Call for Participation: New Annual Meeting Event “A Failure Shared is Not a Failure”

AIC members from all specialty groups are invited to attend and participate in the event “A failure shared is not a failure: learning from our mistakes,” happening on Saturday, June 2nd, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. — click here to add it to your Sched. We will gather and share our cautionary tales, including treatment errors, mishaps, and accidents, with the idea of helping our colleagues not to repeat them.

Discussing mistakes is a hot topic that has already been embraced by others in our community. Two examples of events scheduled during the month of May are: “Mistakes were made,” a regular feature at the American Alliance of Museums conference, and the lecture “Conservation Confidential” hosted by our conservation colleagues across the pond in the Independent Paper Conservators’ Group.

Participants can speak for up to 5 minutes; if you prefer to remain anonymous, a reader will be happy to present your tale on your behalf. If you are unable to attend AIC’s Annual Meeting but would like to submit a tale to be read by one of our organizers or a colleague, please reach out.

Screens to project PowerPoint slides containing your images/video will be available (16:9 format), and a Dropbox folder will be made available for submissions. Please also bring your presentation on a USB Drive (highly encouraged). Time permitting, audience members inspired by their colleagues will be welcome to present. If appropriate (and acceptable to the speaker), the floor will be opened for questions and discussion following presentations. Extra points for suggesting safeguards and solutions!

Please note that this is a forum for sharing personal mistakes and solutions only. Participants are requested not to name other persons, organizations, work places, and avoid politics—institutional, national, and global!

The event will include a cash bar, so come, relax, unwind, share, laugh, groan, and learn. We plan to publish the event for those who wish to be included.

If you are interested in participating or have questions about the event, please contact Tony Sigel at or by calling 617-767-1900 (cell), or Rebecca Gridley at by May 10th.

Please include 2-3 quick sentences introducing your topic and indicate whether you plan to use a PowerPoint with images and/or video.

See you in Houston!

45th Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials Session, May 30, “The Re-creation and Conservation of Megalethoscope Slides” by Monique C. Fischer

Ms. Fischer’s talk focused on megalethoscope slides, an uncommon 19th century photographic process. When a group of these slides were brought to the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) their conservation presented some challenges. Particularly, the lack of primary sources on the construction of the slides themselves. Further, the slides bridge conservation specialties, since they are comprised of albumen photographs on a wooden support. Ms. Fischer and her colleagues at NEDCC came up with some innovative treatment approaches to conserve these unique objects. Fischer underscored the collaborative nature of this project, which included FAIC, the George Eastman Museum, and numerous departments at NEDCC.

Megalethoscope slides are albumen prints mounted to a concave wooden support. Slides are placed into a viewer, which creates the illusion of depth and enlarges the image. The image can be lit from front (reflected) or back (transmitted) to create visual effects.

The first challenge of this treatment project was the lack of contemporary or historic information about the process. Fischer indicated one publication from 1999 that talked about the conservation of Megalethoscope slides and gave some helpful diagrams: Topics in Photographic Preservation 1999, Volume 8, Article 5 (pp. 23-30) “Megalethoscope Plates A Case Study: Conservation Treatment of Megalethoscope plates from the Collection of the ‘Museum for Art and History’ Brussels, Belgium” by Sylke Heylen and Herman Maes with supervision of Roger Kockaerts

In order to learn more, Fischer worked with Mark Osterman, Photographic Process Historian at the George Eastman Museum (GEM). Todd Gustafson from the GEM also contributed because they have some megalethoscope viewers in the collection. Period megalethoscope slides at the GEM to were examined to extrapolate the process. Damaged slides proved to be the most useful for this, as they allowed for examination of the layers. The process Fischer described was complex. To summarize: They created albumen prints from digital negatives. The photographs were pierced from the front. The reverse of the print was painted with watercolor. A convex frame was made from bent pine. The photograph was attached to the frame using hide glue and then the edges were taped with black paper tape. Tissue paper was then added to the reverse. A dust cover was then added to the back of the slide.

Fischer showed a video of what it is like to view their re-created megalethoscope slide through the viewer. The scene began with reflected light, showing a landscape that was deceptively 3-dimensional. The light then transitioned to transmitted (behind the photograph), and the sun appeared to set in the scene and previously un-seen holes in the photograph created dramatic lights in a night scene. The effect is quite unique and certainly impressive.

