39th Annual Meeting – Objects Morning Session, June 3, ” The Alaska Fur ID Project ” by Ellen Carrlee and Lauren Horelick

For the final talk in the Friday OSG morning session, Ellen Carrlee, conservator at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau, presented on the Alaska fur ID project, an online resource created by herself and conservation fellow Lauren Horelick (and partially funded by the FAIC Carolyn Rose Take a Chance grant) to aid in the identification of fur on both historic and Alaskan Native objects. This easily accessible fur ID website, posted in blog format (www.a­laskafurid.wordpress.com), presents a wealth of diagnostic information on nearly 50 Alaskan animal species including hoofed animals, rodents, hares, canines, felines, bears, weasels, and marine mammals. Ellen and Lauren gathered information from the fur ID literature and combined it with their own observations from visual and microscopic examination of a wide range of animal hairs. A variety of hair types from each animal were examined and documented as they can range greatly in characteristics. Guard hairs and underfur, for example, are quite different from each other, as are the hairs from different parts of the animal (e.g. from belly as opposed to legs).  On the other hand, they found that the sex, age, and season in which the fur was gathered had little impact on the micro-diagnostic features of the individual hairs. All of this information is available not only in text form in each entry on the website, but also in annotated photomicrographs and photographs of the animals in JPEG format that can easily be saved and used in your own reports and documentation. In addition, each entry includes the scientific name of the animal, the micro qualities of the hairs (shape, medulla size, medullary index, scale pattern, cross-section shape), macro qualities (color, banding, etc.), cultural uses, and information on how to differentiate the hair from similar animals (“troubleshooting”). Helpful tips for preparing slides included using Duco cement for scale casts and a cross-sectioning technique using artificial cork with a sewing machine needle.

While the Alaska Fur ID project was inspired by the Czech Furskin website (http://www.furskin.cz/), which presents diagnostic information on skin and fur together with SEM images, the Alaska Fur ID website is specifically tailored to aid those using primarily transmitted or polarized light microscopy to identify the sources of individual animal hairs. As someone who works with a collection that includes Alaskan fur objects, I believe this website will be extremely useful, and I hope that it will be a model for others interested in expanding the online resources for fur identification worldwide.

39th Annual Meeting – Workshop, May 31, “AIC Workshop: Museum Mannequins” by Helen Alten

The workshop began on time. We were provided an advance copy of the general workshop notes with advice to skim or read prior to the workshop. Very helpful! There was a large amount of material covered. The workshop was a survey of many different techniques used in exhibitions from many locations. The PowerPoint presentation was full of images, bullet points, along with references to additional handouts provided during the workshop. Showcased what works well and what does not work.

The presenter, Helen Alten, used a combination of lecture and hands-on-activities to give participants a clearer idea of the techniques being discussed. Most helpful, as we moved through a variety of techniques. The presenter also invited participants to discuss their experiences, questions, and mount solutions in the workshop.

Participants had varying levels of experience, training, and areas of specialty. Group work during these activities was encouraged and added additional brainpower to working through what were new techniques for many of the participants.

Wide range of information covered from anatomy, mount making decision process, nice bibliography, Patterns of History, and research. Additive and subtractive constructions, as well as other rigid subforms, finishing techniques, plus, hands, legs, and stands, hair, and mount attachment methods were discussed.

There are times when the literature and the lecture becomes significantly clearer after hands-on opportunities are completed. Participants were asked to bring a garment to use for a hands-on session. Hands-on sessions were possible thanks to tool kits provided which eliminated the need for participants to bring sharp, cutting, heating, and large sized tools that may have been very difficult for travel. Hands-on sessions included: Measuring Costumes, Flat Form Mannequin, and Ethafoam Mannequin via LaRouche/Peacock Combination Method.

An extra bonus included a history of undergarments. With time running out Helen encouraged those of us still to stay for a quick casting and molding exercise using alginate and plaster.

Fun Factor: (Scale 1-5; 1=zero fun through 5=best fun ever, involves good cake)

Fun Factor Rating: 4, even without cake! Met new people. Able to share potential mount techniques.

Recommendation: Sign-up if you have the opportunity. Go for a full workshop/course of longer duration (week or longer). It is worth the time.

Tip: Provide an experience gauge for participants in workshop announcement. Way too much info and hands-on activity to cram into 6 hours, make it 7 hours. We used the time to our best advantage but ran-over by 45 minutes and left out some hands-on activities.