45th Annual Meeting: Lunch Session: BPG Wiki Discussion

At the 2017 AIC Annual Meeting in Chicago, we, Katherine Kelly, Denise Stockman, and Alex Bero, gave an overview of the 2016-2017 developments in the BPG Wiki and sought feedback from an audience of about 60 interested members about how to move forward in 2017-2018. We want to thank the BPG Officers, who made certain that this discussion group had a place in a very busy schedule!

There have been a lot of changes to the BPG Wiki in the past year. We followed through on our promise to increase communication with the BPG membership, and this has led to much greater participation in return. We have a long list of contributors to thank, which we have included at the end of the post.

We undertook a reformatting campaign across the wiki. Standardization is crucial to allowing for the future growth of the Wiki, so we created a template to choose among the many variations of page design. We resolved many issues along the way, such as how to reduce numbering but differentiate between sections, how to include links and references, and how to thank new and old contributors without top-loading the page. The elimination of the original numbered outline format makes it much easier to grow and move information around.

All of the shared BPG pages and all of the Book Conservation pages have been updated in this way. For the pages derived from the original Paper Conservation Catalog, 10 pages have already been reformatted. We are looking for volunteers to re-format 16 other pages. See our Call for Reformatting on the Help Wanted Page.

Annual Tips
The first contributors to the Wiki this year were the Tips presenters in Montreal, who shared images and PDFs from their 2016 presentations. This was a great way to quickly share new techniques. These contributions were available within a month of the Annual Meeting and are now gathered together with Tips from 2013 and 2014. (There were no Tips Sessions in 2015 or 2017.)

Alex Bero spoke about the activities of the Bibliographies subgroup. A recent priority has been to update the format of bibliographic entries of the wiki, in order to bring them into line with the JAIC Style guide, with a few modifications for the online format.

For 2017-2018, we intend to build a new Guide to Resources page with information on how to get resources that are not freely available online, and on resources that are underutilized.

If you have suggested improvements to any BPG Bibliography, please consider becoming a wiki editor or sending your citations or annotations to alexander.bero@nyu.edu, who will format them and post them on the wiki.

Images Added
It has long been our goal to get more images on the Wiki pages. This year, progress was made on several pages, including the Fiber Identification page. Jennifer McGlinchey Sexton offered us the images she had created for CAMEO, the Conservation & Art Materials Encyclopedia Online, and Xiaoping Cai offered to add them to the Wiki. The result is a much more appealing and useful page.

Adhesives Recipes and Tips
The first call for content this year asked for contributions to Adhesive Recipes and Tips. This is a companion page to Adhesives for Paper, which offers a more in-depth and technical discussion of adhesive properties. With contributions from seven book and paper conservators, Adhesive Recipes and Tips now offers recipes for making methyl cellulose, Klucel G, funori, isinglass, and wheat starch paste in a variety of ways. There is also an annotated bibliography on remoistenable and pre-coated tissues.

Non-Western Bookbindings and Their Conservation
This year’s blockbuster success was a new page on Non-Western Bookbinding Structures and Their Conservation. This topic was identified as one that had very little coverage in the wiki, but that might interest many of conservators. Immediately after the Call for Content, this page took off, and in a month, ten conservators had contributed more than 130 citations on Armenian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Islamic, Palm-Leaf, Thai, and Tibetan manuscript and bookbinding traditions.

In addition to the benefits of many minds coming together to create good content, there were collaborations between well-established and emerging conservators. This type of collaboration can combine deep experience, the perspective of someone new the field, and wiki-editing skills – with excellent results.

Culturally Sensitive Treatment
One of the contributors for the Non-Western Bookbindings page, Marieka Kaye, from the University of Michigan, saw an opportunity for an offshoot page that focuses on the Culturally Sensitive Treatment of book and paper objects. The aim of this page is to discuss the conservation ethics involved in treating materials from a wide variety of cultures and help identify components of those artifacts that should not be lost during treatment. The page currently focuses on East Asian materials, but we hope to expand into other cultures.

Related AIC Wiki Pages
The BPG Wiki is part of the larger AIC Wiki. A long-term goal is to connect BPG pages to those in other Specialty Groups, and to contribute to pages of common interest. These efforts are in the early stages, but there are some good successes to report, including Conservation Supply Sources, Oddy Testing Results, History of Conservation, and the recent ECPN page on Gels, Thickeners, and Viscosity Modifiers.

Following the presentation, we asked the audience for feedback on how the Wiki should grow in the coming year.

There were discussions about the appropriateness of moving content around to allow certain topics to grow (for example, iron gall ink might benefit from having its own topic page), removing excessive information, updating out-of-date or inappropriate terminology, improving bibliographies with software like Zotero, and soliciting images.