The conservation treatment was designed to address the major condition issues: significant dirt, fly specks, tears and brittle dust covers with bug damage. The tear mending required some inventiveness because of the concave nature of the object and the layered structure. Fischer and other NEDCC conservators adapted a technique from Japanese panels in order to repair the tears. In this technique blotting paper supports are held in place with string to support the tear as it dries. After drying the string is cut. The dust covers were original, but highly damaged. A remoistenable lining was used to stabilize the dust cover, while minimizing moisture.

Finally, the inpainting of these photographs also presented challenges, since it had to be effective in both reflected and transmitted light. They mixed these two lighting techniques during inpainting.

In the question session following the talk, Fischer indicated that they used Gamblin Conservation Colors for inpainting because they were more translucent than watercolor. The book conservation department at NEDCC created custom phase boxes to house and protect the slides.

45th Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials Session, May 30, “Bellmer: Complexities of the Doll” by Krista Lough

Ms. Lough’s talk focused on Hans Bellmer’s Doll series of photographs. She gave some interesting background on Bellmer and her professed lifelong love of the artist was evident. As a fellow in photograph conservation at the Art Institute of Chicago, Lough’s work focused on the Art Institute’s newly-acquired doll print, which is a large print. She outlined some interesting discoveries about this print and found some parallels in other collections of Bellmer’s work. Her discussion of handcoloring, overall airbrushing, and mounting of the prints have obvious implications for conservators working with Bellmer photographs.

Hans Bellmer was a German professional working during the rise of the Nazi Party. He left his career in advertising as an act of rebellion in the 1930s because he didn’t want to (even indirectly) benefit the German state. He began a project with his brother to construct and photograph an artificial doll in 1933. Two additional dolls were constructed in 1935 (second doll) and 1937 (the Machine-Gunneress in a State of Grace). The dolls were posed in provocative and intentionally perverse positions and then photographed. The dolls seemed to get more abstract, with multiple sets of breasts, legs, pelvises, and torsos. They were made primarily of tissue paper and glue.

Bellmer made both small format photographs and larger prints. In particular, a set of hand-colored small prints was created for a book “Les Jeux de la Poupee” created with the surrealist poet Paul Éluard. He made some larger prints, about 26 inches square, at this time of the same images. The Art Institute’s print is a large print of an image from this book. In the course of Lough’s study, she found that the larger print did not precisely relate to the copy in the book, implying that he was working from multiple negatives and making specific decisions unique to each print. Lough stressed that he was treating each print as a unique work of art, not trying to replicate the same appearance in all prints of the same image.

The Art Institute’s print had some interesting overpainting, including an overall layer of dark airbrushing that was difficult to see without magnification. This layer appears to have an overall darkening effect on the print. There was also extensive applications of gouache and dyes. When Lough compared this print to other large doll prints, she found no rigid working method that Bellmer applied to all the prints. Again, they appear to have been treated uniquely.

When considering treatment of the Art Institute’s print, Lough encountered some obstacles unique to Bellmer’s working method. The treatment was designed to address issues with grime, losses and chipping in the media. Through extensive testing she found that the print could not be safely surface cleaned. Traditional cleaning solutions such as water/ethanol removed retouching. Ethanol alone caused changes to the surface sheen (perhaps indicating a coating? Samples were taken for testing). Even dry cleaning was ruled out because the abrasive action reduced the topography of the gouache. This meant that the treatment was limited to tear repair.

In summary, Lough emphasized that Bellmer’s Doll photographs should be treated as unique and distinct objects with very real conservation challenges.

45th Annual Meeting – Photographic Material Session, May 31st, “Providing Access to “Overprotected” Color Slides” by Diana L. Diaz-Cañas

Photograph conservator Diana Diaz introduced her presentation as a study case which deals with “overwhelming protection” of photographic materials.

The project started in 2006 when the Harry Ransom Center acquired the photographer Arnold Newman’s archives, including various photographic and other materials, such as photographic albums, sketch books, documentation of many projects… and color transparencies.

More precisely, a corpus of 35 mm Kodak Kodachrome color slides in plastic mounts was found. The slides were wrapped together with sealing tapes, forming in 16 sets. The tapes displayed, on the edge of each pack, handwritten inscriptions indicating the dates and subjects of the photographs. The dates inscribed on the tape enabled to date each project, the whole collection ranging from 1954 to 1972. Diana Diaz showed several examples of the images, like one taken for a project shot in Spain in 1970 for Holiday Magazine.

