From Jan. 24 to Feb. 4 a group of 19 AIC members went on a research trip to Cuba. Over the next week we will be posting about our experiences. Below is an account of days 3-5. Join us on our journey.
26 January 2014 (Day Three)
In the morning, we toured Santa Efigenia Cemetery, a necropolis second only to Havana’s Cristóbal Colón in importance. Created in 1868 to accommodate the victims of the War of Independence and a simultaneous yellow-fever outbreak, it includes many great historical figures among its more than 8,000 tombs, most notably the mausoleum of José Martí, the intellectual author of Cuban independence. Marti’s imposing tomb is positioned so that his flag-draped casket receives daily shafts of sunlight. A round-the-clock guard of the mausoleum is changed every 30 minutes, amid much pomp and ceremony. Other notable Cubans buried at Santa Efigenia include Cuba’s first president Tomás Estrada Palma (1835–1908); Emilio Bacardí (1844–1922) of the famous rum dynasty; the Spanish soldiers who died in the battles of San Juan Hill; and Compay Segundo (1907–2003), of Buena Vista Social Club fame. Afterward, we toured the Moncada Barracks, a 1938 military garrison where on July 26, 1953, more than 100 revolutionaries led by a little-known revolutionary named Fidel Castro took on Batista’s troops in a spectacularly failed action that also happened to spark the Cuban revolution. Housing a museum which commemorates both Santiago’s most famous political event and the beginnings of the Revolution, the building contains a scale model of the barracks plus artifacts, diagrams, and models of the revolution. After lunch at Aurora, we visited one of Santiago’s most important and best kept museums: the Carnival museum. Then the group went to see San Juan Hill. Later, some of us took salsa “lessons” at the Casa de la Trova. It was more like a crash course, which when out on the dance floor became for some of us more like train wreck. We at least got in our exercise that day, which was helpful to counter the mojitos we had begun to down twice daily. A dinner, we gathered again at the Trova (the scene of the crime from the afternoon) for more music and this time a lot less dancing.
27 January 2014 (Day Four)
We left Santiago early in the morning, stopping first for a visit to the Basilica Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, or “El Cobre,” which is a 1926 church near a copper mining town that honors Cuba’s patron saint—La Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre. This beautiful church sits in a beautiful valley, and as befitting a church dedicated to a patron saint, the church is a place of pilgrimage for many Cubans. It also became a place of pilgrimage for us as well. Yudi, our Cuban logistical coordinator for the trip, suggested we all light a candle for the renewed relationship between our two countries, and regardless of whether we were religious or not, each of us lit one. It will take more than lighting a candle to finally end the embargo, but at least for now, we could recognize the thaw in our relations that has occurred so far and not focus so much on the long road of diplomatic work we have before us. Leaving El Cobre and our flickering candles behind, we headed for another place of pilgrimage for Cubans—this one more secular in nature. Bayamo, the second of the seven cities founded by Diego Velazquez in Cuba in 1513, has a town center that dates from 19th century. It also happens to be not only the birthplace of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, the general who led the Cuban war of independence against Spain but also the birthplace of Cuba’s national anthem, the “La Bayamesa,” which at regular intervals can heard blaring across the loud speakers positioned in the main square. After visiting the church where the anthem was first performed, we had lunch at a restaurant called La Bodega, which was right behind the church and overlooked a lush ravine with a shallow stream. From there we made our way to our accommodations that night on the beautiful Playa Santa Lucia, a beachside hotel that is the only place near Camaguey with enough lodging for a group of our size. Very few groups on cultural visits see these resorts, which are mostly filled with Canadians escaping brutal winters up North, and this became apparent by the quality of the back road we used to get there (something tells me the one directly from the nearby airport is much smoother). Thankfully, our guides were prepared for the journey and “opened the bar” on the bus, which made the ride a little smoother if not “jovial.”
28 January 2014 (Day Five)
In the morning, we traveled to Camaguey, a UNESCO World Heritage city founded in 1528. Sacked by the pirate Henry Morgan in the 17th century, an effort was made to confuse future marauders by rebuilding the city with an unusual labyrinthine city plan, which we navigated with the help of bicitaxi drivers who took us around the historic center, accompanied by the staff of the city’s conservation training facility and architectural preservation team. After a delicious lunch in Camaguey at La Campana de Toledo, we left for the colonial city of Trinidad, where we stayed in what are known as casas particulares or, as we would call them, “bed and breakfast.” After dinner at our Casas Particulares, we gathered for an evening of music at Trinidad’s own Casa de la Trova.
Keep tuned for more blog posts on this amazing trip…
From Jan. 24 to Feb. 4 a group of 19 AIC members went on a research trip to Cuba. Over the next week we will be posting about our experiences. Below is an account of the first two days. Join us on our journey.