There was also an enthusiastic debate about how the wiki should deal with outdated treatment techniques. The pages on Alkalization & Neutralization and Bleaching have several examples of treatments that, while accepted practice at the time of their writing, have fallen out of favor (e.g. Diethyl Zinc). It was agreed that outdated techniques should be indicated within the wiki. There was a suggestion from the audience that keeping information on the same topic page was better, ideally in a separate section for historical or superseded techniques. Another audience member stressed the importance of adding a date for when techniques were moved to that section (or when the technique was in common use).

Another audience member pointed out that treatments change and are updated all the time. She recommended a review cycle for pages (perhaps every 10 years) to review the content of a chapter and provide updates.

We are grateful for the thoughtful debate on these issues and feel that this year’s discussion group has provided excellent guidance and direction for the year ahead.

How You Can Help
If you have ideas about how you would like to get involved in the Wiki, please send the Wiki Coordinators an email. You can also look at the page called BPG Help Wanted, where we list topics in need of attention, recent Calls for Content, and ideas for future growth. Please also join the AIC-Wiki listserv as this is the main way that Wiki editors communicate among themselves.

Denise Stockman, Paper Conservation Wiki Coordinator, New York Public Library
Katherine Kelly, Book Conservation Wiki Coordinator, Library of Congress
Alex Bero, Wiki Bibliographies Team, New York University

2016-2017 BPG Wiki Contributors
Linda Barone
Adrienne Bell
Alex Bero
Rachel Bissonnette
Xiaoping Cai
Susan Cobbledick
Amélie Couvrat Desvergnes
Sue Donovan
Quinn Ferris
Eliza Gilligan
Amy Hughes
Seth Irwin
Marieka Kaye
Katherine Kelly
Yasmeen Khan
Evan Knight
Natasa Krsmanovic
Nora Lockshin
Steven Loew
Terry Marsh
Debora D. Mayer
Laura McCann
Suzy Morgan
Jan Paris
Dan Paterson
Olivia Primanis
Sarah Reidell
Jennifer McGlinchey Sexton
Denise Stockman
Michelle Sullivan
Tina C. Tan
Christina Taylor
Jodie Utter
Yana van Dyke
Aisha Wahab
Stephanie Watkins
Emily Williams
Renée Wolcott

Joint 44th Annual AIC Meeting & 42nd CAC-ACCR Annual Conference, Art on Paper Discussion Group, May 17th

When I attended this session, I was not planning to blog about it. Yesterday, I saw that no one had signed up to write about this, so I figured I would share the notes I have with the larger community.
Peggy Ellis began discussion with her rousing talk entitled Paper is Part of the Picture. (To envelop the room in the scent of old paper as she spoke, she passed around a bottle of Paper Passion Perfume.)
She feels that there seems to be a curious lack of language to describe paper. Often, no mention is made of the paper itself in the literature of art. It is important to be able to describe the physical properties of paper, even those that have been common in our lives. Common papers may change with technology and not be familiar to those in the future. For example, nineteenth century writing paper and etching paper had specific qualities that contemporaries would have recognized. In the past, artists were particularly attuned to the qualities of paper. Today, preference is given to extremely white paper. Most of today’s common papers are meant to travel through a printer.
She ended with a call to action: Using as many of our senses as we can, paper conservators need to develop and standardize descriptions that enable a fuller understanding of paper.
Kristi Dahm’s talk was entitled Winslow Homer’s Engagement of the Materiality of Paper.
Homer is an example of someone who was very attuned to paper and was very particular when choosing paper. He chose the best paper for the technique he intended to employ. Allowing the paper to show through is an important component of his and many other watercolor paintings. When the paper changes in appearance with age, the art is changed.
Homer often used watercolor blocks. You can find evidence of this, such as brown lines of adhesive at the edges, or white voids where adhesive was removed.
He used a particular paper during a trip to Bermuda in 1888/89 which has deep, diagonal furrows on the verso. In some cases, his printer printed his plates on both paper and parchement. The parchment versions were mre expensive.
He sometimes used Japanese vellum, which was introduced to Paris in 1888 and became very popular with artists. It was a smooth, dense Japanese paper with a lustrous, calenared surface. There were European-made imitations.
There are some posthumous impressions of Homer prints that were created by his later printer using the same paper, so they are hard to tell from originals.
The third talk, entitled Connoissership and Conservators’ Practice, was by Marian Dirda. She spoke about the importance of understanding the qualities of hte paper to inform treatment decisions.
Every institution has a curatorial tradition on which some of those decisions are based. This comes from an understanding of the part that the paper plays in conveying the spirit of the artwork.
For example, washing and flattening should not be done on a Mary Csssatt because undulations are typical in her prints and should be left. If something is an extremely rare first state, you should not wash it because it is important not to loose any characteristics. You can learn by comparing copies and variations of the same print.
Papers from the 1960s and 1970s are particualrly vulnerable to oxidative attack. The quality of paper has rise since the 1980s. We don’t have a lightfastness stadard for paper like we do for media.
Amy Hughes rounded out the presentations with a follow up to her talk about gels in paper conservation. To measure pH and conductivity, she uses a biopsy punch to make a small agarose pellet She leaves it on the paper 5 minutes, then places it in the conductivity meter first, then places it in the pH meter with 2 drops of water. The paper is less altered when you match the paper’s conductivity with that of the treatment solution.
She makes a bunch of stock solutions that will keep for a few months in the fridge. Learning to make the stock solutions is complicated. You need an instructor to teach you. There will be some future workshops with Amy, Daria Keynan, and/or Chris Stavroudis.
These presentations were followed by a lively discussion. Here are some select points:
* More study is needed about why color shift is happening in paper.
* It is important to collaborate with paper historians.
* There may or may not still be copies available of the Print Council of America Paper Sample book. Get one if you can. (I did a quick search and did not see any listed for sale online.)
* We need to create something even more comprehensive than that book.
* Colors can be scientifically measured, but simple color words and modifiers may be more useful.
* In a treatment report, it is always good provide context for why a treatment path was chosen.
* When concerned about over lightening, one trick is to light bleach from the back.
* Is it helping paper chemistry to preserve paper tone? We are not necessarliy extending the paper’s lifetime by washing.
* Why not just start with sodium borohydride? Paper chemists believe it is actually good for the paper.
* National Gallery of Art is putting together a comprehesive paper library. Please contact Marian Dirda if you have dated, known samples.
* Look, look, look, and look again!