These slides series are of interest as they inform on the photographer’s working methods. For instance, they showed different cropping, compositions, and exposures experimented within each series. One can see how Newman would play with lights and colors and produce variations of the same images, among which he would then make his final selection for the publication. Diaz then listed all the assignments projects covered in the slides, shot in various places (Spain, Canada, California…) for different magazines, such as Harper’s Bazaar or Life.

However, when the slides were found, the images were still inaccessible since after the removal of the tape applied on one edge displaying the inscriptions, another white tape underneath maintained the stacks of slides together. Three types of tape were identified among the 16 sets:

  1. a masking tape;
  2. a discolored white tape;
  3. a white tape still tacky.

The conservation treatment needed then was difficult to engage because the tapes were in contact, not only with the slides mounts, but also with the films themselves – on both the image and support sides.

Therefore, to remove the tape carrier, Diaz logically proceeded by types of tape.

  • The white tape still tacky was removed mechanically with a spatula, without any adhesive residue left at the end of the treatment.
  • The masking tape was strongly adhered and did require a heated spatula combined with the use of solvents.
  • The discolored white tape was removed with the help of water vapor.

After all the carriers were removed, Diaz evaluated the materials and condition of the residual adhesives in order to determine which solvent to use. She referred to Smith et. al.’s paper1, which not only presents the history of pressure sensitive tape and their ageing properties, but also appropriate solvents and suitable methods of application for their removal. Thus, Diaz used naphtha (a mix of hydrocarbons) to successfully remove the rubber-based adhesive, and ethanol for the oily adhesives. The solvents were applied gently with a cotton swab in a circulation motion and in one direction to minimize the scratches and increase the efficiency.

The photographic documentation under Ultra-Violet illumination allowed to assess the removal of all the adhesives. Finally, the slides were individually rehoused in conservation materials.

Although this treatment was successful, several questions are being raised: Are there remaining solvents residues in the photographic materials at the end of the treatment? Has the surface been scratched? Indeed, the topic of the effect of solvents on color transparencies, in particular regarding the innocuousness for the photographic materials, would require further research to help photograph conservator to choose a suitable treatment.


1 Bibliographic reference: Merrily A. Smith, Norvell M. M. Jones, Susan L. Page, & Marian Peck Dirda. “Pressure-Sensitive Tape and Techniques for its Removal From Paper”
JAIC 1984, Volume 23, Number 2, Article 3 (pp. 101 to 113

45th Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials Session, May 31, “Current Trends and Collaborations among Heritage Institutions in Latin America: Results of the APOYOnline 1st Heritage Preservation Regional Conference and Workshop on Photographic Conservation, Fundraising & Advocacy” by Beatriz Haspo, Amparo Rueda, and Debbie Hess Norris

APOYOnline (Association for Heritage Preservation of the Americas) is a non-profit organization that facilitates communication and exchange among heritage preservation professionals throughout Latin America and the Caribbean region. Beginning August 30 and extending until September 2, 2016, APOYOnline hosted its first regional conference and workshop in Medellin, Colombia. Attended by 73 participants from 15 countries, the theme of the conference was “exchanges and practical tips”.  While presentations focused on a range of cultural materials, the primary emphasis of the conference was on preservation of photographic heritage due the importance of photograph collections in Latin America and the immediacy of addressing these collections. Based on the presentation given at the Annual AIC Meeting, the APOYOnline conference appeared informative, fun, well-planned, well-received, and resulted in successfully engendering international collaborations.

Image courtesy of the APOYOnline Facebook page

Colombia was chosen as the conference host country because of its central location within Latin America, and Medellin as the host city to promote the revitalized city. Logistical planning for the conference required coordinating team meetings across four different time zones, taking full advantage of communication technology such as WhatsApp and Skype. In addition, there was an incredible amount of fundraising to support the conference and its participants. Major initial backing came from Tru Vue, Banco de la República, and the University of Delaware, which then attracted more supporters, resulting in a total of 21 financial donors. Through this campaign, APOYOnline was able to provide scholarship to all 73 participants – 60% partial grants and 40% full grants for conference attendance.

The program was divided into two major sections: paper presentations in the mornings and workshops in the afternoons. In total, the conference had 14 papers and 24 poster presentations. Paper topics focused on a wide range of preservation and risk management projects, including education, storage, collections care, impact of microbiological research, emergency response, treatment of ceramic murals, and more. In addition, posters discussed glass plate negative collection preservation, conservation of audio visual materials, and paper conservation in tropical climates among other topics. All sessions were recorded and made available on the APOYOnline webpage for free. The workshop on conservation of photographs involved lectures, discussions, and hands-on demonstrations about identification and preservation of photographic materials and were translated into three languages for all participants. Originally intended for 25 people, the conference organizers were eventually able to open the workshop to all attendees. Some of the most important issues for photograph collections in Latin America include immediate inventory, cleaning, storage, and preventive preservation. The workshop therefore provided participants with a better awareness of the needs for their collections and information that they could then bring back to their institutions.

