AIC 43rd Annual Meeting – The Daguerreotype Uncovered: An Overview of the Surface and Subsurface Chemistry, Physics and Material Science Underlying the First Photographic Process Based on Electron Microscopial Studies. Patrick Ravines

This presentation was delivered by Patrick Ravines, Director and Associate Professor, Buffalo State University. Co-authors include Peter Bush, Lisa Chan, Natasha Erdman, Lingjia Li, Rob McElroy, and Anne West.
Patrick et al have been using electron microscopy to investigate the surface and subsurface of daguerreotypes. They have created fresh plates for the investigation, and have used these analytical techniques during each stage of preparation. They have made discoveries including how scratches to the surface Ag are not always completely removed during the polishing process, polishing removes approximately 1 mm of Ag, and fuming with I2 creates a discontinuous layer of AgI across the plate. One interesting thing Patrick noted was how upon placing a sensitized daguerreotype plate in an SEM, the electron beam produced enough energy to cause the AgI particles to print out before their eyes. After exposure to Hg vapor, they were able to observe the Ag-Hg particles from various angles and discern that there are many other cluster shapes than cubic and hexagonal. Using lasers, they drilled into the daguerreotype surface, created cross-sections, and observed the subsurface voids. Patrick discussed their believe that the subsurface voids are the result of Ag migrating up to the surface to form the image material, leaving behind an absence of material. This work will be published soon in more detail.
Patrick noted that professionals in the electronics industry are using similar materials, Ag and Au, and they are finding similar subsurface voids.

AIC 43rd Annual Meeting – A Glimpse from the Dawn of Photography: Investigation and Stabilization of an Early Daguerreotype from 1839 at the Peabody Essex Museum. Elena Bulat and Kathryn Carey

For this presentation Kathryn Carey, paper conservator at the Peabody Essex Museum (Massachusetts), introduced the project and the museum. The Peabody Essex received an early daguerreotype dated 1839 from a donor in 1858. The image is of Pont Neuf in Paris, and the plate is tentatively attributed to Vincent Chevalier, or Daguerre himself. The daguerreotype was “rediscovered” in 2008 and Elena Bulat, photograph conservator at Harvard University’s Weissman Preservation Center, was contracted to perform analysis and treatment. The daguerreotype was housed in the European style with a paper passe-partout and framed. Elena’s work consisted of opening the package, digitally imaging the plate, performing XRF on the plate and FTIR on the glues, fiber analysis of the papers, observation and imaging under UV radiation, removal of superficial dust from the plate with a manual air blower, replacement of the old passe-partout  and cover glass with new but similar materials, and rebinding. XRF revealed low levels of Hg and no Au. S was found in tarnish areas, and no Cl was found. These results in conjunction with observation under UV confirm the identification of this plate as an early 19th century daguerreotype that was cleaned. FTIR revealed beeswax, and fiber analysis found bast and cotton fibers in the paper components. The new housing for the plate consisted of a backing piece of borosilicate glass, a window mat of borosilicate glass, and a new cover glass (also borosilicate). The plate was secured between these layers with a mylar Z-tray. Elena recommended the plate not be exhibited as it was not stabilized by gold toning.
Elena described her experience speaking with a reporter from the Boston Globe regarding this project, and how he had difficulty grasping the concept that “treatment” does not necessarily mean intervention. This rang true for me, and I imagine for many other conservators in the audience. You can read the article here:

39th Annual Meeting – Electronic Media Afternoon Session 6/3/11, Equipment Obsolescence, The Tree Decision Making Model for the Preservation of Technological Equipment for Time Based Media Art, a DOCAM Research Tool Outcome, Richard Gaigner

Richard Gaigner, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
The Tree Decision Making Model for the Preservation of Technological Equipment for Time Based Media Art, a DOCAM (Documentation et Conservation du Patromoine des Arts Mediatiques) Research Tool Outcome

The goal of the project was to take a holistic approach to time based media, and to bring awareness to the format.  The research was done in French because DOCAM is located in Montreal, but also to augment the small amount of research in French in this field.  The research team was made up of 14 researchers from a variety of backgrounds and expertise.  Did the research by focusing on 7 case studies.  Established a topology of practice and approach to the issues at hand.