43rd Annual Meeting – Sustainability Session, May 15, "An Investigation and Implementation of the Use of Sustainable and Reusable Materials to Replace Traditional Wood Crates" by kevin Gallup

Kevin Gallup  showing crate design.  Traveler, lid and exterior crate in foreground.
Kevin Gallup showing crate design. Traveler, lid and exterior crate in foreground.

This talk was of interest to me because I am a former member of the Sustainability Committee, and reusable crates were something that we received several inquiries about. As museums and other lending institutions look at ways to increase their sustainability, one thing they consider is finding an alternative to the typical wooden crate used to ship objects. The problems with wooden crates are: a) they are made to fit a specific sized object, and are difficult to retrofit for something else; b) extra room is necessary to store them until needed again; c) wood is attractive to a variety of pests; d) wood adsorbs and emits odors; and e) locally- and sustainably-sourced wood can be difficult and expensive to aquire. There are some European companies that rent resuable plastic crates, such as Turtlebox, but they are not yet available in the United States.
Yale University turned to Kevin Gallup when their Sustainability Strategic Plan compelled them to find a solution for this problem. They wanted a system of modular parts made of sustainable materials that could be taken apart, stored, and reused as necessary. As Mr. Gallup explains in his abstract: “There were many factors to take into account to obtain an acceptable system. Availability and price of materials, construction techniques, compatibility of materials, and the unique archival material requirements [of] the museum industry…are some of the features of the crating system that had to work together to produce a crate design. The fabrication and creation of the parts withing the design would need to be obtainable either by utilizing their own facility…or by having the parts…made locally. The system would need to be easily put together utilizing as many common parts as possible.”
After 10 years of trial and error, Mr. Gallup is satisfied with his current design. The crate is made with an aluminum frame and Dibond sides. Dibond is a composite sandwich of two thin sheets of aluminum with a white polyester coating bonded to a polyethylene core. There is an outer box with a smaller inner traveler or tray of the same materials to contain the object(s). Various foams or Sorbothane can be used to surround the traveler. Sorbothane feet are attached to the bottom to mitigate the effects of vibration.
He is currently working about a business model to make this available to other institutions. Parts can be cut out in various sizes with a CNC machine, but the system still requires a high skill level to assemble. If you are interested in learning more about  these crates, Mr. Gallup suggests that you contact him in about 6 months, and he will be able to provide more information.
Audience members check out the crate materials: aluminum frame, Dibond, and Sorbothane
Audience members check out the crate materials: aluminum frame, Dibond, and Sorbothane


43rd Annual Meeting – Book & Paper Session, May 15, "To Do or Not To Do: Two Examples of Decision Making of Digital In-filling for Asian Works of Art" by Hsin-Chen Tsai

Japanese and Chinese artworks, such as hanging scrolls, hand scrolls, folding screens and panels, have two components: the primary artwork and the mount. This talk focused on the treatment of the mounts for a folding screen entitled The Deities of the Tanni-sho by Munakata Shiko, and a hanging scroll entitled Standing Courtesan, by Keisai Eisen.
The current condition and the information carried by the mounting are balanced in making treatment decisions. When both the condition and the retained information are poor; more extensive treatment is carried out. This was the case for the folding screen. The original mounting paper was decorated using a Japanese fold-dying technique that created a repeating pattern that would be difficult to reproduce by hand. The author decided to make digital infills for this for three reasons: there was enough remaining original material for reference, the fills would not change the context and character, and it would be less time-consuming.

Folding screen before treatment.
Folding screen before treatment.