Image courtesy of the APOYOnline Facebook page

During the conference, there was a meeting with the participants entitled “Vision 2020” in which the future of APOYOnline was discussed. Suggestions from the session included hosting more events, dissemination of activities, and research. APOYOnline is therefore working to strengthen networks with universities, provide more professional training, and act as an international bridge by bringing people to Latin America and vice versa. The organizing team for the conference received a large amount of thank you notes from attendees on how the meeting impacted their work and collections. The next APOYOnline conference will take place in Antigua, Guatemala to advocate more for countries in Central America and the Caribbean region.

Further information about APOYOnline can be found at as well as through Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

45th Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials Session, May 30, “Moonlight and Midnight: The evolution of Edward Steichen’s ‘Moonrise’ prints” by Kaslyne O’Connor, Ariel Pate, and Sylvie Pénichon

This talk was a good example of collaborative art historical and material science research. Two of the three authors, Kaslyne O’Connor and Ariel Pate, discussed a study that revolved around two gum-platinum prints by Edward Steichen from his 1904 “Moonrise” series in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago that had titles and dates under question. Each print had been referred to by different names (“Midnight Lake George” and “Moonlight Lake George“), and varied in tonality and surface sheen (you will notice that the prints have the same titles and dates on the Art Institute of Chicago website). Furthermore, the image in one of the prints is flipped horizontally.

A letter from Steichen to Stieglitz talks about “Midnight Lake George” being a platinum print followed by blue print, then greenish gum varnish. This letter is a valuable piece of information, along with X-Ray Fluorescence and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy that gave characteristic signals for Prussian blue, platinum (“Midnight…” had more), palladium, mercury (traces in “Midnight…” only), chromium, iron (“Moonlight…” had more), and lead for both prints. Still to be determined is the distribution of Prussian blue throughout the print, which would suggest the cyanotype process vs. a Prussian blue watercolor wash over the entire surface of the print. Clip marks at the print edges did displace the gum layer, thus revealing a blue layer below, which could be a hint that the cyanotype process was used. Examination of “Midnight…” under ultraviolet light exhibited a green fluorescents characteristic of linseed oil.

A Camera Works supplement from 1906 refers to “Moonlight…”. A 1910 Albright Art Gallery catalog for the “International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography” refers to “Moonlight…” having been made using a platinum gum process “peculiarly [Steichen’s] own”. Ultimately, a timeline was proposed by the authors using the information gathered from this research, which supports the 1904 (“Midnight…”) and 1909 (“Moonlight…”) printing dates for each. More apt titles were also proposed–”Road to the Valley, Moonrise” for “Midnight…” and “Road to the Valley, Moonrise Lake George” for “Moonlight”. Something that was noted that I found to be particularly interesting was that Steichen became less “poetic” in his later years, and retitled many of his prints.

Also to note, this project was born out of a previous project to create the website The Alfred Stieglitz Collection, a rich resource recommended to visit.

45th Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials Session, May 30, “The Fiocruz Collections: Discussing the Preservation of its Photographic Archives” by Nathália Vieira Serrano

Nathália Vieira Serrano’s talk focussed on the “incorporation” and “disincorporation” (accessioning/deaccessioning) of archival documents in the Department of Archives and Documentation at Casa de Oswaldo Cruz, in Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, in Rio de Janeiro. She discussed the overarching framework that was developed to help guide decisions of accessioning and deaccessioning collection materials, and then as a case study, the application of this framework to a specific collection–a collection of history of science of public health. This collection consists of glass plate negatives, roll and sheet film, all by various photographers and on different themes including, history, health education, scientific divulgation, and life sciences. A survey determined that the images were still in good shape, as were their supports.

The talk was a nice example of the challenges staff in the world of preservation face when needing to determine what can stay and what needs to go, the many factors to consider, and the criteria and prioritization to establish when making such important decisions. Serrano mentioned the mission of Casa de Oswaldo Cruz, the difference between multidisciplinary vs transdisciplinary, and the different stakeholders (researchers, collection managers, and potential current and future interested parties) that are taken into account. She also referred to Salvador Muñoz Viñas writings on contemporary theory of conservation and his statement that conservation is not a neutral act.