Case one involved a very specific installation, and a complicated production of the image.  The artist took parts from multiple films to create a complex layered image.  Used a Barco projector to show the image.  Over time these machines essentially self destruct, so migration had to be considered.  Looked at the complexities of creating a suitable substitute.

Case two was an early Jenny Holzer sign made by the American Sign Company (which only existed for a short time), which predates her LED work.  The sign took a lot of wear due it’s design, which uses an electric arm to turn tiny RGB beads to create the image.  The sign had stopped working so the artist’s suggestion was to recreate the technology, but it was an expensive project.  The other option was to recreate the sign in LED.

Case three is a computer based design program, which makes “blob architecture”.

Caase four is a Nam June Paik from 1989, ten monitors making up a sculpture.  The issue was the CRT monitors undergoing expected degradation.

Case five is a Sony video Walkman, a mini tv essentially.  This piece was acquired unable to produce an image, and they were unable to fix it.  After contacting the artist the solution was to use a Casio mini monitor as a replacement.  They have been trolling eBay now looking for replacements for the original monitor.

Case six is a monitor with a piece of paper held on the screen by static to make the image look more grainy.

***I seem to be missing the seventh case from the DOCAM project here, if anyone has notes on it please contact me so I can add the missing information (  My apologies!

Out of the project they developed a three part guide: common problems, recommendations, etc.  They also thought critically about integrity and authenticity of art (Brandi), and the significance of the work, its behavior, the viewers experience, and aesthetics.

The decision making tree was made in Free Mind, an open source program, which asks you a series of question like, can it be repaired?  Do you want to repair it?  The steps help you to make an informed decision as to whether to fix or replace the equipment.  More questions include is the equipment visible?  Does it have any other significance to the work?  Is the equipment stable or obsolete?  Is it easy or hard to replace the equipment?  The tree is only available in French, but it can be accessed online on the DOCAM website.

Question: how can we apply Brandi’s theories to time based media more specifically?  Brandi is a good starting point to think about the significance of original material, particularly with TBM

39th Annual Meeting – Electronic Media Afternoon Session 6/3/11, Equipment Obsolescence, The Preservation of Display and Playback Equipment for Audiovisual Art, Emanuel Lorraine

Emanuel LoRraine, PACKED, Brussels
Joint project with Netherlands Institute for Media Art, supported by the Ministry of the Flemish Community.

Goals of this project include the identification of people who could help with the equipment, find spare equipment, create inventory of people who could transfer old media, collect guidelines and make a useful model for dealing with electronic equipment in art collections.  Interviewed manufacturers, technicians and transfer services, AV archives, TV channels, conservators, media art centers, and computer gaming associations.  Found that literature was limited and hard to access.  Gathered a lot of info from the interviews, found an overall importance placed on common sense.

The most important first step is to achieve the best possible storage conditions.  Storage should have good piping and controlled atmosphere, and protection against fire and theft.  These points may seem elementary, but they are the first defense in avoidable damage.  Generally found that the professionals interviewed recommend 0-40 degree temperature (Celsius) for storage, and they often recommended different temperatures for storage than for exhibition.  Some said store below 18 degrees to slow chemical deterioration.  If the temp is over 40ish deterioration will accelerate, weaken spot welds, and deform many plastics.  Humidity is also a factor in these processes.  20-80% RH is the range recommended by the people interviewed, but best if below 45%.  If the humidity is low it can also encourage static discharge in the equipment.  Cabinets can be used to control the RH.  Sunlight should be strictly limited because it effects temperature, and fading and yellowing of plastic parts.  Storage space should be regularly cleaned because dust and dirt will clog equipment.  Smoke also has an adverse effect.  Equipment should not be stored on the ground, but on raised shelves.  Metal shelves are better than wood, and they should be quite stable.  Equipment should not be stacked on shelves, not left plugged in, cables should be properly wound and stored.  Batteries should be removed because they can leak acids and bases into the rest of the equipment.  Batteries have about a one year life, any equipment that requires batteries and stores information should have the info backed up before the batteries are removed.  Metal and plastic boxes are a good solution for storage.  Sealing in a plastic bag is also an option.  Dormancy is a problem so techs recommend turning the equipment on regularly to prevent breakdown.  Range from once a month to once a year for about an hour, depending on the machine.  Once a year or once every six months seems acceptable.

