A conservator on the moon?

According to a an article in the September 2, 2011 issue of Science magazine(“NASA to Launch Guidelines to Protect Lunar Artifacts”, by Lucas Laursen),cogniscent of the historic and scientific value of lunar sites containing artifacts from early space missions, NASA has drawn up heritage preservation guidelines that it hopes will be used by the privately funded lunar missions that will land near the sites in the future. Might the day be near at hand when a conservator accompanies a mission?

An auction house advertises that the works it offers for sale have undergone scientific analysis

In a full page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal, TK Asian Antiquities, an auction house with branches in New York, Virginia and China, notes that the works it offers for sale are “scientifically documented”.The ad features a Chinese “Earth Spirits” guardian figure which has undergone radiographic examination and thermoluninescence testing. While this is a positive development, the auction house’s website does note that it is not able to perform extensive testing on every antiquity that it handles.

Another European fashion design house provides financial support for a major restoration project

According to the September 8, 2011 edition of Women’s Wear Daily, Brunello Cucinelli has pledged 1 million euros to help pay for the restoration of the Etruscan Arch (also known as the Arch of Augustus) in Perugia, Italy. It is not uncommon for European fashion and jewelry manufacturers to donate large sums of money for cultural heritage restoration projects. Besides Ralph Lauren which donated $10 million toward the conservation of the Star Spangled Banner and $3 for “Save America’s Treasures”, have any American design houses seen the value of supporting cultural heritage preservation?

Some private collectors have emergency plans

According to the Wall Street Journal (“Collectors Evacuate Artworks” ,by Erica Ogden, Saturday-Sunday August 27-28, 2011), some art collectors whose summer homes in the Hamptons are in the path of Hurricane Irene had their art works shipped to safer locations well in advance of the storm’s arrival. Other collectors were scrambling around on Friday to find an art mover that was not completely booked. Have many AIC members been asked by private clients to develop emergency/disaster plans for their collections?

The impact of the rising cost of bronze on artists’ material choices

According to an article in the August 16, 2011 issue of The Wall Street Journal (“The Dawn of a Faux-Bronze Age?”, by Daniel Grant), due to the rising cost of bronze, sculptors are beginning to use materials like polyester resin, plaster, and terracotta which are either mixed with metal and mica powders or coated in order to produce a finish that resembles bronze. The resin sculptures are often labelled as “cold cast bronze” or “bonded bronze”. This may lead some buyers to believe that they own a metal sculpture.
As conservators, should we be concerned that owners, thinking their works are metal, will exhibit them in conditions appropriate for bronze but not for the other materials?

From the pages of “Science” magazine

In recent weeks, Science (the magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) has published a number of short notices on developments of interest to conservators. Among them: “Miniature Art Masters” (July 8, 2011, Vol.333)  which notes that Spanish conservators are using bacteria to remove incrustations from murals; “Modernizing Mummy Maintenance (July 15, 2011, Vol.333)  which discusses the new conservation center in the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, Egypt ; and  “In the Hands of Mummy Experts, Ancient Faces Gain New Life” (July 22, 2011, Vol.333), a report on a paper presented at the 7th World Congress on Mummy Studies (held in San Diego,CA on June 12-16, 2011) on the use of computed tomography and other techniques for facial reconstruction of ancient (and not so ancient) remains.

Is it New York City’s Fault?

According to the July 7, 2011 issue of The New York Times, because in January 2011 Zahi Hawass, head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities accused New York City of allowing Cleopatra’s Needle– a gift from Egypt which has stood in Central Park for 120 years– to erode from acid rain and threatened to bring it back to Egypt, this summer, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation is undertaking a weathering study of the monument. The desired outcome of the study is to defend the city’s honor by showing that acid rain has had no measurable effect on the condition of the stone.

Perfectly Damaged Works of Art

The summer exhibit at the Derek Eller Gallery (605 West 27th Street, NYC) is a show entitled “Perfectly Damaged” which features works of art “born from the collision of creation and decreation”. To quote further from the gallery’s press release, they have been “stretched, stained, torn, kicked, dragged, cut, burnt, metled, sprayed, shot, and tossed in a blender”. As conservators we might wonder what (if anything) this celebration of present damage will mean in the future when these works come to require conservation due to unintended damage.

Swabbing away the varnish in the basement

When one is reading a work of fiction not specifically concerned with art conservation or conservators, one sometimes comes across a casual description that seems to set back the public image of the field by decades. The most recent one I encountered came early in Michael Cunningham’s 2010 novel, By Nightfall. Peter, an art dealer, mulling over his career, says to himself : “He’s an art history guy, maybe he should have become …what? … a conservator, say, one of those museum-basement people who spend their lives swabbing away the varnish and overpaint, reminding themselves (and eventually the world) that the past was garish and bright…”    With all of the thoughtful coverage that conservation projects have received in the popular press,  hadn’t we thought that the field had once and for all come above ground in the public’s mind .