I appreciate how it is difficult to convey fully in a 20-25 minute talk the complexity of these types of projects. There are so many interesting points to think about, large and small, and people from different points of interest that are part of the decision making process. If there is one area I would have been interested in learning more about, it was some similarities and differences in their approach when compared to other national and international institutions. The presentation also gave insight to a large collection in Rio de Janeiro, how it is stored, and the building and environment that surrounds it.

Two questions that were asked after the talk were:

  • Is cost considered when deciding whether or not to deaccession? Answer: The survey is still underway, but cost will likely be considered.
  • What is the size of the collection? Answer: Still to be determined. (But an image was shown of the storage area the collection takes up)

45th Annual Meeting – Pre-session, May 29, 2017, “ECPN Poster Lighting Round,” moderated by Rebecca Gridley and Michelle Sullivan

This year ECPN rolled out a new program during a pre-meeting session that allowed poster presenters another venue to share their projects and research. I was very excited for this session because I have felt overwhelmed by the number of posters and limited free time to view them. A similar sentiment was later echoed at the AIC Business Meeting. I hope that ECPN (or AIC generally) considers organizing a similar session next meeting and I would encourage anyone looking for more engagement with poster authors to attend.

This session was in no way comprehensive of all the poster submissions. ECPN members received a notification about the session about a year before the meeting. However, ECPN contacted all poster authors once they were accepted to the general AIC poster session. The email solicitation encouraged “emerging conservation professionals” and “topics relevant to ECPs (not necessarily authored by ECPs)” according to Rebecca Gridley, ECPN Vice Chair and one of the organizers of the session. There were 14 presenters total this year, which were chosen from email responses of poster authors indicating an interest in participating. The final selection was chosen to offer a range of talks across specialties and include speakers spanning the ECPN demographic, according to Gridley. Unfortunately not every author interested was able to be included due to time restraints of the session, but ECPN is considering how this could be improved in the future.

This year’s inaugural Lightning Round did seem to have mostly young presenters including pre-program, graduate students, and recent graduates. It does seem that ECPN is trying to be more inclusive and the demographic of “ECP” is only loosely defined. Certainly the audience this year was more diverse than the presenters and included AIC Fellows and other more established professionals in the field. At the same time, the environment of the Lightning Round felt very safe and welcoming. We were seated at round tables, which was more casual than auditorium seating. This was a great opportunity for first-time presenters to get their feet wet. One of the speakers was a first-time attendee and presented on her first conservation treatment ever as a pre-program. This session promoted information sharing and dialogue—activities that I personally feel will only help strengthen our field.

Alex Nichols reflecting on the benefit of the Lightning Round said, “I was approached by several conservators and researchers in specialties other than my own [modern and contemporary objects] who said that they were introduced to my research through the lightning round presentations.” In comparison to the last time Nichols presented a poster (at the 43rd Annual Meeting in Miami), she had more people ask about her research, which she attributes to the exposure from the ECPN Lightning Round.

Cathie Magee presenting alongside Michiko Adachi at ECPN Poster Lighting Round. The moderators are seated at the table. 

The 14 poster topics were divided into two rounds, which allowed for a necessary intermission/bathroom break. The rounds were moderated by Michelle Sullivan, ECPN Chair, and Rebecca Gridley, ECPN Vice Chair.

In the spirit of the “Lightning Round” each presenter was given two minutes and three content slides to summarize their poster at the podium. This seemed like a daunting task and like I might not receive much more information than the title of the poster. I was really impressed with how clear and concise all the speakers were (I think the tambourine—symbolizing time’s up—only had to be used once). I learned a lot from the brief presentations and there was even time for one or two questions for every speaker. Having the visual component of the slides I felt took this beyond what a written abstract can offer. The Q & A was also very lively and I think emphasized how valued the poster presentations are to the conservation community.

I found this Lightning Round useful not only for the direct information, but also in helping me be more efficient with my time in the exhibition hall with the posters. Each PowerPoint included the poster number for easy reference to the location in the exhibit hall. Feeling similarly, Claire Curran, Assistant Objects Conservator at the ICA, also in attendance, and reacted, “definitely visiting this one—sounds really cool” in response to a treatment of a Hopi Katsina doll. The room was filled and there seemed to be a strong positive response to the session.

To keep things light and encourage additional networking during the ECPN Happy Hour (which immediately followed the Lightning Round) a fun fact about each presenter was announced in addition to his/her professional bio. For example, Sarah Giffin was introduced as the “meat whisperer” because of her delicious slow cooking brisket recipe.