24 January 2014 (Day One)
Having flown in from various (mostly snowy) places the day before, the group of 21 members and staffers gathered in the lobby of the Sofitel Miami in the early morning hours (4am!) to board shuttle buses that would take us to the airport. It would be a short flight–only an hour–but where we were going would be a world away from where we were. Santiago de Cuba, our destination, sits on the eastern side of the island of Cuba, a mere 500 miles from the shores of South Beach, Florida, and with a population of almost 500,000 is its second largest city also capital of a province of the same name. One of the first seven cities founded in Cuba and older than Havana itself, Santiago is surpassed only by nearby Baracoa and Bayamo in age and is home to many of Cuba’s most famous historical sites.
After arriving at Antonio Maceo International Airport–named for the famous general of the Cuban-Spanish wars of the latter 19th century—we quickly passed through passport control with little more than a smile and a welcome-to-Cuba-I-hope-you-enjoy-your-visit nod to our American passports. After meeting our Cuban guides and boarding our Havanatur bus, we immediately headed out to Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca. Known more commonly as El Morro, the castillo (or “fortress”) is a picturesque fortification from the 16th century that sits about 6 miles south of the city and guards the Bay of Santiago. Inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1997, it is considered the best preserved example of Spanish New World military installations as based on Renaissance principles. It affords some outstanding views, too!
After lunch on the site, we checked in at the Melia Hotel, a post-modern style Spanish chain hotel that towers over the city to the east of historical center. As we had all been up so early in the morning, we gather later for a light dinner at the hotel, and then we debated about going out to experience some of Santiago’s greatest cultural heritage: its musical traditions. Thankfully, after a mojito or two, there were enough festive travelers who were keen to explore the city’s music, which is part of its complex and layered cultural blending. So using a tip from a local, we decided to check out the club Patio de Los Dos Abuelos, a small open-air place where a few locals and tourists freely mixed, dancing (some better than others) under the night sky. A resident band Son del Tres was playing, and after a few impromptu lessons from the bandleader, we joined in the whirling fun. As the birthplace of many extraordinary musical traditions given to the world, Santiago de Cuba is truly the best place to experience them. Some of the country’s best musicians, including Buena Vista Social Club members Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, and Eliades Ochoa, and even the Cuban American bandleader Desi Arnaz, hail from the city.
25 January 2014 (Day Two)
After feasting on a huge breakfast buffet at the hotel, which caters mostly to European tourists and consequently had a Cuban take on everything from churros to crepes, we went to the office of the historian of the city, where we listened to an introduction to the city. After the lecture, we began our walking tour of Santiago’s historic center, guided by the city’s historian and chief preservation architect. After the tour, we had lunch in the historic center at Los Primos Twice, a great paladar (or private restaurant) where we feasted on shrimp in creole sauce and pork in sweet and sour sauce, as well as the haunting, beautifully sung songs of Chely Romero, a mainstay of the Santiago music scene. After lunch, the Archbishop of Santiago hosted our group at the city cathedral to learn more about the restoration work going on there and in the diocese’s other churches undertaken by a joint Cuban-Italian team. The work they are doing is a rare example of successful conservation being done outside the government system. Dinner that night was at Compay Gallo.
Keep tuned for more blog posts on this amazing trip….
Almost all the Way to Timbuktu:
A Photograph Conservation Workshop and Re-housing Project in Mali
by Heida Q.S. Shoemaker
I visited Mali in the summer of 2011, and fell in love with the country. I knew I had to return, and had to do something that would mean something, that would be a contribution to the people of Mali, and enriching for my own career as a conservator. My plan was to visit the site of the ancient manuscript libraries of Timbuktu, many of which were recently consolidated in a new conservation center (IHERI-AB). I had been invited by Dr. Abdel Kader Haidara, a curator who is one of the initiators of the preservation of these invaluable medieval African manuscripts. I wanted to view the training and preservation efforts at this site, and discover a way in which I could become involved in this important work. Unfortunately, a few months after making my plans, a coup d’état, and subsequent rebel insurgency in Northern Mali, rendered this plan impossible.
I had to switch directions, literally. Being both a photograph and a paper conservator, I chose to concentrate on the subject of photograph conservation instead. Bamako, the bustling capital city of Mali, is an important center of contemporary photography in Africa. The African Photography Biennial (“Rencontres de Bamako”) is held in Bamako every two years. This collection of exhibitions highlights the current contemporary photographers working in Mali and the rest of Africa today. Photography as a profession has also become an important route for young Malians – both fine-art and commercial photography. There are also many collections of historical and ethnographic photography, housed in various institutions in Bamako. All of these collections of photography are very important, and it is known by those charged with their care, that their preservation for current and future study and cultural heritage is paramount. Yet there is a lack of vocabulary, knowledge of conservation techniques, and resources in Mali, which I believed could be addressed through international exchange, collaboration, and education.
I visited many institutions in Bamako, to gain an understanding of the environment in which collections of important historical and contemporary photos were being cared for. The strongest connection I made during this second trip in 2012, was with the private photography school, CFP (Cadre de Promotion pour la Formation en Photographie).
