42nd Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials Session, May 30, “Preserving Ernest Hemingway’s Photograph Albums and Scrapbooks at the Finca Vigía,” by Monique Fischer and M. P. Bogan

Finca Vigía, Ernest Hemingway’s Cuban home from 1939 to 1960, is open to the public and situated at the top of a windy hill with tropical conditions and occasional hurricanes. It holds not only much of the original furnishing from the time of Hemingway’s residence, but also a large part of Hemingway’s personal library and archive, including manuscripts, letters, over 3000 photographs, scrapbooks, photograph albums, art collections, maps and a 9000 volume library.
Preservation at the Finca Vigía is a balancing act. For instance, the staff tries to mitigate some of the heat and humidity by closing doors and blinds, but this disappoints people who have made the pilgrimage to Hemingway’s house, only to find they cannot look inside. The current director of the house wants to “preserve the soul of Hemingway,” presenting the house as much as possible as if Hemingway might still be living there. This means that many intermediary measures for protecting the objects, such as removing the objects altogether from their environment, are often not options.
NEDCC (the Northeast Document Conservation Center) has been working with Finca Vigía for over ten years. They began with a preservation assessment, followed by a condition assessment of the book and paper materials. Conservators from NEDCC visit Cuba for one week every six months. They can bring only the materials they will use—no extra—so treatment and rehousing need to be carefully estimated and planned. The NEDCC’s role in this partnership is to provide training and advice.
Finca Vigía’s paper conservator, Néstor Álvarez Gárciga, carries out treatment, with the assistance of interns and conservation assistants. The conservation space is two small rooms, one under the kitchen. Electricity can be shut off without warning, and running water can be in short supply.
Once M.P. Bogan had laid out the context and obstacles of conservation at Finca Vigia, Monique Fischer then described individual treatments for four volumes surrounding Hemingway’s 1954 Nobel Prize for Old Man and the Sea and the subsequent movie production. She first addressed the treatment of a storyboard book for the movie the Old Man and the Sea. It is a volume of diazotypes with gouache hand-coloring. Her research found that storyboard books were sometimes distributed as thank you presents to individuals involved in the making of films, but both the extent of the hand-coloring and her attempts to find similar albums suggest that this may have been a unique gift to Hemingway. There was mold-bloom visible on the volume’s binder, and the gouache was found to be very water soluble. In this treatment there was a delicate balance between caring for the physical stability of the materials and keeping the book as close to its original state as possible. In the end, the binder and the diazotypes were surface cleaned. The curator made the “uncomfortable decision” to allow the conservator to remove the diazotypes to storage, digitize them and place copies in the book in their place. (See the following day’s presentation on environmental concerns for the exhibition of diazotypes).
The next album discussed was the photograph album Homenaje Nacional (national tribute), which is on permanent display. The photos are spot-adhered onto pages that are held together in a post-bound album. The album was treated through removing the photos, washing, digitizing, reassembling with new screw posts, and will be put back on permanent display. Treatment was complicated by the lack of both a consistent source of pure running water and the amount of blotter that a typical U.S. conservator might go through in washing a volume. While the Finca Vigía may lack pure running water and a sink in the conservation lab, it has plenty of moisture in the air, and Néstor Álvarez Gárciga used the water gathered by the dehumidifiers, working in a tray outside, where the light was good. Néstor Álvarez Gárciga also used the star of this year’s Book and Paper Group Tips Session—Tek-wipe—as an absorbent and washable alternative to blotter.
For the volume of congratulatory telegrams, a different approach was taken, as the fragile telegrams were considered the most important original part of the album. The album was disassembled, removing the telegrams and the paste downs, and reassembled onto Permalife paper. The album was then placed into a 3-flap wrapper.
The most complicated treatment of the four was the Recuerdo 1956, also known as the fishnet album, after the fishnet wrapped around its cover. It was made by Hemingway’s wife Mary Welsh, and included the full gamut of album problems, such as colored pages, detaching pages, and newspaper clippings, photographs and even some film strips, many of which were attached with rubber cement and tape. The items were removed and the adhesive locally reduced as much as possible with acetone and ethanol. The pages were all washed and guarded with toned Japanese paper and then the items spot adhered in their original places. During conservation the volume was also digitized. One unusual feature of the album was its inclusion of film strips. These were removed from the cardboard mounts, and Néstor Álvarez Gárciga used the film sprockets as places to put Mylar clips so that the film strips can now be picked up and properly viewed with transmitted light without touching the film itself.
This talk presented the difficult balance between caring for the items as physical objects and allowing the public a glimpse into Hemingway’s home life and the items that surrounded him. Néstor Álvarez Gárciga and the NEDCC team have shown what can be achieved even in the face of formidable obstacles.