I am embarrassed to say that I did not know that the posters are published on the AIC website after each Annual Meeting. You can access them here.

To help your exploration of the .pdf files online, here are some of the highlights each presenter chose to emphasize during the ECPN Lightning Round.

#30 Conservation in Miniature: The merger of museum object and historic interior in the treatment of a Victorian era dollhouse

Sarah Giffin

  • Applied in situ treatment methodology used for full-scale interiors to miniature interior of Horniman dollhouse
  • Mist consolidation with nebulizer using Klucel G in acetone (tests in water solubilized tannins in wooden walls creating issues with tidelines)
  • Condensation in the small tube was a challenge and had to tap out liquid droplets at times


#60 Conservation and Art Historical Data goes Digital at the Art Institute of Chicago

Kaslyne O’Connor

  • Interactive website for conservation treatment of a collection of Alfred Stieglitz photographs and some contemporaries
  • Used WordPress platform because easy interface and allowed for frequent updates to content
  • Provides links to art historical information as well conservation/ technical information and research


#44 Applying Fills to Losses in a Flexible Polyurethane Foam Chair at the Museum of Modern Art

Alex Nichols

  • Research and analysis to confirm type of foam composition of the chair
  • Bulked methylcellulose and grated polyurethane foam for consolidation and filling of losses; liquid nitrogen helped harden foam enough to easily grate and shape
  • Inpranil DLV/1 is a traditionally favored consolidant for polyurethane foam but has been challenging to acquire


#92 Chemical Cleaning and Intervention Criteria in a Brass Dial Clock from the XIX Century

João Henrique Ribeiro Barbosa

  • Clock face (only surviving element of the clock) composed of three different metals joined together with rivets
  • Previous cleaning by polishing left white residues and new corrosion products developed underneath
  • Ammonium citrate solution addressed polish residues with “DTCNa” or sodium diethyldithiocarbamate solution addressed corrosion products


#24 History, Treatment, and Preparation for Digitization of 14th-century Estate Rolls

Annabel Pinkney

  • Surface cleaning, humidification, repair with Japanese tissue
  • Rehousing to handle during treatment, digitization, and future research


#42 Treatment and Reconstruction of a Badly Damaged Hopi Katsina Doll Made of Gourd

Hayley Monroe

  • Gourds painted in acrylic
  • Treatment included surface cleaning, consolidating cracks, introducing new internal armature to help with reassembly and stabilization
  • Used silicone self-adhering bands to secure while mends were setting
  • Armature was set in place before doll head was reattached; tensioned wire extending to wings before head was placed back on


#10 Towards Nondestructive Characterization of Black Drawing Media

Nathan Daly

  • Redon drawings were used for case study
  • Redon working period overlapped with commercial materials available in 20th century
  • Macro XRF scanning used to map elements combined with micro Raman spectroscopy
  • Characterization relied on peaks in fingerprint region and peaks indicative of known additives to distinguish between different carbon-based media
  • 785nm laser for Raman because of heavy use of fixatives on the drawings


#27 (I Can’t Get No) Documenation: Preservation reporting in the Archives

Marissa Vassari

  • Established a template “Preservation Report” for standardized documentation and condition reporting
  • Focus on up-to-date condition and documentation of current status of projects and personnel involved; address realities of institution with changing/temporary staff and disruptions project workflow
  • Format based on feedback from other institutions and existing condition reports in the archive


#80 Bedbugs: A pesky problem

Meredith Wilcox-Levine

  • Addressing infestation of a Lakota teepee in private hands installed behind owner’s bed
  • Freezing unsuccessful likely not able to achieve low enough temperatures throughout
  • “Solarization” using hatchback car appeared to work (i.e. no live bugs remained)
  • For domestic infestation chemical treatment often necessary for bed bugs; they are night feeders and hide during the day


#32 Treatment of a Shattered Bark Basket from Australia

Marci Jefcoat Burton

  • Basket likely eucalyptus bark sealed with natural resin
  • Consolidated with B-72; bridged with tissue and blend of Lascaux adhesives
  • Removable internal support for storage constructed of backer rod (trapezoidal shaped Ethafoam strips) shaped to the contour of the basket and padded with Volara


#84 Lifting the Microfiber Veil: Utilizing Evolon fabric at the Mauritshuis to remove aged varnish from Hendrick Heerschop’s A Visit to the Doctor