Here is a step-by-step of the process:
1. She took a digital image of an intact section of the mount.
2. She opened the image in PhotoShop and made adjustments to distortion, brightness, contrast, and color balance.
3. She printed onto a lined sheet of sekishu paper with an Epsum stylus Pro 4900 printer.
4. She matched the pattern with the losses and traced them over a light box.
5. After filling, there was some minor toning required.
For the scroll, Japanese paste paper had been used as the mount. It was an uda (clay-containing) paper with alum-gelatin sizing. It was hand-stamped in an irregular pattern and an uneven tone. The damage was typical of this kind of object: the mechanical action of rolling and unrolling led to horizontal damage and losses. Since the author was not able to guess exactly what the lost areas had looked like, she decided to infill using hand-toned paper without a decorative pattern.

42nd Annual Meeting: BPG Tips Session, May 30, moderated by Emily Rainwater

There were sixteen tips presented by twelve speakers in this session, with a very lively question and comment period at the end.

 Tip 1:  ‘Beading: A Japanese technique used to relax laminated paper’ presented by Betsy Palmer Eldridge. 

When two sheets of paper have been pasted together overall, the result is a sheet that is much thicker and stiffer than the two individuals. Ms. Eldridge described her technique of using a string of beads known as ura-suri to soften, relax, and remove cockling from the laminated paper. She forms the beads into a coil, then makes a repeated circular motion with a flat hand. During the Q&A, Rachel Freeman mentioned that marbles or a Japanese printmaking baren work well too.

 Tip 2:  ‘Quick and Easy Plexi Paste’ presented by Cher Schneider.

Ms. Schneider developed this method for adhering two pieces of Plexiglas together to make mounts. Step 1: Collect Plexi shavings into a glass container. Step 2: Dissolve first in drops of acetone until it gets milky white, then add drops of toluene until it becomes transparent. Do not stir too much. Step 3: Apply to one side of the joint with a glass stir rod, then attach the other piece. Clear excess with a piece of matboard, then with a swab dampened with toluene. Step 4: Cure for 15-20 hours. Step 5: Clean glass tools by popping the dried Plexi paste right off. She does not recommend trying to re-use dried Plexi paste. During the Q&A, John Baty suggested a bake-out to cure the paste.

Tip 3: ‘Alt Training’ by Beth Doyle.

After struggling with the difficulties of providing care and handling training to temporary and permanent staff and students, Beth Doyle of Duke University Libraries figured out that using social media to make short training videos on specific topics is a great way to reach everyone in a timely manner. The instagram videos are 15 seconds and the youtube videos, such as this one, are 2 minutes. If you want to make your own, she recommends using multiple paths to reach the largest audience, exploiting what each platform has to offer, reusing and recycling clips where possible, accepting that what you have is good enough, and keeping it short.

 Tip 4:  ‘Studio-Lab Weight Sources’ by Stephanie Watkins.

Ms. Watkins reviewed the types of weights that conservators use, with suggestions for how to find or make your own. Because they are by nature heavy, she suggests above all that looking locally or making your own is the most cost-effective, and in the spirit of the meeting, ecologically sound. If you do have to have some weights shipped, she recommends USPS flat weight priority. Items that have been used as weights include magnets, sewing weights, scuba, exercise and fishing weights, car tire balancing weights, glass scraps, paperweights, flat irons, shoe anvils, weights manufactured by conservation suppliers, hand-crafted weights, scrap metal, and heavy items from freecycle. Home-made weight fillings include ball bearings, BB shot, coins, stones, sand, glass, beads and beans. Modifications can include polishing, covering, and adding smooth boards, felts, handles, and fabric. Form follows function, so determine the size and shape needed, then look around to see what is available.
I commented on this tip to add that a friend who sometimes has to travel out of the lab to do conservation work on-site brings empty containers and fills them with water for make-shift weights.

Tip 5:  ‘Cling and Release: Silicone Mylar+Japanese Paper+Wheat Starch Paste= A One-Step Hinge for Float Framing’ by Terry Marsh, read by Anisha Gupta.
steps 1-6
This PDF ( TerryMarsh-OneStepHinge ) explains the process.

Tip 6:  ‘Aquazol as a heat-set adhesive’ by Adam Novak.

Mr. Novak presented two quick tips. First, he shared his recipe for heat-set tissue, based on research by Katherine Lechuga, summarized here. He makes a 6% solution of Aquazol 500 in deionized water and brushes it on very thin (2 gram) tengujo paper. After cutting the repair strip, it can be set in place temporarily using the heat of his finger. Then, he places silicone release paper over the repair and sets it with a tacking iron. (When questioned later by Sarah Reidell, he indicated that he did not know the exact temperature used with the tacking iron, but supposed that it is in the range of 150 degrees F.) The repair may look shiny in comparison with surrounding paper. If this is the case, shine can be reduced by brushing on a bit of ethanol.

Tip 7: ‘Using pH strips with filtered water’ by Adam Novak.