42nd Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials Session, May 30, "Digitization as a tool for preventive conservation and a key role for sustainability” by Jasmine Chemali

Jasmine Chemali presented us, in a very pleasing way, the outcome of an ambitious conservation project oriented to social sustainability that was developed in Lebanon, a country with huge cultural challenges, for its society has been depleted by armed conflicts and political instability and lacks of the political frame necessary for the preservation of its heritage and the spreading of knowledge.
By using historical and unique imagery from Beirut, Jasmine showed examples of the vast documentary heritage of Lebanon, thus highlighting its relevance as part of the country’s collective memory. Because of the significance and the historical and documentary nature of those collections, these specialists pitched a pilot scheme whose conservation lines of action implicated photographies, engravings, newspapers and drawings from the period between 1840 and 1950, looking forward to achieve their social recognition in short and mid-term.
Funded by The MEPPI and MOHO, for this project there were chosen photographic materials from the Bonfils section of the Fouad Debbas Collection correspondent to the pre-industrial period, and an strategic conservation plan was designed and performed accordingly. But the basic activities of cataloguing, indexing and preservation of these photographic materials were exceeded by the socially oriented strategy that included actions such as the reactivation and advertising of this cultural legacy for de Lebanese society despite of the local sociopolitical challenges.
Finally, I share with you the following strategies for social bonding of this project, which were extremely important because of their cultural influence:
-The digitization of the collection worked not only as the means for prevention and back up but also as a social strategy given the possibilities of access and the widespread advertising of the documentary material.
-The participation of the “Bonfils Family” was fundamental to activate the historical and social bonds that these images hold with the contemporary society.
-The educational activities designed for the Lebanese childhood encouraged the kids to approach their heritage and therefore assimilate it into their own history and culture.
-The use of social media for the advertising of the Collection. This month is taking place a great event related to the archives in Lebanon in which the Fouad Debbas Collection project is being presented, do not forget to visit the website: https://www.facebook.com/ModernHeritageObservatory?fref=nf.
-Broadcasting of TV spots as a mass media communication strategy, a very appropriate media strategy and of great positive impact for this project, specially in Lebanon, where a huge percentage of the population has access to this medium of communication.
All those who are interested in cultural and social sustainability by means of the conservation of the documentary heritage (graphic and photographic) must meet this project with no hesitation. For further information about this Collection I recommend clicking on: http://www.thefouaddebbascollection.com/And let’s share it!
Jasmine Chemali, nos presentó de forma muy amena, los resultados de un ambicioso proyecto de conservación en términos de sustentabilidad social desarrollado en Líbano, un país con grandes retos culturales pues tiene una sociedad mermada por escenarios bélicos e inestabilidad política y carece de un marco político en torno la conservación preservación de su patrimonio y la difusión del conocimiento.
A través de imágenes históricas únicas de Beirut, Jasmine nos mostró ejemplos del vasto patrimonio documental de Líbano, enfatizando su relevancia como parte de la memoria colectiva del país. Por la significación y el carácter histórico documental de dichas colecciones, especialistas plantearon un proyecto piloto basado en diversas acciones de conservación involucrando fotografías, grabados, periódicos y dibujos correspondientes al periodo entre 1840 y 1950, con miras a conseguir su reconocimiento social, a corto y mediano plazo.
Con apoyo económico del MEPPI y M.OHO, se eligieron ítems fotográficos pertenecientes al  Fondo Bonfil de la Colección Fouad Debbas, correspondiente con el periodo preindustrial, y se diseñó y ejecutó un plan estratégico de conservación. Se rebasaron las tareas básicas de inventario, catalogación y preservación de los materiales fotográficos, alcanzando niveles mayores de conservación social como es la reactivación y la visibilidad de este legado cultural de la sociedad de Líbano, a pesar de los retos políticos-sociales del país.
Finalmente les comparto las siguientes estrategias de vinculación social de este proyecto, que me llamaron mucho la atención por su impacto cultural:
-La digitalización de la colección sirvió no sólo como un recurso preventivo y de respaldo de la colección, sino como una estrategia social en función de las posibilidades de acceso y difusión del material documental.
-La participación de la “familia Bonfil” fue fundamental para activar los vínculos históricos y sociales de las imágenes con la sociedad actual.
-Actividades educativas con los niños de Líbano, quienes se acercaron a conocer su patrimonio documental, y por tanto,  lo incorporaron a su   historia y cultura.
-Redes de difusión de la colección empleando los medios de comunicación actual ofrecidos por la nueva tecnología de las redes sociales como Facebook.  En este mes de junio se lleva a cabo un gran evento relacionado con archivos en Líbano donde se presenta el proyecto de la Colección Fouad Debbas, así que no olviden visitar este sitio https://www.facebook.com/ModernHeritageObservatory?fref=nf
-Spots en programas de televisión, como una estrategia de difusión masiva de la colección. Esta es una estrategia mediática adecuada y de gran impacto positivo para este proyecto, sobretodo en Líbano donde la gran mayoría de la población tiene acceso a este medio de comunicación.
Para todos aquellos que estén interesados en el tema de la sustentabilidad cultural y social a través de la conservación del patrimonio documental (gráfico y fotográfico), sin duda alguna, deben conocer este proyecto! Para obtener más información de esta colección, les recomiendo acceder al link http://www.thefouaddebbascollection.com/. Compartámoslo!.