I decided that I would initiate my contribution to the preservation of photography in Mali by running a workshop, hosted by CFP.
The Workshop – “Preservation of Photography”
The workshop at CFP (Cadre de Promotion pour la Formation en Photographie) was planned for two days in October 2013. This setting was chosen because of the students background and training in digital photography, as well as in traditional darkroom techniques. The director of CFP, M. Sogodogo, was trained originally as an Art Conservator, at the Musée National in Bamako, and he has maintained an interest in the preservation of the photography that the students create, as well as the preservation of the work of well-known Malian photographers in his care. He also stresses the importance of learning about traditional black & white photography, both in terms of creation, and care. The students at CFP were the perfect candidates for studying how to save prints and negatives from the dangers of age, light, pollutants and natural and man-made emergencies that threaten them every day.
The workshop, for 15 CFP students, consisted of both lectures and hands-on activities. In this way, the students could be introduced to both the theory and practice of art conservation. The unique combination of science, art history, knowledge of materials, and hand-skills would be demonstrated as being the fundamental aspects of photograph conservation. The first day, the emphasis was on the history of photographic processes and deterioration, from daguerreotypes to digital photography. Stress was placed on the importance of learning about historic processes – how they are made, how they deteriorate, and how they should be preserved – in order to preserve the history and patrimony and archives of Malian culture. Historic albumen prints of Mali from the early 19th century were presented as examples documenting history and the student’s heritage – important records of early colonial presence and architecture and commerce in Mali.
The second day focused on the environment, storage and treatment of photographs. Along with a power-point presentation, most of the day was given over to hands-on activities, a time for the students to experiment with different treatment techniques for the first time. Prints were bathed in water-baths, paper and adhesive remnants were removed, tears were repaired, and mounting techniques were demonstrated and practiced. In bathing the prints, the students experienced the wide range of factors and consequences of conservation treatment. They witnessed the vulnerability of wet emulsions, and yet saw the stability of a photographic image exposed to water. They learned how water could be the destructive force in a flood, yet it could be the element which also saves the photograph, when a stack of photos adhered together can be separated, and saved.
The students were amazing – absorbing so much new material, and demonstrating their interest with very complex, thought-out questions. They especially loved washing various types of photos, and observing the results. A few of them spoke of their new-found interest in continuing the study of photo conservation. This was one of the goals of the workshop – to begin to build interest in preservation, and equip students and art professionals in Mali with the vocabulary and basic understanding of photo preservation.
The students received “Diplomas of Participation in the Workshop on the Conservation of Photography”. They were very proud of these, and I was also proud of their interest, hard work and concentration on a subject matter so new to them.
Re-housing project for the negatives of Malick Sidibé
The second part of the project was to begin re-housing the negatives of the Malian photographer, Malick Sidibé. Sidibé opened “Studio Malick”, his photography studio in the Bamako neighborhood of Bagadadji, in 1962. He set up studio shots here – of friends, athletes, engaged couples, professionals – and also went to and recorded dance parties of the 60’s, and street scenes of everyday youth in the thriving capital. His personal collection of negatives and contact sheets (glued onto paper folders, “chemises”, and labeled and numbered in his hand-writing) fill one room of his home. His most precious negatives are stored on an open shelf – floor to ceiling – against one wall. Each roll was cut into strips, placed all together in an acidic paper folder, labeled with the date, and stacked in original yellow Kodak film boxes. Red dust, ubiquitous and unstoppable in Mali, covered every surface, and had made its way into the boxes and acidic paper enclosures.
Having visited Malick the previous year, I decided to concentrate on this collection when I returned the following year. I purchased supplies ahead of time, which I carried in my luggage, arriving at the photographer’s home on the back of another ubiquitous sight in Bamako – a small motorcycle called a Jakarta – which was driven by Malick’s nephew.
We discussed the project, and I began cleaning a small selection of his medium format b/w negatives, and re-housing them in mylar envelopes and archival boxes. Each envelop was labeled with the same information that Malick had been so careful over the years to mark his negative envelops with. In contemplating the issues involved in this re-housing project, I had considered whether it was more appropriate to leave the original negative housing as Malick had designed it. Yet the stacking of the negatives all together, causing abrasion, and the ever-present heavy dust gathered through the years in the porous boxes, convinced me that a more “archival” protective system was necessary. I also made the choice of mylar over paper enclosures due to the significant consideration of handling. The negatives were handled often, both by the photographer, his sons, and clients. Mylar would protect each negative strip, while providing visibility. Mylar would also render them impervious to dust and pollution, whereas the porous and less-sealed nature of a paper envelop would allow dust to again settle on the negs. Although mylar is not considered ideal in a hot climate, the lack of high humidity made the choice of mylar reasonable in this case, due especially to the high volume of handling predicted. The original paper envelops with the photographer’s hand-writing will be preserved in the new boxes as well.
I was only able to complete a small amount of this work, but hope to continue the project on a larger scale very soon.