Julie Ribits

  • Evolon is 70:30 polyester: polyamide spun-bond fabric
  • Evolon originally developed as anti-bug fabric
  • Used to lift and remove aged varnish; gentle and appropriate for surfaces with extensive lead soap networks
  • Polyamide fibers are hydrophilic and contribute to aqueous cleaning


#22 Captain America Encounters Klucel M

Michiko Adachi and Cathie Magee

  • Captain America pages had been stapled together in case binding
  • Mending utilized solvent reactivated tissue to avoid solubility issues and tidelines from acidic migration of newsprint substrate
  • Klucel M used as adhesive because of strength and transparency
  • Klucel M artificially aged by Library of Congress and seems to have similar properties/behavior to Klucel G


#67 Initial Treatment Techniques for Japanese Lacquer-based Metallic Thread and Cut Paper Applique

Elinor Dei Tos Pironti

  • Solubility testing was used to characterize original adhesive for metallic paper threads on a Japanese garment
  • Urushi was used to consolidate metallic threads


#31 Under Close Observation: A pilot study monitoring change in objects’ conditions

Ashley Freeman

  • Summarizing current research and findings of the Managing Collections Environment Initiative at the Getty
  • Comparing different methods of monitoring conditions of objects including photographic documentation (DSLR, point and shoot camera, iPhone), caliper measurements to monitor cracks, acoustic emissions
  • 14 objects representative of materials found in institutional collections used for case study; exposed to humidity cycling

45th Annual Meeting – Unique Objects/Unique Treatment, Weds. May 31, 2017, “Nanocellulose films: properties, development and new applications for translucent and transparent artworks and documents,” presented by Remy Dreyfuss-Deseigne

Remy Dreyfuss-Deseigne described research related to mending methods for transparent materials using nanocellulose films. His research has been carried out with several institutional partners, at the National Library of France (BnF, Paris, France), Research Center for Conservation (CRC, Paris, France), French Museum of Cinema,  and during his 2015-2016 NEA fellowship in paper conservation at the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA, Philadelphia, PA).

Remy opened with some images of difficult structural problems: torn gelatin windows, animation cells, and architectural drawings on tracing paper. He then introduced nanocellulose, explaining how it is made, what its properties are, and its potential for use in conservation.

His work focuses on one kind of nanocellulose, microfibrillated cellulose (abbreviated MFC).  Nanocellulose materials are produced for a variety of uses in electronics and biotech, and are being researched and manufactured by several universities including in Grenoble, France  and at the University of Maine.

Nanocellulose is produced by mechanically shearing wood to rip apart the fibers until they are nano in scale.  Cotton, spruce and birch can all be used as sources for nanocellulose. The amorphous parts of the remaining cellulose structure are treated with acid in order to dissolve them, leaving highly crystalline fibrils.   There is a lot of ongoing research into the production of nanocellulose in the nanotechnology, renewable materials, and sustainable engineering fields.

Nanocellulose fibrils vs. crystals, image from:


For conservation applications, Remy compared the properties of nanocellulose films to  lightweight Japanese papers like gampi and kozo used to mend tears on translucent artworks. Nanocellulose is supplied as a gel that can be cast out by pouring into a petri dish and evaporating out the water, creating films that vary proportionally in thickness related to concentration. Remy’s research investigates its properties in combination with different adhesives, and its response to artificial aging tests (light, temperature and humidity) as well as mechanical strength tests.

He found that the nanocellulose films were thinner than papers but quite strong (nearly as strong as Gampi), and mostly behaved like cellulose, a good thing for their use as a paper conservation material. Most importantly, mends made with the thin films are practically invisible in regular and transmitted light. These mends were demonstrated on translucent slides with tears from the collection of the  French Museum of Cinema (impressive work!).  Ongoing testing will include further analysis of the material, e.g. pH and mechanical strength measurements and fungal resistance tests.

While this was the first time I had heard about nanocellulose it has many potential uses, and not just for mending translucent materials. As a biomaterial derived from renewable forestry resources, nanocellulose has gotten a lot of attention over the past five years for its potential in industrial applications. Given its high ratio of strength to weight it has great potential for use in fill materials of all types, and has already found applications in industrial 3D printing as a substitute for carbon fibers in composites.  Since it is compatible with many adhesives, it may find wide-ranging applications in conservation. I am looking forward to hearing more about Remy’s ongoing research and thank him for the excellent introduction to an interesting material. You can learn more about Remy’s work at his website.