The second tip addressed the issue of very different readings with a pH strip and a pH meter when measuring deionized water solutions buffered with calcium hydroxide. This is something that I had noticed in my lab at NYPL, and was glad to hear an explanation. Mr. Novak has discovered that the conductivity is very low in the calcium solutions and that there is not enough ionization to get an accurate reading with the strips. This is only the case with calcium- other buffers have higher conductivity and the strips read more accurately.

Tip 8:  ‘Cellulose Powder’ by Becca Pollak.
(photo of slide taken by Valerie Faivre)
Ms. Pollack described her technique of spraying cellulose powder with an airbrush to minimize local discoloration on paper, cover foxing, or prepare for inpainting. She sprays the powder directly through stencils and adds pigments for toning if necessary. The basic recipe is below as a starting point, but adjustments may need to be made depending on its moisture sensitivity of an object or the desired effect. She also sprays films on Mylar and allows them to dry for future use. In that case, she sprays a layer of plain methylcellulose first to improve cohesion of the sheet. Ms. Pollak is preparing a tip sheet to be posted soon.
Basic recipe:
  • Approximately 20mL 0.5-1% Methocel A4M (Ms. Pollack reports that Elissa O’Loughlin prefers 1-2% of A15C; and Jim Bernstein prefers a mixture of cellulose ethers or gelatin.)
  • 5-10mL isopropanol
  • 1g of micro-cellulose powder

Tip 9: ‘Applying New Techniques On A Traditional Adhesive For Book Conservation’ by  Marjan Anvari.

Traditional, western conservation training in book and paper conservation centers around the use of wheat starch paste. Ms. Anvari is an Iranian conservator working on middle eastern objects and decided to develop a repair adhesive based on a traditional Iranian adhesive that is also flexible and reversible in water. This adhesive, used by artists and artisans and known as ‘green paste,’  is dark yellow in color and leaves a stain, so Ms. Anvari worked to purify it, and came up with an acceptable recipe. She gave out samples at the end of the session. The paste can also be acquired from Raastak Enterprises, which can be contacted for more information.

Tip 10:  ‘Flattening translucent paper’ by Laura Neufeld.

Ms. Neufeld tested four techniques for flattening thin papers: Mylar flattening, the hard-soft sandwich technique, friction flattening, and edge flattening. A gampi-fibered paper was used for testing. The Mylar flattening technique, featured in the article ‘The conservation of three Whistler prints on Japanese paper’ by Catherine Nicholson, required the paper to be fully wet and gave the paper a slight sheen. The hard-soft sandwich technique, featured in the article ‘Architectural Drawings on Transparent Paper’ by Hildegard Homburger, did not require much moisture and removed severe creases. The sandwich calls for polypropylene fleece., but Ms. Neufeld found that this can be substituted with polyethylene fleece or Gore-Tex with the fuzzy side away from the object. Friction flattening, described in the article ‘The Use of Friction Mounting as an Aid to Pressing Works on Paper‘ by Keiko Keyes, can have similar results as using a kari-bari and has been found to work well on both old master and Japanese prints. She found edge flattening to be the most difficult. This slide (Flattening_Slide) shows the results in normal and raking illumination.

Tip 11:  ‘Tek-wipes’ by Gwenanne Edwards.

Tek-wipes, which are used in the computer and custodial industries, were mentioned on the DistList and handed out at last year’s Tip Session, and it seems that the word is out; many people have been discovering uses for them in paper conservation. Ms. Edwards likes to use them for capillary washing, slant washing, suction washing, as a support for lining, for drying and flattening, and in emergency response. She recommends them because they are highly absorbent, strong, reusable, machine-washable, dimensionably-stable, you can vary their saturation, they pull discoloration out well, they are safe with solvents, and they are way cheaper than blotter. They are available from a number of sources under various trade names, such as Texwipe or Technicloth. The overwhelming majority of commenters at the end of the session wanted to talk about Tek-wipes and other blotter replacements. Seth Irwin uses them to pull tidelines from paper using a tacking iron. Betsy Palmer Eldridge suggested that they would work in some of the drying techniques tested by Laura Neufeld (above.) In Australia, they use bamboo felt and interfacing in place of blotters. Bill Minter said that Christine Smith uses bath towels. Anna Friedman uses Sham-wow(warning: this link takes you to the company page with a video commercial).

Tip 12: ‘Rare earth magnets to make solvent chambers’ by  Anne Marigza.
(photo of slide taken by Valerie Faivre)
Ms. Marigza uses rare earth magnets in a solvent chamber. One on either side of the inverted glass or Mylar container will hold the solvent-saturated blotter (or other absorbent material) in place. The magnet can be discarded when it becomes powdery.

Tip 13.  ‘Flattening Rolled Drawings for Digitization’ by Bill Minter.
(photo of slide taken by Valerie Faivre)
Mr. Minter developed a method for flattening architectural drawings by reverse-rolling. He places a cardboard tube at the edge of the table with an attached paper extension hanging down to the floor. He places the leading edge of the drawing in the roller, then rolls it the opposite way and lets it sit for a day. When unrolled, it lays flat enough for digitization.