Lastly, to come full circle, I finally met M. Abdel Kader Haidara! During the invasion of Timbuktu in the spring of 2012, it was thought that many of the ancient manuscripts had been destroyed. But thanks to Drs. Abdel Kader Haidara and Stephanie Diakité and others who helped, 300,000 manuscripts were packed in metal crates, and whisked off to safety. They are now biding their time in Bamako, waiting until it is safe enough to go home to Timbuktu. I was fortunate to be able to visit one of the safe-houses where a large group of archivists and technicians are painstakingly archiving and making boxes for each manuscript, storing them in environments controlled by silica gel and de-humidifiers, to mimic the much drier conditions of the desert from which they came. To learn more about this amazing effort, visit the site of T160K (Timbuktu Libraries in Exile) at http://t160k.org
With all of the turmoil of the coup, the invasion by insurgent rebels, and the destruction of monuments in many northern Malian cities, it was amazing to see these beautiful, hugely significant books safely protected from harm.
My experience designing, planning, and implementing this project was extremely thought-provoking, stimulating, and satisfying. Each step was led by my long-held dedication to conservation, and my new-found connection to Mali. I would never have guessed that a touristic visit to Mali with my mother three years ago would lead me to standing in front of a group of young eager-to-learn Malian students, or to dusting the surface of the negatives of one of the most important living Malian photographers. I plan to continue this work, broadening my scope by working with other professionals who are interested in the outreach of photograph conservation to Africa. I have joined, as a consultant, a larger project for the preservation and digitization of the archives of multiple Malian photographers, and hope to train the group on the ground who will be implementing this project. And, I hope to finally make it to Timbuktu, to visit the ancient African manuscripts when they have been returned to their rightful home.
I want to thank:
The American Institute for Conservation Photographic Materials Group (AIC-PMG) for the 2013 Professional Development Stipend Award
The Winterthur Museum and University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation for the 2013 Betty Fiske Professional Development Award in Contemporary Art Preservation
My contributors to my Indiegogo campaign, “Save Photographs in Mali” for their generous contributions and support. See my Indiegogo page at: http://igg.me/at/savemaliphotos/x/2688784
Debbie Hess Norris, for providing most of the images used in the workshop presentation. This was an invaluable contribution to my workshop.
Karen Zukor, for providing advice on giving workshops in foreign lands, and for the contribution of supplies to the workshop.
Amadou Ouologuem, for his inspiration for my project, and help with my travels to Mali.
Captions for images:
1. Admin. Minga Siddick (left), H. Shoemaker, CFP students, Director Sogodogo (right), photo by CFP, 2013
2. CFP students bathing photos, photo by H. Shoemaker, 2013
3.& 4. Left: CFP students bathing photos Right: Heida demonstrating surface cleaning of negs, photos by CFP, 2013
5. & 6. Left: 19th c. Albumen print of Bamako Market Right: Contemporary photo of same market, re-built after a fire
7. & 8. Inpainting exercises, photos by CFP, 2013
9. & 10. Left: Student Bintou Diarra showing photo-corners exercise, Right: Zoumana Sidibé with photo-corners exercise, photos by H. Shoemaker, 2013
11. & 12. Left: Heida (left), CFP students, M. Sogodogo (right) Right: Heida with student Ousmane, photos by CFP, 2103
13. & 14. Left: © Malick Sidibé , “Nuit de Noel” 1963; Right: © Malick Sidibé “Jeune homme” 1977
15. & 16. Left: M. Sidibé examining his negatives Right: M. Sidibé’s storage system, photos by H. Shoemaker, 2013
17. Re-housing M. Sidibé’s negatives, photo by A. Cissé, 2013
18. M. Haidara with a Timbuktu manuscript, photo by H. Shoemaker, 2013
About the Author:
Heida Shoemaker is a professional paper and photograph conservator. She received her Masters in Science from the University of Delaware and Winterthur Museum Master’s Program in Art Conservation in 1996. Since starting her private practice in Berkeley in 1998, she has worked with the general public, framers, and museums to care for their fine art on paper and photographs, family photographs, and archival material. She does contract work for institutions such as the Cantor Art Center, Stanford University; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Berkeley Art Museum; and The DeYoung Museum, SF. Heida has also held a Getty Advanced Fellowship in Paper Conservation at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1997 – 1999, and a yearlong fellowship at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Heida has traveled to Mali three times between 2011-2013 to perform research, teach on photograph conservation, and care for Malian photography collections.
By Rebecca Rushfield, for a Google Art panel that was organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Feb. 7, 2014
The FAIC oral history interviews contain material on a wide variety of subjects some of which are of interest primarily to conservation professionals while others will have a much wider audience. The recent opening of the film “Monuments Men” gave Rebecca Rushfield a chance to explain what the archive of interviews held on the subject of the preservation of Western cultural heritage before and during World War II.
The Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives program under the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied armies was just one aspect of the effort to protect Western cultural heritage during World War II. Each nation put in motion plans for protecting its monuments be it by encasing historic buildings in scaffolding, supporting walls, and sandbags or by moving its most important artifacts far from the line of fire. Information about these efforts is available in archival documents and publications, but the events are most vividly and personally captured in the reminiscences of their participants.
The Oral History Project of the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation was established in 1974. Its first interview was a five-person discussion held in Mexico City on September 4, 1974. That interview touched upon the subject of conservation efforts during World War II and included as a participant George Stout, one of the “Monuments Men.” Using excerpts from interviews in the FAIC archives, I will present several individuals’ stories of the art and monuments protection efforts leading up to and during World War II.
In 1941, George Stout was the head of the Harvard University Fogg Art Museum conservation department. He recalled the preparations for the coming war that took place at Harvard University. ” I was asked to sit with the American Defence Harvard Group – they were interested in public opinion and cultivating attitudes. When Pearl Harbor came and everyone got the wind up. Francis Taylor had a meeting of mostly museum directors and a few technical people … there were half a dozen of us – discussing what are we going to do about evacuating our museums – getting things out where they won’t be bombed, all that kind of thing.”
A conference on the emergency protection of works of art was planned. Stout recalled, “It was planned after December of ’41 – and held … March, ’42.”
Well, actually, we had it almost demanded of us really, by kind of a general pressure of public opinion – what are you doing? Are you getting ready? Everybody thought we were going to be bombed any moment the way London had been. There was all that pressure of public alarm that was quite current in those early months of our entry into the Second World War.”
In1941, Craig Hugh Smyth was a senior research assistant at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. When the decision was made to move the Gallery’s treasures away from Washington, D.C. to a location less likely to be bombed, he was put in charge of the move. He said, “In December of ’41 came Pearl Harbor and the National Gallery had to evacuate its pictures and I was sent with them, to take care of the collection of the country. So I had the experience of nothing to do, except look at pictures and sculpture. I was there for about 6 weeks to 2 months, I think. With my wife—we had just gotten married that year. It was a great start—I must say—to have our own collection. “ … “[The paintings] were in the Biltmore House at Asheville, N.C. The National Gallery never did things by halves…if it was going to have a house in the country, it would have the best house in the country—so to speak.”… “It was great. But it was far in the country and nobody was supposed to know that National Gallery pictures were there. But the National Gallery wasn’t very wise and they shipped these things down with great labels on the outside…that said precisely what was in them! So the whole countryside knew and we had a guard—a force of guards there—my first administrative post. And one of the guards decided that the Germans would attack and come up the river—which was so small that no one could come up it.”
Harold Plenderleith, head of the Scientific Laboratory at the British Museum remembered that in the 1930s, “I was once asked about giving lectures to the Portuguese army by our foreign office. Well, I happened to know something about the war, you see. I was asked to go and give them a talk about preservation of the cultural property in the event of armed conflict. About a fortnight before, the foreign office telephoned to say, “Was everything all right for my lecture?” “Oh, yes,” I said. “Oh, that’s all right then you will be lecturing in French, of course.” “Not on your life,” said I. “Oh yes but we want you to do it in French. What I did was to write out the lecture in detail in English and get it to a professional to put it into French. Then learn the thing off by heart in French which was a terrific effort. I first of all had to give this lecture in Madrid. Half the audience was in uniform-brass hats and so on. I did my little histories and showed them some frightful war time slides that I had drawn and painted specially to horrify them and they were tremendously impressed! I was immediately invited to go and do it again in Oporto.”
He recalled that “A few years later, in 1938 a year or so before the outbreak of the Second World War, we realized that we were heading for possible disaster if war should break out. [Ian] Rawlins and I wrote a little booklet about first aid treatment of museum material. I forget what it was called–our text was never published. It was diverted to the protection of museum objects in war-time. This got to the attention of the directors of museums in London, particularly the British Museum. They asked if they could see it and later on said they would take it over and they published it. That was fine. We were involved by this means. We had gotten most of the practical information disseminated and urgently needed before we were involved in war in 1939. For example, how to make standard boxes to be stored in minimum space so that they could be speedily made up into containers in emergency. Lists of stuff we should get together while the going was good and could have standing by. We had all that planned and they published the thing so that it was ready in good time. Then the Ministry of Works purchased large quantities of essential materials and made them available to museums and picture galleries for use in protecting the collections in war time.”
