Christa Pack presented a beautiful collaboration that took place at the New Mexico Museum of Art between staff conservator Mina Thompson, herself, and the artist Tasha Ostrander. The artwork Seventy-Three in a Moment was acquired recently by the museum after it had been displayed outdoors on a portico. The conservation work was also mentioned in an article published in “Ongoing” a Santa Fe New Mexican paper.
Christa started out with documentation on the materials and working method- the work is a butterfly mandala with a butterly representing each day in the life of a 73 year-old, the average life span of a person in 1996, the year the work was made. Tasha became involved in the process and eventually made additional butterflies- photocopies that were individually cut out- to add to the work. At a point in the conservation process they realized that Tasha should make the replacement butterflies and work on the integration- there weren’t enough of the detached butterflies and although many were numbered, there was no obvious logical sequence.
In this process they moved away from the YES! paste used by the artist and instead chose Aquazol. Christa spoke about the value of the artist’s voice and participation in restoration of the conceptual components. The process required mutual trust and respect. Christa ended with a nice video of the artist telling in her own words about the project… I’m paraphrasing… when Tasha saw the work in the lab, she was sad, but also thrilled to have some control over the piece since it was sold. She felt like the process was bringing the work back to life; re-entering into the past.
What surprised Tasha about conservation? The artistry, patience, pain-staking, get the job done, whatever it takes, discovery, and courage
A great collaboration that saw a new relationship and friendship emerge.
John Passmore works as the archives manager at WNYC. They have audio recordings that go back to the earliest days of radio– about 100 years now. As a listener of WNYC it was very interesting to hear about how they are caring for their archives. WNYC does a lot more than just radio- like many media producers, they are a multi-platform production company with born-digital content. In the audio preservation lab they are able to digitize and preserve almost all media types, which is an anomaly in the public media world.
That being said- between 2000-2008 they created ~30,000 digital audio cds which were created and finalized by the engineers at the time of the broadcast. About 5 years ago they started to notice some problems with them being unplayable and hard to rip. It was possible to extract the .wav file, but it would sound terrible. Being worried about the health of these formats they created a workflow to migrate them in an efficient and responsible manner. Some have obvious manufacturing defects, but the scary thing is that usually you can’t see something visibly wrong. The most commonly believed reason that cds fail is due to degradation or failure of the dye layer. This is extremely small- at 0.5 micrometers this is about 1/100th of the width of a human hair!
To migrate their collection, they bought a machine that is used to put cds onto an ipod or other digital player- it is not preservation oriented, but can concatenate .wav files dump them onto the DAM and extract the metadata. If the cd fails then they use a separate testing system. Plexstore can be used to review the data. It is also possible to run the cd in real time in a cd player and extract the info that way, but this is obviously much more time consuming. There are problems with this system and John is not totally happy with it, but it is working for now.
Now for the alarming information- they ran a test of about 20% of 2,400 discs to determine how many errors and what kind there were- correctable or uncorrectable. None of the cds passed! So the whole collection is at great risk.
John’s list of takeaways:
CDs don’t last very long, maybe even less than we though- their CDs are only 10 years old, not the 20-30 usually stated in accelerated aging tests
It is hard to know why the CDs go bad, and finally
They are looking at open source tools like QCTools. John ended with a great video using MakeAGIF.com showing the process of his machine in process.
This year, the annual meeting wiki-a-thon turned into a daylong workshop in the hopes that we would have more time to add content to the site. Thanks again to NCPTT for helping to fund the day! Although we never seem to have enough time, the day was immensely helpful in getting beginners comfortable with adding content to the site and moving the more experienced users forward to another level with useful tips and problem solving for getting the wiki to do what we want.
After introductions, Rachael started with a useful overview of the wiki site and general goals. She also gave a brief talk put together by Leon Zaks (from the pestlist) about how to choose your online platform. Basically the wiki is a many to many platform- there are many contributors with loosely vetted content meant to reach a large audience.