Tip 14: ‘Velcro for Phase-Boxes’ by Bill Minter.

Do you find your velcro hooks and loops to be too strongly attached to each other that they do not pull apart easily? Mr. Minter has discovered a less aggressive velcro. Instead of being labelled as such, the only way to distinguish is that the box is marked ‘clear.’ It comes in strips, discs, or rectangles.

Tip 15: ‘Dry-Tearing of Paper for Infills’ by Bill Minter.
(photo of samples taken by Valerie Faivre)
Lay some wire mesh on a flat surface and place the infill paper on top. Run the tip of an awl, needle, or other pointed instrument along the line you want to tear. It will create a perforation that can be dry-torn. McMaster-Carr sells wire mesh different gauges and materials. Above are samples of two sizes.

Tip 16: ‘Toning of Paper’ by Bill Minter.

The Preval sprayer works great for small paper-toning projects. Clean well after use. During the Q&A, we learned: They sell replacement valves if the ones you have get clogged. The glass jars can be saved and reused.

Get Ready for San Francisco with the Sustainability Committee: Come see us!

AIC's 42nd Annual Meeting - 2014
This is the fourth in a series of posts by the Sustainability Committee in the run-up to the 2014 Annual Meeting, describing sustainability issues and initiatives in the city of San Francisco. The first blog post explained plastic bag and container laws. The second described the water crisis in California. The third post was about the California Academy of Sciences: The world’s greenest museum. Here, I will tell you about the activities the Sustainability Committee will be involved in during the conference.
1. We will be sharing a booth with the Health & Safety Committee. Stop by! We will have samples of sustainable materials and handouts on various topics relating to sustainability in conservation.
2. On Friday, May 30th from 1-2 PM, we will host a Sustainability Roundtable Discussion in the Hospitality Room: How Do We Support Meaningful Change in Our Cultural Institutions? It’s free! Come check it out. It will be a conversation about engaging decision-makers in museums, libraries, and archives on the topic of sustainability.  How do individuals rally interest, build momentum, and transition from well-meaning intentions to meaningful action in their cultural institutions at large? During this informal discussion, members of the sustainability committee along with facilitators Sarah Stauderman, Collections Care Manager at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, and Jia-Sun Tsang, Senior Paintings Conservator at the Smithsonian Institution will share real-life examples of the sustainability movement in cultural heritage. Bring your questions and ideas to share!
3. Some members of the committee have put together a poster for the poster session. The poster session will be divided into two venues. Our poster will be #46 in the SeaCliff Foyer: Life Cycle Assessments: Lighting, HVAC, Loans, and Treatments by Sarah Nunberg, Pamela Hatchfield, Dr. Matthew Eckelman, and the AIC Sustainability Committee. Check it out if these questions interest you: What is the environmental impact difference between LEDs and Halogen lamps? What aspects of a loan have the biggest environmental impact? How much energy does regularly shutting down, or coasting, the HVAC system save? Silanes vs B-72 in Acetone:Ethanol vs B-72 in Xylene: Which Has a Higher Human and Environmental Impact? The poster session runs from 10 AM Thursday through Friday evening. For those unable to see the poster in person, it will be available to download from the AIC website sometime in June.
4. At the CIPP Seminar on Wednesday from 1-5PM, two of our committee members will take part in a panel discussion on Greening your Business. AIC Sustainability Committee Chair Betsy Haude (Senior Paper Conservator, Library of Congress) will present an overview of the committee’s work and Sarah Nunberg (Objects Conservation Studio LLC, Brooklyn, NY) will speak on sustainable practices in the conservation studio.
5. Committee member Christian Hernandez has prepared a talk for the StashFlash Session on recycled materials and long-term storage. Christian will not be attending the conference, but is sending is PowerPoint.

Get Ready for San Francisco with the Sustainability Committee: The World's Greenest Museum

AIC's 42nd Annual Meeting - 2014
This is the third in a series of posts by the Sustainability Committee in the run-up to the 2014 Annual Meeting, describing sustainability issues and initiatives in the city of San Francisco. The first blog post explained plastic bag and container laws. The second blog post described the water crisis in California.
Did you know that the California Academy of Sciences, located in San Francisco, is the world’s greenest museum? It is also the largest public LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum-rated building in the world. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, it was built from recycled materials where possible, it has a green ‘living’ roof with six inches of soil for insulation and skylights that open to vent hot air, solar panels, radiant heating in the floors, and insulation made from recycled denim (yes, denim!).
The green roof is comprised of seven hillocks to pay homage to the landscape of San Francisco, and also to blend in with the setting of Golden Gate Park. It also has weather stations to provide data to the automated passive ventilation systems. The benefit of a living roof is absorption of moisture and carbon dioxide, and natural cooling of the building.  It was planted with native plants intended to survive well in the San Francisco climate. There has been some critique of that idea, because native plants may not be suited to a city environment, but any new idea takes a while to be perfected. Hopefully, green roofs will become more and more common within the next decade and difficulties will be smoothed out.  If you visit Golden Gate park, check out the building and see for yourself.
For more information on the LEED program and how it relates to preservation concerns take in the talk by architect Scott Schiamberg and conservator Rachael Arenstein at AIC’s Opening Session, May 29 10:50am – 11:10am  A LEED primer for conservators: or, what should I do when the architect proposes daylight in our new galleries?
I also recommend the de Young Museum, with its copper exterior that is intended to turn green over time to match the park setting, and the Japanese Tea Garden because it is beautiful.