42nd Annual Meeting – Angels Project, June 1, California Historical Society

This year’s Angels Project took place at the California Historical Society (CHS), a non-profit organization founded in 1871 to celebrate California’s rich history. Textile conservator Meg Geiss-Mooney and photograph conservator Gawain Weaver led the group of about 25 enthusiastic volunteers and had our project and supplies ready to go early Sunday morning.
Prior to the AIC meeting, Gawain had surveyed the CHS collection for approximately 200 photograph albums that were in need of treatment and/or re-housing. We divided up into teams based on specialty and skill set, and went to work to assess, surface clean, stabilize, and box each album. The library was organized into stations to help with workflow and I joined the group that was examining each album to identify the photographic processes and provide recommendations for treatment. Not only was this a great way for me to put my photo conservation skills to the test, but as a native Californian, it was a pleasure to look through these beautiful albums featuring historic images of local monuments and people. Using a pre-made single page survey form, we denoted all necessary identification and condition information to help with the following treatment steps and for later catalogers at CHS.
Station two began treatment, and was set up to vacuum, brush, and clean with eraser crumbs the dirtiest album covers and pages. A special table of volunteers was armed with the proper PPE to tackle any possible mold. Next, a group of expert conservators were completing treatment steps such as re-attaching loose photographs, mending torn pages, and tape removal, as needed on a case-by-case basis. Finally, the albums were whisked away to be housed in new archival-quality boxes that were labeled and placed on a cart to return to storage.
At the end of the day, all albums were assessed and boxed, and many received significant treatment steps that will no doubt prolong the life of these valuable objects. For those albums that did not receive treatment, they can be flagged by priority and sent out to a private conservator in the future. As with Angels Projects that I’ve participated in in the past, I appreciated the opportunity to meet, learn from, and work with many new conservation professionals, and I was especially happy that this project allowed me to directly benefit the photographic collection through treatment and re-housing.
Many thanks to Meg, Gawain, Ruth Seyler, and the rest of the AIC staff for organizing this year’s project, and to the CHS staff for generously providing the volunteers with ample working space and supplies, a delicious lunch, and a bonus free annual membership to the Society!
For more images from this and previous Angels Projects, please visit the AIC Angels Projects Flickr page.

42nd Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials, May 31, “Technical Investigation of Environmental Concerns for the Exhibition of Diazotypes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” by Greta Glaser, Katie Sanderson, and Maggie Wessling

Francesca Woodman, Blueprint for a Temple (1980), diazo collage. Image courtesy metmuseum.org.
Francesca Woodman, Blueprint for a Temple (1980), diazo collage, 173 1/4 × 111 3/16 in. Image courtesy metmuseum.org.

