Upcoming Conference: A Century of Design in the Parks, Preserving the Built Environment in National and State Parks

National Park Service Centennial Symposium Series

June 21 to 23, 2016
Join the experience in Santa Fe, New Mexico from June 21 to 23, 2016. Learn from our nation’s leading experts about how to preserve the built environment within national and state parks. Understand the role that materials played in the development of these unique sites. Study sites from early rustic, CCC, WPA, post-WWII era, NPS Mission 66 campaign, and beyond.
Topics may include:
• historical perspectives,
• preservation issues,
• documentation,
• use of technology,
• adaptive reuse, and
• interpretation of NPS designed features, among others.
Plan to be part of this symposium today! Submit an abstract as part of the call for papers and posters by January 15, 2016.
General Registration $299
Speaker Registration $199
Student Registration $99 (limited number, register early).
To register, submit a presentation, or for more information, see NCPTT’s website at www.ncptt.nps.gov.

NCPTT accepting grant applications through November 3, 2015

NCPTTNational Center for Preservation Technology and Training is now accepting grant applications for two grant programs. In addition to the annual Preservation Technology and Training Grants that award up to $40,000 for research and technology, NCPTT has a new Media Grants Program. The latter program provides up to $15,000 to develop videos, mobile applications, online publications and more.
For more information, check out NCPTT’s website at https://ncptt.nps.gov/grants/

43rd Annual Meeting – Architecture Specialty Group – May 16, Mid-Century Modern Wood Issues at the Weston Havens House by Kitty Vieth and Molly Lambert

Weston Haven's Section
Kitty Vieth, a senior associate at Architectural Resources Group, presented the work required to rehabilitate the most fragile structural conditions of the Weston Havens House. Molly Lambert, a conservator in private practice, discussed techniques she used to remove tide lines from interior cedar paneled walls.
The Weston Havens House is a Mid-Century Modern construction designed by architect Harwell Harris and built in 1941. It sits in the hills of Berkeley and has an 180-degree view of the San Francisco Bay. Weston Havens was the only owner of the house until his death in 2001. He bequeathed the property to the University of California Berkeley who now uses the house for visitors.
The house features a modernist design with upper and lower levels cut into a hillside. A curvilinear stair leads to the lower floors. There are two guest rooms with private terraces. The house contains original finishes at are intact. Kitty Vieth was brought in to evaluate the conditions of the materials and all building systems.
Upon evaluation, two high priority projects were defined. The first project was the Pedestrian Bridge that was in a state of near collapse. The bridge displayed a keel type construction with paired studs. Slow growth Redwood found in the Berkeley area was used to construct the Bridge. All of the wood showed deterioration, especially the structural components. Fortunately, the main beams were still structurally sound, but Vieth was not able to save the rafters and studs. The bridge was reconstructed using long slow growth of redwood that is already beginning to fade to grey and better match the original materials. A finish was used to protect the reconstructed bridge.
The second priority was the East wall and roof area. The seismic activity of the area was considered. Redwood boards were greyed, worn and cupping in some locations. Vieth consolidated and rehabilitated the windows and walls on East wall.
Molly Lambert spoke next about earlier work she undertook in the house when Weston Havens was still alive. This and other modernist structures often have redwood paneled interiors. When roofs leak tide lines form on the interior panels. Molly did two different campaigns to repair tannin tide lines on the interior of this house. She was able to get 80-90% of the tide lines out. Tannins in the wood migrate with water causing the darkened lines.
Her technique was as follows:

  • Wipe down the entire panel with wet cotton PVOH sponges (cellulose sponges) with grain.
  • Harvest some of the tannins with a swab using distilled water or spit and transfer to needed areas.
  • Don’t take too much of the tannins away.
  • In-paint with a tannic acid mixture as needed.