As war came nearer, “My job was to assist the director whose name was Sir John Fordyce. He planned the actual siteing of the objects when it became necessary to decentralize and I used to trudge around to help him in selecting sites and in deploying caretaker staff. [The objects] were taken to about 15 of the sort of major house in England – country houses. Decentralization we called it. Then after that there came what we called, “The Baedeker bombing.” The Germans started bombing these bigger houses. (for the coming war Baedeker is a well known guidebook.). That became a great source of worry and we couldn’t by this time get any of the good bomb-proof sites for they had all been acquired already by others. We were quite stumped. Someone went to Churchill for advice and he said, ‘Well, you might like to have a look at an underground limestone quarry near Bath. I’ll allocate a quarry and you can see that.’ “
When war came, Plenderleith was too old to be commissioned, so he was put in charge of the safety of the Museum. He said, “I had no staff. You see everyone who was there was in the army or engaged in war work. I had had my “whack” in the army in the First World War. Of course, I was now over age and of course much more useful at the museum than anywhere else. I knew the museum. It was a very complicated structure; acres of rooms. I had to train staff from other departments who didn’t know the museum. Where were the places you could get out if you were trapped? Where were the places where the most valuable things were kept? Where were the keys? … I used to arrange training emergencies you see on Sundays for example, a wooden hoop covered with paper like a drum and marked as an incendiary bomb – 500 pounds bomb, I would stick that somewhere in the museum and then I would blow off the alarm. These trainees were the salvage people, it was their job to find the so called bomb and take appropriate action. They were timed, you see. They had to report what action they had taken. Where was the nearest hydrant, because we had our own pressure hydrants all over the museum? They had to act as firemen too. We used to have that sort of emergency training and it served to be very valuable… I lived at the museum all the time. I was asked to go in and do this by Sir John Fordyce the Director to come in on the weekend that the war was declared, September 1939.”
When the U.S. entered the War, Craig Smyth was young and was commissioned in the Navy. He recalled how he became part of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives unit. “Well at the end of the war, the Allies knew that they were going to have to deal with the art objects in Germany. That A: which Germany owned, that which was stored off in various repositories and B: the works of art that the Nazis had taken from occupied countries. There was already a Monuments Art and Archives section of the United States army, but as the war drew to a close, I knew they were going to have more people in it. So they looked for people already in the armed services, who had some experience. And I was suddenly ordered to—in France and then into Germany, and then assigned there to establish a collecting point in Munich for works of art in that—in the Southern section of Germany, which had to be taken in from repositories. And above all, the Hitlerian loot, which was in the salt mines in Austria especially—but in other places too—so for a year, I was the head of this establishment and ran the Collecting Point and began repatriation of works of art to the countries that they were stolen from. And obviously—yet again—it was a question of taking emergency care of objects that were in bad condition. So I learned something about that in the process, but I also learned how hearty works of art can be. Some of them had been through an awful lot.”
A laboratory was established and staffed. Smyth recalled, “This was a thing that required in the end, a staff of—well, first and last—over a hundred people, which had to be Germans. We had to find people whom we thought we could trust. Which was not hard to do in fact. There were people who came out of the walls, who had stayed away from the Nazis. And among them, some really good people…. So yes, I was the one who made decisions, but very often there was somebody else who said, this has to be done. It was an odd thing that the amount of responsibility that came to the head of a Collecting Point like that, because the Allies were supposed to have a great international committee to decide about all such things and decide about what works of art went back to the countries from which they had been taken. And in the end, the head of the Collecting Point was the person to ask—so it was all very odd.”
While Smyth’s recollections were of the work that took place at the end of the war, Caroline Keck recalled her husband Sheldon Keck’s participation in an earlier, more dangerous event. She said, “In England by D-Day and in France a few weeks later, he [Sheldon] was almost lost during the debacle in the Heurtgen Forest. At long last he was assigned to the Arts Unit as a technical sergeant.” Sheldon and Walter Huchthausen, another member of the MFAA unit were together and accidently drove their jeep into a battle line of the Ruhr Pocket. “Walter’s body saved Sheldon’s life. Both fell from the jeep into foxholes. Later, our advancing troops found Sheldon. Walter had been killed instantly.”
Caught up in the glamour of our talk about great art, we sometimes forget that the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives personnel were part of the military and as such were exposed to all of the dangers of war.
Since 2011, FAIC has been proudly administering the Samuel H. Kress Conservation Fellowships. These prestigious and competitive awards are given to museums and other conservation facilities so that emerging conservators can have an exceptionally involved experience in the field following graduate work. I was truly delighted when the FAIC review committee scores indicated that Whitten and Proctor Fine Art Conservation would be in the final group of host institutions selected for the 2012-2013 cycle, becoming the first private practice to receive a Fellowship award. Jill Whitten and Rob Proctor have a rich background in teaching, mentoring, research, and publication, and I knew that they could offer a unique and challenging environment for a Kress Fellow. Scroll down to read Jill, Rob, and Gabriel weigh in on the unique perspectives offered by their private practice setting.
FAIC Institutional Advancement Director
How did you balance your roles as mentors and small business owners?
Jill and Rob: Luckily, teaching comes naturally to us. We have worked with wonderful conservators in the best institutions and we feel that we have a great deal to share. We enjoy the teaching aspects. Being so engaged in the studio is also good for our business and for completing projects.
Learn more about Whitten & Proctor’s Kress Fellowship by reading the rest of the interview…
What IS FAIC Exactly?