Michelle presented on CAMEO, which is hosted by the MFA Boston. It has recently been moved to a wiki format so that it can be more easily updated- hopefully by more than just Michelle. Anyone interested is welcome to contact Michelle. CAMEO is a great resource and the wiki is not meant to duplicate it, but there is definitely room for increasing the connection between the two and improving the integration of the sites.
Unfortunately Nancie Ravenel was not able to make it, but we had Nora Lockshin available to step in and provide lots of great information about wikipedia in general, what are some of the ground rules and expected conduct on the site. If you didn’t know, there is a wikipedia teahouse made for newcomers- this is a great place to post questions and get answers about coding. Just beware- the AIC wiki does not have all of the extensions and add-ons, so something you can do on Wikipedia isn’t necessarily possible on the AIC Wiki. That being said, if there is anything you want to do and can’t let Rachael know and she can look into getting that functionality on the site.
Two other wiki sites, you should know about Preservapedia (also sponsored by NCPTT) and the SPNHC wiki which is just getting off the ground.
Other tidbits you should know that came out of the day:
Creative Commons is a way of licensing images to limit their use by others, or make them available to all
when searching through google images or flickr, you can filter those that have the CC license
there is a great slider tool to help you determine if something is still under copyright or in the public domain
The AIC has a policy and expects that if you post something, you have gotten the proper permissions and you have given AIC permission to publish and re-publish content in perpetuity, so that they can migrate to a new platform when needed in the future.
When adding images- be aware of their size. Please resize before uploading.
Zotero is a great open source citation tool- the exported citation format for the wiki is not exactly right, but could save you a ton of time when adding citations.
Check out the Categories page from Special pages- these can be used to “tag” pages in a way to help link them together.
For the non-beginner training session Suzy put all of her notes on the wiki under the news section, so you can find all of her great tips there.
As a contributor to the AIC wiki, it was nice to meet some of the other contributors and put names to faces. I was hoping to see more enthusiastic contributors at the Edit-a-thon, but it was still a useful way to get an update of what is happening with the wiki outside my own bubble and feel more a part of that community. Join us next time!
Rachael Perkins Arenstein, the AIC e-Editor, started us off with an introduction to the wiki overall and the current projects that she wanted to highlight, such as:
1. Lexicon http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/Lexicon – Nancie Ravenel was there to give an overview of where she was this going and how it filled a gap in current resources.
2. Oddy/Materials Testing http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/Oddy_Tests:_Materials_Databases – I happen to be one of the contributors for this section of the wiki. We know that this is a controversial topic, but want to share information in an attempt to get others to do the same. The database is really several sortable tables with the information collected during testing. I got some good feedback about how to improve the pages.
3. Exhibiting Conservation http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/PR_and_Outreach-Exhibiting_Conservation
4. K-12 Educational Resources http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/K-12_Educational_Resources_on_Conservation
5. History of Conservation & Conservators http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/History_of_Conservation_and_Conservators
6. Reading Lists http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/Education_%26_Training
7. Conservation Courses for Allied Fields http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/Conservation_Courses_for_Allied_Academic_Fields
8. Setting up a Conservation Lab http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/Setting_up_a_Conservation_Lab
I think one of the most interesting portions of the luncheon was a report on responses the BPG got from a survey about the wiki. My take-away, to get more information onto the wiki we have to build relationships between conservators of differing experience by pairing conservators who are wiki-fluent (typically younger and less-experienced) with those who have content (usually more experienced, but less tech savvy). This seems like a promising way to build the wiki and mentorship relationships! Maybe we should pitch this to ECPN… There was also some review about the disclaimers and banners that run across the top of most pages. These were never meant to be left there and the creator wishes we would just do away with them. The outgoing OSG wiki-Editor, Lee-Ann Barnes Gordon, pitched some ideas she has been mulling over in regards to the banners. Such as, a progression of headers to give readers a better idea of where the page was in an informal review process. For example, “under construction/adding content,” “under review,” “reviewed.”
So not much content was added, but some important information was shared. So please check out the wiki and if you see an area that you feel you could improve- contribute!
Thanks to the NCPTT for funding this great luncheon! Sorry I didn’t get everyone’s name.