43rd Annual Meeting – Architecture Specialty Group – May 15, Concrete Actions to Extreme Risks: Conservation of Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works World Heritage site in danger, IQUIQUE, Chile, Alicia Fernandez Boan

Humberstone Salitrera Iquique Chile taken by Carlos Valera on December 30, 2012
Humberstone Salitrera Iquique Chile taken by Carlos Valera on December 30, 2012

During the Architecture Specialty Group Session, Alicia Fernandez Boan focused on the conservation efforts and needs for two World Monument sites that represent the salt peter mining era in Chile.
The salt peter works are remains of human activity in the Atacama desert. Operation began as part of Peruvian territory in mid-19th century. They were declared world heritage sites in 2005. Humberstone and Santa Laura represent over 200 salt peter works that once existed. The Atacama desert has a temperature extremes from 0 deg c at night to 40 deg c midday, which takes it’s toll on the built environment. The cultural landscape is made up of the structures and surrounding site that is formed due to the accumulation of byproducts of the mining efforts.
At Humberstone, the structures and buildings of the community remain — church, school houses. Alternately, Santa Laura is representative of the industrial sectors found in saltpeter works. The materials are exposed to extreme weather. The structures are also exposed to salts and chemicals that were part of the production. There are dozens of rust colored structures. They include generalized corrosion and galvanized losses.
In order to maintain these sites, several factors must be considered. The conservation of urban sites requires establishment of commercial activity so that the site can be self-sufficient and sustainable. Therefore rehabilitation, recycling, controlled use, and the reoccupation of the territory is greatly needed. Use of these sites as museums documenting the industrial age of salt works is currently happening but more is needed. Rehabilitation, recycling, controlled use, the reoccupation of the territory works will be necessary for the long-term preservation of the sites.
From a conservation standpoint, the sites have conservations needs but they offer the possibility of a conservation field laboratory. This is a place where cleaning tests and environmental aging tests could offer substantial information to the preservation community. The sites offer the ability to study corrosion on a monumental scale under extreme weather conditions.

43rd Annual Meeting – Opening Session, May 14, Concrete Conclusions: Surface treatment Trails for Conserving the Miami Marine Stadium by John A. Fidler, Rosa Lowinger, et. al.

Miami Marine Stadium by El Gringo. Taken August 16 2011.
Miami Marine Stadium by El Gringo. Taken August 16 2011.

“This presentation by John A. Fidler and Rosa Lowinger focused on testing cleaning methods for removal of graffiti from concrete surfaces at the Miami Marine Stadium. The work is being undertaken by the Friends of the Miami  Marine Stadium with funding by the Getty Foundation.
The stadium is an excellent modernist structure designed by the Cuban-American Architect, Hilario Candela. The building includes a 326 foot-long cantilevered thin shell concrete roofline that is among the longest in the world. The Stadium was created for speedboat racing but was also used as a concert venue, and featured artists such as Jimmy Buffett, Sammy Davis Jr, and more. The stadium is owned by the city. It was closed in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew and has fallen into a state of disrepair. It has become the central site for graffiti artists in the Miami area and the surfaces of the stadium are covered with multiple layers of graffiti.
Because of it’s unique and original mid-century design, the Miami Marine Stadium is the recipient of the Getty Foundation Keeping It Modern Initiative funding. This is one of nine structures to have received this type of grant. This funding has allowed for testing graffiti removal methods and evaluating concrete repair materials for the project. This 12 month testing phase is due to be completed this summer, but the project will be on-going.
The Friends of the Miami Marine Stadium are working diligently to save this structure from a city demolition order that was issued in 1993. There is concern about the welfare of the deteriorating concrete and the structure’s hurricane resistance. The project requires both civil engineering expertise and conservation skills. In addition to materials conservation issues, the cultural and social use of the site as a graffiti sanctuary must also be addressed. Repair of the concrete in many places will require the removal of many of the graffiti works. While much of the graffiti designs are undertaken using acrylic or polyurethane enamel car touch up paint, there are more than 200 types of paint materials used to create the graffiti art.
The project will require graffiti management for current and possible future tagging. Initial meetings were held with the graffiti artists to convey that there is intent to honor the role of their work, to record the work, and to provide creative ways to archive or show the work. In the future there may be walls placed for graffiti artists to continue their efforts.
Current conservation research efforts are focusing on three lines of study – graffiti removal, anti-graffiti protection, concrete repair. Graffiti removal is focusing on both mechanical and chemical methods of removal. Mechanical techniques include dry-ice abrasion and/or laser cleaning. This may also be followed by chemical methods such as Dumond’s Smart Strip Pro, or custom chemical blends using 5% formic acid and benzyl alcohol. To protect surfaces from new graffiti additions, anti-graffiti barriers are being tested. These treatments may include Dumond Chemical Watch Dog, as well as Keim, and Prosoco products.
Concrete patch repair is focusing on stable long-term materials. Worldwide over 90% of concrete repairs fail within 10 years. Thus, it is important to test potential patch materials in actual environments prior to treatment. Also, the surface textures and finishes will be a challenge to conservators. Materials selected for testing include:

  • SIKA Mono-top
  • BASF Emaco Repair
  • Edison Coatings System 45
  • Cathedral Stone Jahn M90
  • Custom Mixes

Results of this research will both guide the treatment of the Miami Marine Stadium and serve as a guide for the treatment of other mid-century modern concrete buildings and structures.

