a small bit of veneer from the damaged table was later discovered among the wood splinters and debris swept up during recovery (and saved in a box), and was able to be reattached
-make sure the emergency telephone tree makes sense: HNE is geographically far-flung, and in this case the first people called were NOT the closest to the scene
Joint Interim Conference of the ICOM-CC Working Groups: Wood, Furniture, and Lacquer and Sculpture, Polychromy, and Architectural Decoration, in association with the German Association of Conservator-Restorers (VDR) Specialty Group: Furniture and Wooden Artifacts.
Hosted in collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam
8-10 April, 2016
Location: University of Applied Sciences Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
Set within the historic gardens and palaces of Potsdam, this conference will focus on site-specific wooden works of art of a composite nature. Included in this broad theme are the exploration of the purpose and the complex means used to create these works consisting of multiple elements and mixed materials as well as the conservation strategies designed to preserve and display them. Relevant topics include, but are not limited to, secular and religious interiors or assemblages (in situ or removed from their original setting), composite works of art, architectural elements, and historic and modern artist installations.
Subjects could include:
- Case studies related to the challenges of conserving in situ architectural interiors,
- and of installing architectural interiors removed from their original settings
- The disarticulated Gesamtkunstwerk: case studies related to the presentation of religious and secular works of art removed from their original architectural settings
- Case studies of treatments involving discussion with stakeholders and special consideration of intangible heritage that these complex works and spaces represent
- Construction and manufacturing techniques
- Reconstruction of lost elements; loss compensation
- Preventive Care (climate, display, access, storage, transportation, “green” solutions)
- Case studies exploring the juxtaposition or combination of traditional and modern conservation methods
- Working in situ versus the conservation studio – methodology, challenges (health and safety issues) and advantages
- Contamination and alteration of artworks through the application of insecticides, preservatives, and conservation materials
- Innovative techniques for analysis and documentation
This three-day conference will bring together an international roster of conservators, art historians, conservation scientists, and artists to share new research, past experiences, and their specific and varied expertise. Submissions related to completed and in-progress treatments, newly developed treatments and preventive conservation are especially encouraged. Authors interested in presenting a paper or poster, please submit an abstract (400-600 words, 1-2 images) by August 1st, 2015 to firstname.lastname@example.org
All work submitted must be original and may not have been published elsewhere. Abstracts should be in English and must include a short biography and contact information for the corresponding author (affiliation, address, telephone, fax and e-mail). Abstracts will be reviewed by the Conference Organizing Committee and invited experts. In September 2015 authors will be informed whether their submissions were accepted. It is the intention of the organizers to publish all accepted papers, and authors are required to submit a first draft of their papers no later than one week prior to the start of the conference.
For a downloadable PDF of the call for papers visit the ICOM-CC website.
The Conference Organizing Committee
- Daniel Hausdorf, Coordinator, ICOM-CC Wood, Furniture, & Lacquer Working Group, email@example.com
- Stephanie de Roemer, Coordinator, ICOM-CC Sculpture, Polychromy, & Architectural Decoration Working Group, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Prof. Dr. Angelika Rauch, Professor for Conservation and Restoration (Wood), University of Applied Sciences Potsdam, email@example.com
- Carola Klinzmann, Coordinator, VDR Working Group: Furniture and Wooden Artifacts, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jörg Weber, Head of Wood Conservation Laboratory, University of Applied Sciences Potsdam, email@example.com
- Jan Dorscheid, Assistant Coordinator, ICOM-CC Wood, Furniture, & Lacquer Working Group, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Prof. Dr. Stephanie Auffret, Assistant Coordinator, ICOM-CC Wood, Furniture, & Lacquer Working Group, email@example.com
- Helen Hughes, Assistant Coordinator, ICOM-CC Sculpture, Polychromy, & Architectural Decoration Working Group, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Wolfram Bangen, Assistant Coordinator, VDR Specialty Group: Furniture and Wooden Artifacts, email@example.com
- Dr. Martina Grießer, Assistant Coordinator, ICOM-CC Wood, Furniture, & Lacquer Working Group, firstname.lastname@example.org