Greta Glaser and Maggie Wessling presented on diazotype research that was conducted in the Photograph Conservation Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art between 1999-2012. One catalyst for this research was the 2012 display of Francesca Woodman’s Blueprint for a Temple, made up of 29 separate diazotype prints collaged together to form one image. The goal for research was to determine the best display and storage methods for the long-term preservation of diazotypes—generally through to be sensitive to deterioration caused by the environment.
As an overview of the process, Glaser described the nature of diazotypes as single layer direct positives often printed on paper supports of macerated cotton and purified wood pulp. The combination of diazo compounds with a phenol coupler and acid stabilizer produces the image, resulting in a range of possible colors, including the most common bluish-purple. Diazotypes were first marketed in the United States in the 1920s and could be used for photographic images as well as architectural drawings and other reproductions because of their ability to print with very little dimensional change from the original negative.
In order to make a thorough investigation of diazotypes and their response to the environmental, Glaser and Wessling set up light and relative humidity experiments on vintage as well as freshly processed sample papers, and Sanderson collected data on the Woodman print during installation. All experiments were calculated for roughly six months of display. Their combined spectrophotometer and microfade testing analysis produced the following summarized results:

  • High humidity and light = yellowing and fading (reddening)
  • All environments at or below 50% RH = same result
  • In the dark, yellowing still occurs, but fading does not = greenish cast
  • The rate of color change accelerates with age
  • After 20 minutes of testing, samples fade between blue wool 2-3 (equivalent to approximately 1.2 million lux hours of exposure to cause noticeable fading)

Wessling summarized their conclusions from the study and highlighted the fact that environmental conditions were not controlled during analysis, which may have an affect on the data. Ultimately, diazotypes will fade with light exposure and will become yellowed in the dark, but if we can reduce the relative humidity, especially during display, the effects of exhibition will do less to alter the permanence of these photographs.

42nd Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials Session, May 31, “Comparative Study of Platinum Prints in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Collection and the Early 20th Century Kodak Platinum Print Samples” by Saori Kawasumi Lewis.

Ms. Kawasumi Lewis presented research conducted at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston during her third year internship. This project was joint with the National Gallery of Art’s Platinum/Palladium initiative. She was happy to close the conference with this talk, as it could serve as a teaser for the upcoming Platinum/Palladium Symposium.
Ms. Kawasumi Lewis had the unique opportunity to compare platinum prints in the MFAH collection to a platinum print sample set produced by Kodak c.1902-1910, owned by a private collector. The Kodak sample set is a great resource for this study because it was commercially produced and each product has been identified on the object. She hoped that characterizing these known samples would help identify unknowns, particularly artwork in the museum’s collection. To test this, she compared the Kodak sample set to a small group of  prints in the MFAH collection. She used a variety of analytical techniques to narrow down the possibilities, finally resulting in a close match with one print in the collection: Lucille Tomajon, by Gertrude Käsebier.
Ms. Kawasumi Lewis presented this research in a systematic approach, showing us how each analytical method helped narrow down the field of possible matches. Each step ruled out some of the sample set and the MFAH group.
To begin, she led us through a bit of the chemistry of platinum printing, which is a semi-printing out process. Significant to the research, she detailed that an artist could add mercury in either of two distinct steps – sensitizer or developer. For greater effect, mercury could be added in both steps. Starting in the 1880s, mercury was added to commercially available papers. Palladium paper and platinum/palladium mixtures were also available.
Ms. Kawasumi Lewis described the analytical steps that helped her find affinities between the sample set and photographs in the collection. Comparison included: date, thickness, sheen, texture, color, and elemental composition. Ten platinum prints by Clarence White, Gertrude Käsebier, Fredrick Evans and others were chosen from the MFAH’s collection of pictorialist photographs as a comparison group.
First, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) was used to determine the elemental composition of the prints. Readings were collected from Dmax and Dmin areas using a Bruker handheld Tracer, and an Artex XRF unit. XRF data was analyzed using the counts from the instrument, which were normalized according to the Rh Kα line. In addition to platinum, mercury, palladium and lead were found in the prints. Some trends were identified: Mercury was abundant, though variable, so this required more investigation; palladium was present in several of the Kodak samples, but only one of the MFAH prints. This narrowed down the field a bit, ruling out the Kodak samples with palladium.
In order to determine if mercury variability was due to differences in the time of addition (sensitizer or developer), Ms. Kawasumi Lewis created mockups using a variety of methods described in the literature. She found that her mercury sensitized sample was most similar to the Kodak sample prints and most of the MFAH platinum prints. Not surprisingly mercury levels were highest in prints that had been sensitized and developed with mercury. This narrowed down the group a bit more by ruling out MFAH prints with high levels of mercury.
Next, surface texture was analyzed using Paul Messier’s texture scope and experimental design. This step helped to narrow down the list further by comparing the descriptions of surface (i.e. smooth, rough), to the MFAH prints. This further reduced the possibilities, so the field of possible matches was limited to only a few prints.
As the final step, Ms. Lewis used color to narrow down her final group of prints using a spectrophotometer to quantify red and yellow saturation. (As a note of caution, she mentioned that the color of platinum can be effected by more than just choice of paper. Temperature during processing, ageing and other factors can change the color of prints.) This narrowed her group down to just the Käsebier and the sample for Kodak Etching Sepia Smooth paper. This is strong evidence that Käsebier used this paper to create the print because the prints are alike in elemental composition, texture and color.
More research could help definitively characterize the paper Käsebier used for this print, but Ms. Kawasumi Lewis’ work gives us a good indication of the materials used by the artist.