AIC’s 39th Annual Meeting – General Session, June 1, “Restoring the Spirit and the Spirit of Restoration: Dresden’s Frauenkirche as Model for Bamiyan’s Buddhas” by James Janowski.

Big Buddha in the Bamiyan Valley. Photo courtesy of Volker Thewalt.

Sometimes conservation is more than the technical care of an object.  Sometimes, the working solutions to treatment of cultural heritage must rely on judgments, choices, and values unique to a people and a time.  James Janowski raises many ethical and philosophical questions in his presentation on the possible reconstruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas.  He asks his audience to balance the needs of the historical record with religious and cultural values.

The Bamiyan Buddha’s were located along the silk road in the Bamiyan Valley of Afghanistan.  These statues were the largest likenesses of Buddha’s in the world.  They had survived past damage from soldiers, weather, and time.  They were true survivors.  All that ended with the 2001 acts of cultural barbarism by the Taliban.  The cruel and wanton destruction of the Buddhas have left us with empty niches.  But much of the original material is still located in the valley as fragments of all shapes and sizes.  Could the Buddhas be reconstructed from original and replacement materials?  Should they be reconstructed?

Janowski turns to the destruction and reconstruction of the Dresden Frauenkirche as a model for the Bamiyan Buddhas.  The Frauenkirche was the most original protestant church constructed in Dresden.  During World War Two, the allied bombing damaged the church. The subsequent fires reached 1000 degree Farenheit and caused the church to buckle and crumble.  The church was much beloved by the people of Dresden.  The ruin served as a symbol of the culture and community.

Beginning in 1989 and 1990 the people of Dresden called for the church to be rebuilt as an “archeological reconstruction.”  The reconstruction resulted in much debate, but the project was approved in March 1991.  The reconstruction continued until October 2005 when the church was re-consecrated.  Architectural stone and elements were salvaged from the rubble and carefully cataloged.  Forty-five percent of the reconstructed church was made from original stone

The reconstruction of the Dresden Frauenkirche was considered a rousing success.  The process recharged the community.  The original and non-original materials were clearly distinguishable, so as not to erase the historical events that took place.  In the end, the project was adjudication between competing values.

Janowski argues that the integral restoration of the Buddhas with remaining original fragments should be considered in the future despite the 30-50 million dollar price tag. He notes that there must be a balancing of the religious and cultural values with the historical documentation of the event.  He also offers consequential values.  The reconstruction will have economic and political value and can serve as a unifying thread to the country.  He feels that at least one of the Buddhas could be reconstructed leaving the other as a “witness” to the destruction.  Janowski believes that the meaning and values of a restored sculpture outweigh the shock of the empty niches.

Janowski pushes the audience to think outside the box.  He forces us to think through the steps ahead and the possibilities beyond the norm.  [Blogger’s note:  on March 11, 2011, UNESCO told the Afghan government it does not support a rebuild project, citing concerns over funding priorities and authenticity. ]

39th Annual Meeting – General Session, June 1, “Conservation in the Twenty-First Century: Will a Twentieth Century Code of Ethics Suffice?” By Barbara Applebaum

Barbara Applebaum has always been known as a thinker who asks intriguing questions.  She is the author of the book “Conservation Treatment Methodology” published in 2007.  She serves up some of the same complex questions in the opening presentation of the 39th annual AIC meeting.  Applebaum demands that we think about the hard questions.  In this presentation, she examines the AIC code of ethics and guiding documents that define our profession both internally and to the outside world.