Jim Coddington, the chief conservator at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, presented some trends that were found from analyzing the environmental data that was collected at MoMA over the past six years. This was particularly interesting because it compared two relatively new or newly renovated buildings with different types of usage/functionality and HVAC systems. The building on 53rd street, Jim admits, is very leaky from a number of sources, including the many doors through which thousands of people pass, and has a steam and electric HVAC system. The building in Queens (QNS) on the other hand is mostly concrete with very little glass and has a gas powered HVAC system. The data that Jim presented was collected from across the museum including finance, operation, conservation, and vistor services. Needless to say there are a lot of people invested in this.
Jim showed mostly graphs and charts. These included data showing the temperature and %RH outside, inside the buildings, dew point, and comparing this energy usage. I’ve included images of the graphs that I found most interesting or informative.
In QNS there is a large expenditures of gas in august and dips in winter. This is because that are able to use free cooling to extract excess heat for 8 or9 months, or 3 out of 4 seasons, through a heat exchanger on the roof. In this process, heat is absorbed from the condenser water by air chilled water. The length of time they are able to use free-cooling is based on set points of T and RH (see second image) and is affected by air temperature, relative humidity, and water supply temperature. Non-free cooling with the RH set at 50% happens over the summer and is longer at lower temperatures. So during the summer the temperature set point is allowed to drift to 22 degrees C. Jim mentioned that having a narrower set point may actually equal cost savings, but they have no data for that.
On the analysis for the 53rd street building, Jim highlighted that this is a very different situation. It is a high use building, with lots of leakage points and demand on the systems- steam and electric principally. Therefore, the energy usage is much higher.
It has been asked whether heat from visitors is significant? In Chris McGlinchey’s calculation, the 360 kJ/hr given off by the visitors with a typical stay of 4 hours, this is not a huge contributing factor.
In Jim’s summary and conclusions- The expected was stated that they are consuming more energy in the 53rd St building than QNS. This is mostly in winter (see the third image). The QNS building is more efficient because of the free cooling, lower set point temperature and equates to lower energy usage thanks to an efficient building design. Online Resources:
Steam- natural gas utility converter: http://www.coned.com/steam/default.asp
NIST Guide for the Use of the International System of Units (SI) 2008: http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/pdf/sp811.pdf
After collaborating with JP at the Field Museum on rendering CT scans a few years ago and seeing his article about this work in the spring MRCG newsletter, I was excited to see some images about this in person. JP has been working with CT scanners since 2006 starting out by taking advantage of the kindness of local hospitals and more recently renting a portable unit that came to museum on a truck.
As many of us know, CT scanners can look inside objects non-destructively and provide accurate images with 3D geometric accuracy. JP started the talk be reviewing some of the physics of getting a CT scan done, the benefits, and limitations. Here’s a run-down:
1. The scanner has a donut shaped gantry consisting of a steel ring containing the X-ray tube and curved detector on the opposite side, so your object has to fit within the imaging area inside the steel ring.
2. On each revolution you get lots of images scanned within 30 seconds to 5 min- this is very fast.
3. The biggest logistical challenge is moving objects to and from the hospital safely.
4. During the scanning you immediately get slices, which are cross-section images from three different directions. Volumetric rendering is done from the slices and there is free software for this.
5. Apparently it is relatively easy to do segmentation, segment out regions of interest, and extract wire frame models, just time consuming. From there you can get images of the surface and texture and can even print the models. It is relatively easy to go from slice to wireframe, but harder to achieve a manufacturing mesh to produce a 3D print, which can be expensive in comparison to traditional molding and casting.
6. PROs of scanning and printing: there is no contact with the object, complex geometry is not a problem, the scans and volumetric rendering are dimensionally accurate, you can print in lots of materials; prints can be scaled to make large things handleable or small things more robust for handling or increase visibility; subtractive manufacture, in which you can use a computerized milling machine to cut out a positive or negative, is also a possibility.
7. CONs of scanning and printing: printing is slow, the build volume is limited, a non-traditional skill set is required of conservators to produce the final product, and only a few materials age well. The best material is sintered nylon, extruded polyester may also be safe, but it doesn’t take paint well; it is hard to get the industry to think about permanence.