42nd Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials Session, May 31, “Technical Research on The Diane Arbus Archive” by Janka Krizanova

Janka Krizanova’s fascinating talk on her work with the Diane Arbus Archives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City provided an overview of the first eight months of her two-year-long research scholarship. The Diane Arbus Archives contains 600 vintage prints, 800 work prints, 6,200 rolls of film, 6,500 contact sheets, and the artist’s library and equipment. Krizanova’s goals for the project are to characterize the materials in the archive, assess the stability of materials in the collection, create a long term plan for the preservation of the archives, and create guidelines for the exhibition of materials in the collection.
In her research, Krizanova examined:
• technical and historical literature on 20th century photography
• manuals and books of samples of photographic papers issued by the industry (in addition to Paul Messier’s Historic Photographic Papers Collection)
• other characterization studies, such as that on the Thomas Walther Collection at the Museum of Modern Art
Krizanova began her study by conducting a survey of the collection. She found that Arbus’ body of contact prints had the widest variety of photographic processes and the most varied condition states. Arbus worked primarily with silver gelatin prints, but also utilized the stabilization process for contact sheets and temporary proofs, as these prints were much faster to process than silver gelatin prints. However, they were not designed to be long lasting.

An image from Krizanova’s talk: an advertisement for “The Kodak Ektamatic 214 Processor”. The image was scanned from a postcard, purchased by Krizanova from: http://www.delcampe.net/page/item/id,0224814815,language,E.html

Stabilization prints are made by using a special photographic paper with an incorporated developer. Arbus used Kodak Ektamatic Paper (boxes of which are housed in the archives). A negative in an enlarger is used to expose the paper, which is then fed into the processer. It first passes through an alkali bath, which activates the developer in the paper. The paper then moves directly into an acidic stabilization solution, which complexes the unexposed silver. This silver is “stabilized”, but not fixed. The whole process is over in a matter of seconds. In addition to describing this photographic process, Krizanova discussed the intriguing condition issues seen in the collection, including spotting, darkening, lightening caused by applied pressure, and discoloration even when stored in an ambient room environment. Krizanova is working on establishing a set of terms to describe the condition issues presented.
The technical characterization of some of the silver gelatin and stabilization prints will involve:
• Measuring paper thickness
• Documenting printing on the verso
• Microscopic documentation of the surface texture
• XRF in the D-max and D-min areas
• UV examination
• Paper fiber sampling
• Spectrophotometric measurements
• Microfadometer readings
Krisanova has begun the first four categories of characterization. I really look forward to hearing the results of her work and her characterizations of the interesting and complicated condition issues seen in the stabilization prints.
Here are two excellent questions asked (and answered) at the end, loosely paraphrased:
Q: Will you fix and wash the stabilization prints?
A: No, they are to be preserved as is.
Q: Would you consider freezing the stabilization prints in an attempt to preserve them?
A: No one is doing that right now, as far as anyone knows. Currently, it is not an option for us, but we will certainly address this question again later in the study.

42nd Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials, May 31, "László Moholy-Nagy: Characterization of his Photographic Work at the Art Institute of Chicago and his Working Practices" by Mirasol Estrada