You may have read about FAIC grants and scholarships that have been awarded, upcoming professional development offerings, publications, and other initiatives, but you may still have questions about what exactly FAIC does and what makes it different from AIC. We want to share with you the ways FAIC is working to advance the field of conservation, both nationally and abroad.
Here, we’re highlighting a Heather Brown, a recipient of the George Stout scholarship award, one of the many ways our donors support emerging conservators. We have so much to share, and you can learn more at www.conservation-us.org/foundation.
We hope that you enjoy our updates and welcome feedback from you!
The Foundation Team
(Eryl, Eric, and Abigail)
Meet Heather Brown, Graduate Fellow in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, and George Stout Memorial Scholarship Award Recipient!
Heather attended the AIC-PMG/ICOM-CC-PMWG Photographs Conservation Joint Meeting
in Wellington, New Zealand, where she presented a paper titled
“Extending Our Reach: Effective Methods for Engaging Allied and Public Audiences with Photograph Preservation.”
How did you first get involved in conservation? What made you decide to pursue this career path?
As I was finishing up my undergraduate degree in art history, I became interested in the educational mission of museums, so I applied to a one-year MA course on the History and Theory of the Art Museum at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. When I was accepted into the program, I knew that the Courtauld had an excellent reputation as a leading institute for art history and painting conservation; however, outside of a few mentions of the conservator as scientist during my undergraduate lectures, I did not truly know what conservation was. That was until the end of my first term, during a three-week concentration on the history of conservation. My class took a field trip to visit the labs at Tate Britain, and I was immediately fascinated. What I learned that day was that conservation is not just a science, but the three-legged stool of science, material culture, and fine art—all things that I am passionate about. I followed my instinct that told me a career in conservation was the perfect fit and, six years later, here I am in a graduate program.
How did this conference benefit you as an emerging professional?
Attending the AIC-PMG/ICOM-CC-PMWG Photographs Conservation Joint Meeting was an incredible opportunity for my professional development. With over 150 delegates from 18 countries, the greatest benefit of the meeting was the chance to connect with so many conservators in my specialty. I was able to meet many individuals that I have admired, and network with professionals from all over the world. I enjoyed spending time with fellow conservation students and previous employers, but also took advantage of the experience to make new friends with people that will likely be colleagues throughout my career.
Not surprisingly, many of the meeting attendees also presented in some way. I think this demonstrates that conservation is field eager to collaborate and share our knowledge with other members of the community. The talks were very well researched and presented, as were the posters, and ranged from traditional to contemporary media, and from scientific analysis to treatment and theory. I believe I learned the most from the workshops on Emergency Management and Contemporary Photography because they related directly to my interests and what I have been studying in my work at UD, but what made the Wellington meeting unique was the infusion of Maori culture into each event. Through their blessings, narratives, and handling of objects, it was clear how much the locals respect their heritage. My favorite Maori proverb from the closing of the meeting highlighted the conservator’s role as teacher: “With your full basket and my full basket, together we feed the people.”
Leaving New Zealand at the end of the meeting, I felt motivated to continue with my own research, and inspired to think creatively about my in-progress treatment projects. I hope to participate in many more meetings in the future, and I know that I will look back and appreciate having had the opportunity to make it to Wellington in 2013.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating to the George Stout Memorial Fund?
Whether you are an emerging conservator or a Fellow of AIC, attending meetings is an important aspect of professional development. Unfortunately it is not always possible for students to afford the expense as many have significant student loan and other debt incurred during years of preparation for graduate study. The George Stout Memorial Fund allows recent graduates and students, like myself, to take advantage of valuable educational opportunities that will shape our approach to conservation in the future. Your financial support really does make a difference. If you are thinking about donating to the Stout Fund, please consider how your own positive experiences as a student have affected your career. I encourage you to help!
When you think of the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN), you likely think of the officers and the majority of members who are pre-program students, graduate students, and recent graduates. The many seasoned professionals who are involved in ECPN are probably less likely to come to mind. ECPN would like to take a moment to share how our “mentors” are engaged in ECPN and thank them for their thoughtfulness, generosity, and time, which have greatly contributed to our success.
Two AIC Staff Liaisons and an AIC Board Liaison serve on the ECPN committee and are actively involved in its daily activities. Ruth Seyler, Ryan Winfield, and Stephanie Lussier respectively currently hold these positions. From providing guidance on daily activities to helping us plan our events at the AIC annual meeting, ECPN literally could not function without them!
AIC-ECPN’s Mentoring Program matches seasoned conservators (AIC Fellows or Professionals Associates) with emerging conservators (AIC Students, Interim Year Members or Associates) to engage in mentorships that focus on topics such as, providing pre-program experience guidance to post-graduate career guidance. In 2012-2013, twenty-four mentors volunteered countless hours of their time to strengthening the emerging conservator community.