45th Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials Session, May 31, “Uncovering Irving Penn’s Chemical Treatment Techniques” by Laura Panadero

In this talk, Laura Panadero detailed the research she conducted in order to learn more about the chemical treatments performed on Irving Penn’s Nudes series. Shot and printed by Penn between 1949-50, the Nudes series depicts over one hundred images of female nudes that more recently, have garnered increased visibility. For example, they were exhibited in a solo show, entitled, Earthly Bodies: Irving Penn’s Nudes, 1949-50, in 2002, and are currently on display in the extensive retrospective, the Irving Penn: Centennial, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Nudes have long since been a topic of interest as the body shapes in this series deviates heavily from those of the models whom Penn frequently photographed for Vogue. However, Laura was most interested in the visual differences between the nudes and the fashion works that Penn produced and decided for this exploration to be the focus of her thesis project for her studies at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts Conservation Center, from which she graduated this May.

Since there were no notes written by Penn explaining his process for the Nudes, Laura consulted two documents for her research. In an early interview with Maria Morris Hambourg, Irving Penn attributes the visual distinctness of his Nudes series from his other photographs to chemical treatment. Laura also conducted her own interview with Robert Fresón, the man who worked with Penn to print the Nudes, to gather information about the process. The goals of Laura’s research included finding evidence for chemical treatment on the photographs, uncovering the techniques of the treatment, and understanding the significance of the treatment as it related to the series’ concept and materiality, as well as to Penn’s work as an artist.

Laura began by addressing the visual evidence for chemical treatment that she saw on the Nudes. First, they consist of a split tonality, in which the minimum density and mid density areas exhibit a pink or orange tone, whereas the maximum density and shadow regions had more of a neutral or cool tone. Secondly, the photographic image displayed a mottled or uneven effect at the edges of the model’s body, which, when compared with the crisp and clean negative, hinted at some alterations at the printing stage. Thirdly, there were variations between different versions of the same image, including variations in density.

The darkroom experiments that Laura performed were crucial to her process and research. In the interview with Penn that Hambourg wrote about, Penn described that his prints were affected by a bleach and redevelopment treatment. This process involved taking your developed photograph, bleaching out the metallic silver so that it oxidized into colorless silver salts, and then redeveloping the print a second time. Both Irving Penn and Robert Fresón attest to a bleach and redevelopment treatment, explaining that Penn began with a slightly overdeveloped print, and then used the chemical process to work with the excess image density and give the prints their mottled effects. However, Penn described the bleaching agents as potassium ferrocyanide and potassium permanganate solutions, while Fresón described it as potassium dichromate.

Laura replicated the two methods to see which produced images more closely resembling those of Penn. She did these experiments at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Department of Photograph Conservation’s darkroom and produced interesting results. She found that when using the method described by Fresón, the print had lost density in the maximum density areas and it produced a softly mottled appearance, similar to that of the Nudes, and that the potassium dichromate bleaching agent was more likely to be the one that Penn used when bleaching his prints to achieve the desired aesthetic look. The potassium ferrocyanide and potassium permanganate solutions, she found, intentionally disproportionally affected the maximum density areas and contrastingly, in the Nudes, the maximum density areas seem to be the least affected by the chemical treatment.

XRF analysis was done on the Nudes and on Laura’s samples by Andrea Schlather, Scientific Research Fellow at the Met, and it was found that the XRF detected traces of chromium in the samples that were treated with the potassium dichromate bleach. However, there was no chromium or non-silver material detected in the Nudes themselves; XRF indicated only silver particles over a baryta layer. Does this suggest that the visual congruity between Fresón’s process and the experiments performed by Laura on the samples is just a coincidence? Laura wondered if the chromium could be washed away from the sample to only keep the silver salts, but this question was not part of the active experimentation. She also pointed out that the XRF analysis couldn’t tell us anything more than the elemental composition of the silver gelatin print, and couldn’t give any information about the change in quantity or oxidation state of the silver, so this is important to note for future monitoring.

She recognizes that there are factors that could not have been accounted for, such as the paper Penn was using, nor the developing chemistry, and that the printers may have been contaminating bleach baths, or otherwise mixing chemistry during the process in a way that would alter the effects. Although the project has not returned any definitive results, the research is ongoing and Laura would like to conduct more tests and also employ analysis such as color measurements for continual monitoring. Ultimately, Laura’s talk is a reminder that investigating an artist’s process is crucial to understanding his or her workflow and thought process. She concluded that from the interview and from scholarly research, it was evident that Irving Penn was very interested in the materiality and darkroom processing of the photograph and this interest has clearly and physically manifested in a set of beautiful and unique photographs.