Mirasol Estrada, the Andrew W. Mellow Fellow in Photograph Conservation at the Art Institute of Chicago, studied the work of László Moholy-Nagy in the museum’s collection for two years. Her talk was a comprehensive look at the photographer’s working practices as well as the specific characteristics of his photographs in the collection at the Art Institute of Chicago. Ms. Estrada was drawn to the work of Moholy-Nagy because of the experimental nature of his working practices, and his philosophy of photography.
Moholy-Nagy always thought of himself as a painter but he also produced drawings, film and photographs. He came to Chicago in 1937 to direct the New Bauhaus, which then became the Institute of Design. He was an influential teacher, including teaching his philosophy about the practice of photography, published in his book “Vision in Motion”. This philosophy was summarized very nicely by Mirasol, who described Moholy-Nagy’s idea that there are eight varieties of seeing.
The first variety of seeing is “Abstract”, which includes photograms, which are direct records of shapes and shadows. The second is “Exact”, which is straight-forward camera photography. The next is “Rapid”, which shows motion, followed by “Slow”, his description for long exposures. “Intensified” was using chemical manipulation such as solarization. “Penetrative” described x-rays, “Simultaneous” was the term for his photomontages, and lastly, “Distorted” was the term for mechanical or chemical manipulation of a print or negative. This was an interesting summary of Moholy-Nagy’s ideas about the variety of seeing correlated to his photographic method – a good window into the photographer’s thinking process and the categorization of his themes.
Ms. Estrada then took us through the characterization, both physical and analytical, of the thirty-nine photographs in the Art Institute’s collection. She grouped the prints physically by their size, tonal range, surface texture, finishing (coatings) and thickness. These groupings were displayed in a very clear, easy to read chart detailing the characteristics, including thumbnail photos of each object overall and in detail to show tone, surface texture, etc. Analytical data for each object was also included (XRF, FTIR) to complement her visual observations. Using her chart, one could compare the date clearly and easily, looking at tone, texture, and subject of the image.
A few interesting observations that were made following the study were that Moholy-Nagy most likely did not process his own photographs – he has been known to have explained that he was allergic to the development chemicals. This may explain the diverse body of work and materials choices, since his students, wife, and daughter may all have been a part of the processing of his artwork. Moholy-Nagy used many different types of paper and other materials, especially noticeable on his move from Europe to the US, reflecting the marketplace at each time and place. Ms. Estrada offers that it was perhaps more important for the artist to express his ideas, his complex categories of “varieties of seeing”, in the Bauhaus tradition, instead of focusing on the fabrication of his artwork.

Almost all the Way to Timbuktu: A Photograph Conservation Workshop and Re-housing Project in Mali

Almost all the Way to Timbuktu:

A Photograph Conservation Workshop and Re-housing Project in Mali

by Heida Q.S. Shoemaker

1. 1-Certificatesgroup

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.

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 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.

3. 3a-bathing1 4.  3b-Heida9

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.
5.  4a-Albumenmarche 6. 4b-Contempmarche
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.
7. 5a-inpainting1  8. 5b-inpainting2
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.
9.6a-Bintou Diarra  10. 6b-Zoumana Sidibe
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.
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Re-housing project for the negatives of Malick Sidibé

13. 8a-Sidibedancing 14. 8b-SidibeJeunehomme
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.

15.  9a-Sidibewithnegs  16. 9b-Sidibe_shelf

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.

17. 10-Sidebe_Heida_cleaningcloseup

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.

18. 11-Haidara mss

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

The Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation for the 2012 Carolyn Horton Grant, which was used for my preliminary trip to Mali for research and making connections, in preparation for the workshop and re-housing project.

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.

International Symposium -The Non-Invasive Analysis of Painted Surfaces: Scientific Impact and Conservation Practice

Paint Analysis 1

Smithsonian American Art Museum & National Portrait Gallery
McEvoy Auditorium | 8th and G Streets NW | Washington DC, 20001
February 20 – 21, 2014
This two-day international symposium will focus on recent advances in technology and instrumentation for the analysis of painted surfaces. You can download an announcement flyer here: Non-Invasive Analysis of Painted Surfaces Announcement
While non-destructive and micro-destructive analytical methods are often essential for the study and understanding of paintings, recent developments in portable and non-invasive instrumentation have led to growing interest in the applicability of techniques to the study of paintings. Further, as new instrumentation becomes commercially available and more affordable, conservators and scientists are able to use non-invasive techniques for monitoring and analysis in new ways.
A particular focus of the conference will be the interpretation of analytical results from portable instrumentation including colorimetry, imaging and X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy. The format of the conference will include papers and panel discussions.
Registration for this conference is required.
A schedule of speakers and registration instructions are listed under the current courses section on AIC’s site.

Presented in partnership with the Lunder Conservation Center, ICOM-CC Paintings Working Group, ICOM-CC Scientific Research Working Group, and FAIC.
Image: Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Chief Conservator, Tiarna Doherty, studies x-radiographs of Constantino Brumidi’s study for the Rotunda of the Capitol Building. (Photography by Conor Doherty)

News from the Foundation of AIC

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 Brown- Stout 2013

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!

You can help to support young conservators like Heather by donating to the FAIC George Stout Memorial Fund!