Get Ready for San Francisco with the Sustainability Committee: California Water Shortage

AIC's 42nd Annual Meeting - 2014This is the second in a series of blog posts by the Sustainability Committee in the run-up to the 2014 Annual Meeting, describing sustainability issues and initiatives in the city of San Francisco. (The first blog post, regarding plastic bag and container laws, can be read here.)
Over the last six months, we have been hearing about the water shortage in the state of California, and this post will attempt to answer: what is the cause, and how will it affect us when we are in San Francisco? According to the California Department of Water Resources; “There are many ways that drought can be defined. Some ways can be quantified, such as meteorological drought (period of below normal precipitation) or hydrologic drought (period of below average runoff), others are more qualitative in nature (shortage of water for a particular purpose). There is no universal definition of when a drought begins or ends. Drought is a gradual phenomenon.” The website also explains that cyclical droughts have been common in California since records have been kept. Paleo-climate research has shown that in the more distant past, California has experienced much more severe droughts than those in the recent centuries.
So, this is a normal cycle, but there are two major differences that make this drought more worrisome. The first is that many more people and industries are dependent on the water supply than ever before (38,332,521 people at last count, according to the Census Bureau). This article from Energy & Environment Publishing explains “The state’s population has shot to 38 million people today, compared with 22 million during the last record-breaking drought in 1977. Meanwhile, the state’s farms increased their revenue to $45 billion from $9.6 billion over the same time period. The earlier figure is in that year’s dollars.” Secondly, the just-released 2014 National Climate Assessment (see ‘Water’) predicts that droughts can be expected to intensify in the 21st century.
The governor declared a state of emergency on January 17th. This asked all Californians to reduce water use by 20%, brought contingency plans into effect, made financial assistance available for those most affected, and created a task force. The most notable effects of the water shortage state-wide have been: a predicted 7% loss of farmland and a corresponding increase in prices (not just in California, but worldwide), especially for avocados, tomatoes, almonds, lettuce, cotton, rice, melons, and peppers; drastic lowering of water reservoirs; loss of wetland habitat (many salmon will have to be trucked to spawning grounds this year); lowering of groundwater quality; and increased chance of wildfires.
Locally, San Francisco has not been feeling the effects as much as southern and western portions of the state. Already, city residents have an excellent record of conserving water, and the public utilities commission continues to encourage water-saving through voluntary initiatives.
What I predict we will notice while we are there is a parched landscape viewed through the airplane windows or on sightseeing forays into the surrounding region, higher than usual prices on produce, and lower levels in the surrounding bodies of water. The worst case scenario would be a concurrent wildfire in the region that affects air quality, flight schedules and/or camping plans.
The good news is that The Hyatt Regency San Francisco (the conference hotel) has a list of green practices that includes water saving features such as low-flow showerheads and toilets, aerated faucets, towel/sheet reuse, and drip irrigation.
Information Sources:
 California Drought Updates by the Association of Water Agencies
California Water Science Center
NBC News: California Drought
New York Times: California’s Thirsting Farmland
The Guardian: California’s Drought Portends High Prices for Cinco de Mayo Favourites

Get Ready for San Francisco with the Sustainability Committee: Plastic bags and Containers