The AIC documents are made up of three levels of guidance.  The AIC Code of Ethics is aspirational in nature.  The guidelines for practice offer us the specifications of expected practice. The commentaries of the guidelines serve as section by section discussions on the minimum and optimum best practices. It is easiest to make changes to the commentaries.  For the most part they define things that we all learned growing up.  They guard against things like lying, cheating, and stealing.  Applebaum suggests that conservation professionals should read through the documents on a regular schedule.

Applebaum feels that the AIC guiding documents are as valid today as when they were first drafted.  She likens them to the “ten commandments,” and feels that they regulate the conservation practice accordingly.  Then she moves on to some of the most interesting questions of the presentation.  Does the detail focused nature of work with cultural heritage attract the personality that nitpicks and over analyzes the tasks at hand?  Are we a people searching for imperfections in the AIC Code?  Have we spent a decade looking inward at the issue of certification to the detriment of the profession?

We must fight the tide of negativity and take our place the outside world, Applebaum reminds us.  We must realistically evaluate all that is going on around us and understand the needs of the museum, private collectors and the public.  While the AIC guiding documents were drafted at a time when the profession was mostly institutionally focused, we increasingly work in private practice.  Our colleagues are diverse, working on heritage from ethnographic objects, architecture, archives and libraries among others in addition to works of art.

We must recognize that our work sometimes moves from the care of cultural property belonging to the whole human race to the intimate objects and personal property that never rises to the level of cultural heritage.  These items are things like a child’s drawing, a clay ashtray, etc. The usefulness of the AIC code of ethics on personal items is small.  Still, thorough professional training is required to practice conservation in an ethical manner on all objects.

Applebaum reminds us that we must educate others on the good we can do for people, with an emphasis on the added value we provide.  In our work, we must remember the conservation is as much about the people we help as it is about the chemistry and material of the object.

39th Annual Meeting – General Session, June 2 “Objects of Trauma, Finding the Balance” by Jane Klinger

Do the things that survive trauma become imbued with additional meaning?  Must conservators find and understand both the empirical and the non-empirical  when treating objects?  These questions are key to understanding the theme of Jane Klinger’s general session presentation on Objects of Trauma, Finding the Balance.  Klinger brings the Pathos to the conference.  She points out objects that become survivors of war, terror, assassination, or persecution, carry with them the emotion of the assault. Klinger is the Chief Conservator at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and brings to her presentation an intimate knowledge of treating objects of trauma. 

Klinger presents three main examples of the way Pathos plays a key role in the conservation of objects of trauma.  She begins by describing the top coat worn by Danish Resistance Fighter Jorgen Jespersen in 1944.  The coat, now located in the National Museum of Danish Resistance, is a symbol of national pride in the resistance of Nazi oppression.  According to Jespersen’s testimony, the Gestapo attempted to arrest him but he reached into his upper pocket and shot through his topcoat to wound and escape his captors.  In an example of the emotional weight of the object overshadowing it’s preservation, it appears that holes where added to the coat to emphasize the danger Jespersen survived.

The second example of the emotional weight associated with objects can be found in the Baker collection of objects at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  Helen and Ross Baker were Americans who found themselves in Vienna during the time that Nazis took over the city.  They recorded the occupation and the closure of Jewish stores to non-Jews in both film and through diaries.  Their son, Stan Baker, later used the diaries to present the observations of his parents.  Upon donating the collection, the curators found that Stan had added notations to his mother’s diaries.  When the conservators were asked to remove the notations, they explained that the ink would still be faintly seen and impressions in the paper would be permanent.  Because of a thorough understanding of the emotional value as well as the physical condition, the decision was made to leave the notations as part of the historical record of the object.

Klinger uses objects that survived September 11 as a third example of Pathos and ethical considerations in the conservation of objects of trauma.  She discusses the Vesey Station Stairs and the Ladder Co. 3 Fire truck as objects that survived the horrors of 9/11.  The stairs have become a symbol of safety and escape to the survivors of the terrorist attacks.  The damaged fire truck carries with it the evidentiary authority of September 11, 2001.  Should the brutally damaged object be cleaned of the dust of 9/11?  Klinger argues that the emotions surrounding 9/11 are so emotionally raw that rational decisions may not be possible.

Through these examples, Klinger argues that it is the role of the conservator to incorporate rather than evade the Pathos of the object.  As a conservation scientist, there are times I get lost in the materials used and mechanics of deterioration of the object.  This talk serves as a vivid reminder of the added value of the emotions associated with the cultural object.