The object at the center of this project was a Magdalenian skull. The skeleton itself is of considerable importance, because it is the only magdalenian era skeleton of almost completion. A little history: it was excavated, quite professionally, in 1911 when they lowered the floor of the site. Unfortunately the burial was discovered when someone hit the skull with a pickax. Needless to say, the skull did not come out in one piece. In 1915 the full skeleton was removed in two blocks. My notes are a little fuzzy here, but basically at some point between the excavation the skull was restored and then went from being 2 pieces to 6 pieces, as it is documented in a 1932 publication by von Bonen. It appears that at that point the skull was also skin coated with plaster. Thankfully (?) those repairs have held up. Great, so why, did they need to scan and reconstruct the skull? Well according to Dr. Robert Martin, JP’s colleague at the Field Museum, the skull doesn’t look anatomically correct. Apparently during the time period when it was put together there was an interest in race and the skull fragments could have been lined up incorrectly accentuating cultural assumptions.
A previous x-ray showed that two fragments in the forehead are secured with a metal pin. In 2012, when the mobile CT scanner came to the museum, they were all geared up to start with the Magdalenian skull. Unfortunately there was not much difference in attenuation between bone and plaster making it tricky to define between the two materials in the scans. JP consulted a cranial reconstruction group and asked them to pretend this was a pediatric car crash victim with a cranial injury; they asked, why aren’t you using the mimics software package?
JP and his team also imaged the skull with a micro CT scan that has a 0.1 mm resolution versus the normal modern setting of 0.3 mm. They had previously identified 36 fragments of bone from the previous scan. It was hard to tell if some of those separations were just cracks or actual breaks between fragments. The hope was that the micro CT scanner could better define these areas. The micro CT scanner works opposite to the industrial/medical scanner. As you can see in the image to the left, the tube and detector are fixed, while the sample is rotated. Other differences are that it is slower, one scan takes 30-90 minutes and because of scanner geometry the skull had to be imaged in two scans . Because of this, JP used the previous scan to mill out a contoured support to hold the skull in the exact position. JP noted that digitally filling in the holes of the skull to create the support was the most time consuming part of that process and suggests using different radio-opaque marker dots to identify left and right for orientation during the later stitching process. With the new scans at least three separations were identified as cracks vs. breaks.
Now for the virtual reconstruction… the biggest obstacle in this stage was how to achieve something more anatomically correct using the virtual fragments when they have no boundaries. The fragments don’t push back in the computer- and the fragments can easily move into each other. With the software JP used mostly the translation and rotation functions and the free animation software Blender (which has a high learning curve and took several days to get accustomed to) to create hierarchical parent child relationships between the fragments as he joined them together. Just like putting a vessel together, right? In the virtual world at least there is no worry about lockout. They had a 3D printed of the final skull reconstruction and had an artist do facial reconstruction, which JP thinks always look related to Jean Luc Picard… So how successful was this? From a conservation perspective- awesome, it’s fully reversible! Scientifically though, it’s decent, well documented and scientifically justifiable- However, someone else could go through the same process and come up with a different reconstruction because of their reliance on left right symmetry for this reconstruction…
So what did I take away from this talk? This was a very cool project and if I have a question about CT scanning and 3D renderings, I will call JP! The scans can be extremely informational and there seems to be a lot of potential in their use for mount-making, crates, and storage, and possibly virtual reconstructions. Hopefully at some point in the future the software will become more intuitive and easier to use so that more of these types of projects can be done.
One of the reasons I enjoy joint sessions is the more focused theme and connection between the talks. Laura provided a nice overview of the research that she carried at out at SAAM on marble coatings. Three white marble sculptures in the collection- by Rinehart, Cooper, and Houdon- attract a lot of attention and love from the public. Some love comes in the form of red lipstick. Laura took this as an opportunity to explore traditional and newer materials for coating marble and determine which have the best protective properties.