Misuse of equipment can be a serious problem, such a wrong voltage, dust exposure, use of spoiled cables, etc., and can ead to serious damage.  Angle of tilt is also an important factor to be aware of.  Strong contrast should not be used in CRT technology because it can cause image burn in.  CRT monitors usually have failure of the tube, which can be replaced but replacement supplies are decreasing quickly.

The results of these interviews will be published in a forthcoming publication.

Questions: one useful source is the standards on the care of large and industrial collections written in 1994

39th Annual Meeting – Electronic Media Afternoon Session 6/3/11, Equipment Obsolescence, Collection Complexities of the Goodwill Computer Museum, Virginia Luerhsen

Karen Pavelka (lecturer, University of Texas at Austin, School of Information)
Virginia Luehrsen (phD student, University of Texas at Austin, School of Information) *presenter
Collection Complexities of the Goodwill Computer Museum

The Goodwill Computer Museum in Austin, TX, was opened in 2005 and presents educational exhibits in computer technology.  The museum also provides information and support on the appropriate disposal and recycling of computers.  The museum is staffed by a director and twelve volunteers from UTexas, a collaboration that started in 2009, which now supports students doing surveys, creating databases, restoration, and cataloging.  Trying to gain better intellectual control over materials.  Challenges include building and facilities at the GCM.  The museum is split into four main areas, with an additional resale shop.  Computers in the museum are not kept plugged in and running because of the cost.  The archive contains manuals, documentation, and relative software.  Computer materials are processed in the same space as the rest of goodwill donations, which causes problems.  Moving between the four storage areas is difficult, which is an issue they are trying to address in grant applications.  Major donations have come in but space for storage is limited.  Light is fluorescent so visible and UV light levels are high.  Biggest problem is the generation of dust that accumulates on al, the equipment.  Loading bays introduce a high RH, pests, and dirt into the space.  There are no clear guidelines yet for storage and handling of the electronics, implementation is problematic, staff is inadequate, and there is yet to be a clear development plan.

The museum is a functioning museum, conservation is important and has been incorporated from the beginning.  Conservation at the GCM is about preserving the artifact, and the experience of using the machine.  The current museum director is an important resource to the museum, and has a background in software engineering.  Cleaning of the electronics is performed but mainly concerns dusting exteriors.

The preservation team is developing a machine called the “ditto”, which saves information from discs on bit stream.  They are also recreating an early computer.

The paper collection has conservation needs mainly in the area of rehousing, but in some cases greater intervention is needed.  They are currently using distance education tools to learn about appropriate conservation practices, often using Skype in a setup time frame for each project.  They were surprised by how effective the Skpye system is, and how much time is saved.  The technicians are working on site at the GCM, and Skyping with conservator Karen Pavelka at UT, which about 10 miles away.  They are exploring the applications of this remote training technique for situations such as emergency response after disasters.  Considering use of telephone lines rather than wifi in areas where that service is more reliable (ie Haiti).  Also transferring images via smart phones.  Looking forward to developing these projects with the UT partnership.

Questions: has Skype technique gone to CERT?  Yes, in coordination.  How do you get people interested in the collection if the machines don’t run?  Do scheduled demonstrations now, in the future want to employ docents to monitor the systems so people can use the machines.  Did have a problem with vandalism, so require more employees.  Suggestion to set up a calendar for different days spent on particular and popular technology, which may help draw interest and visitors.  Suggestion about dust accumulation to tent the area with plastic and pressurize it.  How is the software being dealt with?  One problem is law against retaining machines with personal information, which includes systems that have been modified.  Have a store of software they can reinstall on good machines, but most info is on the original carrier.  What would the ideal storage conditions be?  Address biggest concerns such as dust, reallocating space, increasing security in the galleries, possibly move to a new space.  Ideal would be 45-50% RH and 65 degrees.  Hard to define ideal because so many different media, so really need separate storage spaces.  What is the community around the museum?  Lots of retired engineers and currently working engineers, recent engineering and IT grads, and current students in the same disciplines.