ECPN is always taking on new projects. For many of those projects, we ask seasoned conservators to share their expertise and experience with us. From 2012-2013, the following seasoned conservators assisted us with a variety of initiatives: Rachel Perkins Arenstein – AIC 2013 poster, “The Art Con<server>: How conservation professionals make use of online resources”; Julia Brennan, Rosa Lowinger, and Paul Messier – November 2012 webinar, “Considering your future career path: working in private practice”; Suzanne Davis and Kathleen Kiefer – AIC 2013 Portfolio Session; Debbie Hess Norris – July 2012 webinar, “Self-advocacy and Fundraising for Independent Research,” and fundraising support; Nancie Ravenel – AIC 2013 poster and AIC Lexicon Project; Rebecca Rushfield – student research resource; Liz Schulte – public relations toolkit; Sarah Stauderman – ECPN resources; Emily Williams and the Education and Training Committee – mentoring program. And, we are thrilled that many of these seasoned conservators will be continuing to work with us!
As we enter our sixth year as a network and reflect upon the many projects and programs we have been able to develop, we are aware of just how many have helped us. Thank you ECPN “Mentors.” We are profoundly grateful!
– Eliza Spaulding, ECPN Chair
I’m am extremely excited that I signed up to write a blog post for this Paintings Group Session at the 41st Annual Meeting for AIC: The Contemporary in Conservation this week in Indianapolis. As an emerging conservator specializing in the conservation of paintings, I found this discussion very important for our field and I was so pleased that Matthew Cushman gathered this renowned group of conservators together for the discussion. The discussion (Current Challenges and Opportunities in Paintings Conservation) was well attended and the four presentations provoked important questions and topics for group discussion. This post isn’t intended for solely paintings conservators, but for all fine art conservators, restorers, and any people looking to find out more about the preservation and future of fine art.
Fair warning: this post is going to be a long one. I found so much relevant and notable topics were mentioned and I think they all deserve to brought up. This post is a little less personal opinion and a little more regurgitation of the facts – which is great for anyone who was not able to attend the discussion. The discussion panel consisted of mediator Tiarna Doherty from the Lunder Conservation Center at the Smithsonian Art Museum, and panelists: Rustin Levenson private conservator and owner of Rustin Levenson Art Conservation Associates; Alan Phenix conservation scientist from the Getty Conservation Institute; Joyce Hill Stoner educator in paintings conservation at the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation; and Rob Proctor Co-Director and private conservator at Whitten & Proctor Fine Art Conservation.
Tiarna started the discussion with an introduction to each panelist, which was followed by a 10 minute slide-show presentation by each panelist discussing key points and topics each thought related to current trends and upcoming challenges in paintings conservation. This format acted as a starting point for the group discussion which followed. All the panelists came from different backgrounds which consisted of private, educational, institutional, and scientific positions, so different perspectives for the field of paintings conservation could be properly represented.
Continue reading “41st Annual Meeting – Paintings Session, Friday May 31, "Panel Discussion: Current Challenges and Opportunities in Paintings Conservation" by Levenson, Phenix, Hill Stoner, Proctor”
Last week, the American Academy in Rome announced the winners of the 116th annual Rome Prize Competition.
Among the 30 recipients were Elizabeth Schulte, Owner/Chief Conservator of Elizabeth Kaiser Schulte Conservation of Art and Historic Artifacts on Paper in Atlanta, Georgia, and Randall Mason, Associate Professor and Chair of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate Program in Historic Preservation.
The Rome Prize is a national competition that awards grants each year to thirty individuals who represent the highest standard of excellence in the arts and humanities. The grants allow recipients to spend six-months to two years in Rome to pursue a specific project. Awards are made in the following disciplines: Architecture, Design, Historic Preservation and Conservation, Landscape Architecture, Literature, Musical Composition, Visual Arts, Ancient Studies, Medieval Studies, Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, Modern Italian Studies.
Schulte and Mason were the two winners in the “Historic Preservation and Conservation” category. Schulte’s fellowship project is titled “Changing Views of Rome Through the Eyes of Tourists and Mapmakers: Creation, Preservation, Education.” Read more about Liz and her project by following this link.
Mason’s project is titled “Gustavo Giovannoni’s Urban Conservation”. Read more about it here.
Congratulations to both of our colleagues on this award and great honor!
Maxwell L. Anderson, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art, today announced the appointment of Mark Leonard as the Museum’s first Chief Conservator, effective July 1, 2012. Leonard’s appointment signals the initial phase of the development of the DMA’s conservation program, which will include the addition of staff and the renovation of its onsite spaces to include a paintings conservation studio. Leonard, who stepped down in 2010 as the Head of the Paintings Conservation Department at the J. Paul Getty Museum to pursue his career as an artist, will work with Anderson and the DMA’s senior staff to establish the more comprehensive Conservation Department and further develop the Museum’s Collections and Exhibitions program, informed by his scholarship in the care and preservation of paintings from across the Museum’s encyclopedic collection.