This is the first in a series of blog posts by the Sustainability Committee in the run-up to the 2014 Annual Meeting, describing sustainability issues and initiatives in the city of San Francisco.
Residents of Washington, DC, Boulder, Santa Fe, and a few other cities (including about 50 in the state of California) may be used to similar ordinances, but everyone else should be forewarned: when you make a purchase, the store can no longer provide a free bag to go along with it. For a 10 cent fee, you can purchase a ‘compliant’ bag to carry your goods in. Compliant bags are either:
* Compostable plastic bags labeled with a certification logo
* Paper bags labeled with 40% post-consumer recycled content
* Reusable checkout bags designed for at least 125 uses and washable
Why is this a good idea? Plastic bags clog sewers, pipes, and waterways. They mar the landscape. They photodegrade by breaking down to smaller fragments which readily soak up toxins, then contaminate soil and water. They are making a significant contribution to the plastic pollution of the oceans. Thousands of marine animals die each year from ingesting them. And, they are manufactured from petroleum, a resource that is both finite and dangerous to transport.
In addition, you will notice that your takeout food containers are a little different than what you may be used to. Containers are required to be compostable or recyclable. Styrofoam is a definite no-no. As the SF Environment (a city agency) site says: “Made from oil, polystyrene foam is non-renewable, non-biodegradable, and non-recyclable. Polystyrene foam food service ware ends up in landfills, waterways, or the ocean. It can break into pieces, which are often mistaken for food and ingested by marine animals, birds, and fish. Medical studies suggest that chemicals in polystyrene foam can cause cancer and leach into food or drinks.”
While we are there, you will still be able to purchase water in plastic bottles (although, please don’t; you can get it from the tap). But the city council has passed an ordinance prohibiting their sale in any public spaces that will go into full effect by 2018.
Laws like these can hopefully prevent what was witnessed by Jia-Sun Tsang, who works at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC: “On April 12, National Cherry Blossom Festival, thousands of tourists came through the Mall and left park workers 27 to 30 tons of trash to pick up.”
Many city councils are considering similar laws. Please contact your lawmakers and show your support. Refuse to patronize a restaurant (or staff cafeteria) that uses styrofoam. If you work at an institution, let the suppliers (or decision-makers) know that you prefer to chose products from vendors that use less packaging.
SF Environment: Plastic Bag Ordinance
Cities with Plastic Bag Bans
MSNBC: SF Bans Sale of Plastic Water Bottles
Examiner: SF Bans Sale of Plastic Water Bottles
SF Environment: Take-out Container Ordinance
Facts About the Plastic Bag Pandemic

Contemporary Print Identification Workshop

Print workshop looking at Intaglio-Type prints brought by Keith Howard
Print workshop looking at Intaglio-Type prints brought by Keith Howard

I was very happy to be part of the group of paper conservators gathered in Washington, DC from October 16th- 19th, 2013 for an in-depth study of print identification.
On day 1 and the first part of day 2, the workshop hosts Scott Homolka and Stephanie Lussier, led us through the different categories of print processes, starting with traditional, familiar techniques; then looking at examples of variations and recent developments that might be harder to identify unless you know what you are looking for. We also had several guest lecturers on day 2. Shelley Langdale, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, gave a lecture on the history of American printmaking studios in the 20th century. Keith Howard, Head of Printmaking and Research at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and Bernice Cross, master printmaker and owner of White Cross Press, brought in examples of contemporary prints created by them and their students in a variety of techniques for us to examine closely. Keith Howard invented the field of non-toxic printmaking with a process he named Intaglio-Type. He has published several books about his techniques and kindly gave each participant a copy of his most recent one, entitled The Contemporary Printmaker: Intaglio-Type & Acrylic Resist Etching, which is considered an essential manual by many people in the field of printmaking today. Lastly, the three printmakers behind the printmaking website Printeresting; Amze Emmons, R.L. Tillman and Jason Urban, gave a talk about the world of printmaking today.
Scott Homolka explains Richard Serra's process of applying paintstick through silkscreenScott Homolka explains Richard Serra’s process of applying paintstick through silkscreen
Day 3 was spent at the National Gallery of Art. Lucky for us, the government shutdown ended just in time to spend our final day at our planned venue. Our first exercise in the morning was to identify the processes behind some prints in their collection. Some of the prints were particularly tricky, while others were deceptively easy. Then we went to the galleries for a tour of the exhibit Yes, No, Maybe: Artists Working at Crown Point Press given first by the curators Judith Brodie, head of modern prints and drawings, and Adam Greenhalgh, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow; then by one of Crown Point Press’ Master Printers, Emily York. This show features both working proofs and final prints in order to show the process that goes into making a print. Not all of the projects resulted in a print that the artist considered exhibitable, but all showed the creative and technical process behind the creation of prints and in some cases expanded what was possible in printmaking by pushing at the boundaries of the techniques.
Then it was back to the lab to look at Marian Dirda’s collection of printmaking papers from the late 20th and early 21st century. She is a great resource for information about fine art paper mills, and the papers that particular artists or printmaking studios prefer. In fact, I should emphasize that all of the lecturers of this workshop are very accessible and happy to share their knowledge with the conservation community. I recommend reaching out if you have questions about contemporary prints.
Rosemary Fallon practices a non-toxic version of the 'acid bite' techniqueRosemary Fallon practices a non-toxic version of the ‘spit bite’ technique
On day 4, we travelled to Pyramid Atlantic in Silver Spring, MD, where we got to try out Intaglio-Type printmaking for ourselves. Keith Howard and Bernice Cross led us through plate preparation, exposure, development, and printing. After 4 hours, we each had 1-2 prints to keep as references. Day 4 was absolutely my favorite part of the entire workshop. I learned that many studios offer summer weeklong intensive courses in printmaking. I hope to take one someday.
Thanks again to everyone who worked behind the scenes to make this workshop possible despite the government shutdown.
Bernice Cross demonstrates 4-color printing from plexiglass plates
Bernice Cross demonstrates 4-color printing from plexiglass plates