Her testing methods appeared thought out and well carried out. She tested Cosmoloid 80H wax and Ketone N resin, Renaissance microcrystalline wax, Methocel A4C Methyl Cellulose, and Avalure AC 315 Acrylic Copolymer 5% and 7% in ethanol. She tested polished and unpolished marble. All the coatings were applied by brush. They were tested for their appropriate aesthetic properties, effectiveness as a barrier, safe application and removal, reversibility and aging. Quite a feat if I say so. Needless to say there is more testing that can be done. However, her initial findings are quite interesting. To measure changes in color and gloss Laura used a Spectro Eye spectrophotometer and gloss meter. The marble samples were stained with lipstick, red wine, and a sharpie. Laura provided a nice graphic showing her samples and the order of testing, aging, cleaning, etc.
Overall, from the testing Laura concluded that none of the coatings were perfect. There is a give and take with all. However, most importantly Renaissance wax was NOT a good barrier- I found it shocking that the red wine etched the marble through all of the coatings except Avalure. The wax resin and avalure did the best in the aging test. Methyl cellulose had the best reversibility, while microcrystalline wax was the worst. It was also interesting to hear that the colorimeter readings were consistent with what she observed by eye. Although nothing can replace scientific readings it is nice to know that our trained eyes are good for something. She also felt that more research should be done on methyl cellulose and Avalure since they tested tested so well. Her tests were only done on small samples, but the practicality of applying it to a large sculpture might change things. Avalure is somewhat difficult to work with, but perhaps a spray application would be better. By the way, Avalure is available through the manufacturer and apparently they are generous with their free samples.
I don’t know if this would be possible, but a follow up to this study might be interesting to look at the penetration of these coatings into the marble. Perhaps looking at a cross-section with FTIR-ATR…
After 70 years on permanent display, the taxidermy at AMNH got a much needed renovation. It was beautiful to see the artistry behind the construction and design of the original dioramas. This talk focused on the fading and discoloration of the fur and hair of the animals. The care that was taken in reproducing details from actual locations in the field was amazing- such an elaborate process. The background paintings are true works of art. It is wonderful to see that they are being maintained. There are a limited amount of actual materials used, such as evergreen branches and grasses. The rest was replicated for the dioramas.
So in 2003 there was a survey done of the dioramas and this resulted in a reduction of heat and light in the display areas by moving from theatrical lights to fluorescent and tungsten and screening of UV. In 2010, through a citywide effort to reduce energy use by 50% they moved to LEDs, metal halide, and T8 fluorescents- still screening out UV. However, they haven’t been able to reduce the light levels from 50 and 65 fc to an acceptable conservation level of 5 fc because of the desire to replicate the natural environment. The lights stay on even at night! Beth and Judy can give you the name of who to contact to help them in their campaign to shut off those lights!
AMNH hired an artist to recolor the taxidermy. They chose the colorant based on the solvents needed (these were restricted because the painting had to be done in open galleries with limited fume extraction), reversibility to not prevent future treatment, light fastness, Tg, application method and appearance. Water based acrylics were eliminated because of the low Tg and difficulty for re-treatment. They were leaning towards Orasol dyes and XSL pigments due to these criteria, but he taxidermist had to be won over from their usual use of acrylics. Luckily they were successful!
Finally, Beth carried out light-fading tests to determine which would be the best colors to use. Samples were colored and sent to Paul Whitmore for microfading tests. The microfadeometer is limited by a threshold and this is not equivalent to the real light exposure they will get in the dioramas. So out of view of the visitors they have put samples for future comparison with areas that are covered to block out the light.
The authors got a lot of thoughtful questions about the amount of degradation of the hair (a lot), if a special brush was used for grooming (yes), if the dyes were applied with ethanol (yes), if they could turn off the lights at night (they wish!, please contact the museum to push for this), and what was used for the yellowed fur (XSL pigments had the best covering properties).
After hearing about this project in the past couple of years, I was looking forward to learning more about the evolution of this 16 year collaboration and some of the observations and conclusions that have come out of it. I applaud the original participants (including conservators: Emily Kaplan, Ellen Pearlstein, Ellen Howe and Judith Levinson) in their ability to continue their involvement over the past decade and with various geographic and institutional changes. Analytical participants include the MFA Boston, the Met, Yale, MCI, and University of Barcelona. Emily spoke about the benefits of working on this project over an extended period of time- for example, they are taking fewer and smaller samples now, there is increased collaboration, and improvements in technology have moved them from paper to an electronic shared database.
This project came about when Emily was a post-graduate fellow at the NMAI (when it was in NY), the Brooklyn Museum of Art was preparing for an exhibit, and the Met received a large gift. Several exhibits and publications came out in the early years of the collaboration. Some of the goals were to study the imagery depicted and the polychrome techniques as this was of interest to the conservators, but also to better understand the people, production and use. Qeros are drinking vessels used in the Andean region for consuming fermented beverages. They are sometimes made in pairs, but few still remain together, and have been made from a variety of materials including wood and metal. Qero actually means both wood and cup. They have been described and illustrated in colonial chronicles, sermons and legal documents. Qeros are still used today as this tradition persists.
So far they have identified organic and inorganic pigments: orpiment, cinnabar, cochineal, indigo, copper greens and carbon black. These all have potential local sources. There has been a renewed interest in Qeros and an authoritative book came out in 2002 by Thomas Cummins. The qeros have been dated stylistically and categorized into four periods (sorry I didn’t write down all the dates and I wish I had a photo of this slide): the Inca period (1425-1532) having incised decoration, the early Colonial period (1600-1650) having small areas of polychrome and incised decoration, the Mid Colonial, and the late Colonial.
The most recent research has focused on the white pigments. Three types were identified: cristobalite, anatase and white lead. They are also doing lead isotope analysis and finding two sources for the lead. Apparently lead ore was common in the Andes, but it wasn’t used as a painting material until after the arrival of the Spanish.
I loved seeing the images of a workshop on working with mopa mopa- a resin that was noted as a binder in early literature. Through working with the mopa mopa Emily could see how it was applied to the surface after being pulled into strips, laid on the surface and then heated.
It was nice to see the benefits of an extended project like this one. I’m sure Emily would appreciate knowing about Qeros in other collections if you have any!
I’m not an educator, but while listening to this talk I was thinking “Sign Me Up!”. Dr. Hill spoke about the intensive workshop provided for educators who want to improve their science classes or start new ones. She’s a professor at Millersville University and wants conservators to know that chemistry professors are safe to connect with! The overarching program of cCWCS (Chemistry Collaborations, Workshops, and Communities of Scholars) covers many topics, but she focused on those that combine chemistry and art. You can check out their website (there was a typo in the original talk title) and find lots of materials if you aren’t able to attend the workshop or you’re just interested in finding out more about what they do. If you are thinking about starting a class or want to improve a class that you already give this 5-day intensive workshop might be for you. And it’s all expenses paid, thanks to the NSF. Their target audience is undergraduate faculty and staff and includes mainly chemists, practicing artists and art faculty. They are interested in having more representation from the conservation community. It sounds like a fun way to get the word out about what conservation is and what conservators do as there is a high degree of confusion about the difference between curators and conservators amongst this group. Also, you could potentially make some helpful contacts in the chemistry world.
The participants come from all over the country and generally fall into four categories:
those how are looking for a fancy vacation (really a minority)
older faculty who now have more flexibility in their schedule and are looking to pursue interests outside of their previous research and bring excitement to their students
mid-career faculty who are looking for a unique area of research or trying to find their teaching niche
and community college faculty who are looking for support and to bring interesting applications to students to engage them and get them more enthusiastic about science.
Vicki Cassman is an example of one of their alums who attended a session in 2010 and took what she learned back to UD for an honors seminar.
In 2009 they started an advanced workshop, the third of which will be held this summer. During this workshop they discuss ethics and understanding the questions you are trying to answer before starting analysis. Participants can bring an object that they have questions about and then they share the results with one another.
In the future they are looking for ways to broaden the community and making resources available to educators. Thanks to Nancy Odegaard and Dr. Hill for bringing this to our attention.