42nd Annual Meeting – Collection Care Session, May 29, “The Ossabaw Island Workshops – Preventive Conservation Training in a Real Life Setting” by David Bayne

Since 2010, there have been four Preventive Conservation workshops on Ossabaw Island, three of which have been generously funded by FAIC. These workshops have provided a unique training experience for both emerging conservation professionals and pre-program students.
Background and History of the Island
Ossabaw Island is a 26,000-acre remote barrier island off the coast of Savannah, Georgia. It has five residents, and may only be accessed by private boat. It is mostly wilderness, but there are some very interesting historic buildings, including some slave cabins of tabby construction (a technique using oyster shells, sand, and water as the mortar ingredients), the Club House (c. 1885) – where lectures take place and participants are housed, and the Torrey-West House or the “Main House” – where the actual work is carried out.
Dr. and Mrs. Torrey bought the island in 1924 and had a house built there to be their family’s winter home to escape the harsh winters of their native Michigan. The house was completed in 1926, and the Torreys spent four months (January – April) there each year afterward. The current owner of the house is Mrs. Eleanor “Sandy” Torrey West, who is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Torrey and is currently 101 years old.
In 1961, Mrs. West and her husband started an artist colony, where writers, artists, and composers could come stay in the Wests’ home and be inspired by the island’s natural beauty and tranquility. In the 1970s, this evolved into the Genesis Project, where college students and less-established artists came to work on various projects. The Genesis participants were more self-sufficient and built settlements, cooking/dining/washing facilities, and a pottery kiln at an area of the island called “Middle Place.”
With her money running out, Mrs. West decided to sell the island to the state of Georgia in 1978, but she had several stipulations. She wanted the island to remain wild and continue to be a place of inspiration, creativity, and discovery, so the state was not allowed to build a causeway or start a ferry service to the island. They also had to continue encouraging arts and sciences projects/research and allow her to continue living in her house on the island until her death.
The Workshop
The original goals of the workshop were to use the Main House to:
1. Train housekeepers working in historic houses.
2. Professionalize preventive conservation.
3. Expose professional and emerging conservators to a nascent historic house and provide an opportunity for them to take part in its institutionalization.

The living room in the Main House on Ossabaw Island, GA.
The living room in the Main House on Ossabaw Island, GA.

The workshop provides a unique opportunity for participants to learn about preventive conservation and housekeeping practices for a historic house.  The things that make this program so unique are that the house…

  • is still a home in which the current owner is a 101-year-old woman who resides there full-time.
  • is on a remote island, and supplies must be brought out by chartered boat from the mainland.
  • suffers from MANY problems, such as:
    • The environment of the island (heat, humidity, salty ocean air, etc.)
      • Mold and mildew
      • Rotting wood
      • Rusting metal
    • Pests
      • Extensive damage to house, furniture, pillows/cushions, carpets/rugs, books, taxidermy, etc by termites, carpet beetles, silverfish, rodents, and other pests.
    • General neglect
      • As Mrs. West became older, she could not take care of the house by herself, and she could not afford to pay for the amount of repairs and housekeeping that the house required.
    • Arsenic
      • Exotic game heads (a lioness, black rhino, water buffalo, and a few kinds of antelope) have always been a major component of the living room décor, even appearing in the original architect drawings for the house.  These may have been shot by Dr. Torrey himself on a safari hunting trip to Africa.  All of them were treated with an arsenic-based pesticide.  Testing of the heads found that some had arsenic content that was off the charts (>160 ppb).

Though current housekeepers in historic houses were the original target audience, most of the people who have completed the workshop have been pre-program conservation students. A house with such a rich and fascinating history, but so many conservation issues, provides a lot of opportunities for pre-programmers to learn and gain hands-on experience. That is probably the workshop’s greatest achievement: exposing potential conservation students to collections care and preventive conservation.
I was lucky enough to have been one of the participants in the 2013 season. It was not glamorous. We worked hard and got dirty, crawling around on the floors and under cobwebbed furniture, vacuuming, dusting, moving heavy wooden furniture, and examining sticky traps that had caught all sorts of disgusting, multi-legged creatures. Through all of this, we got exposure to integrated pest management (IPM) and the care of furniture, paintings, textiles, books, and works of art on paper. It could be gross, but it was fun and exciting, too. As David said in his presentation, “Everything is an adventure on Ossabaw.”
Another major achievement of the workshop has been in helping emerging conservation professionals by providing third-year students or recent graduates the opportunity to be instructors. In 2013, that included two former WUDPAC students, Stephanie Hulman (paintings) and Emily Schuetz Stryker (textiles). These young professionals play an essential role because they have knowledge of the most recent techniques and advancements in the field and are better able to answer pre-program students’ questions about portfolios and conservation school.

2013 Team - Ossabaw Island Preventive Conservation Workshop
2013 Team – Ossabaw Island Preventive Conservation Workshop

Unfortunately, Emily Schuetz Stryker died suddenly and unexpectedly earlier this year. She was a great instructor, a wonderful person, and the most talented knitter that I have ever met. The Ossabaw workshop would not have been the same without her sense of humor and her wonderful laugh.
RIP Emily Schuetz Stryker (1987 – 2014)

42nd Annual Meeting- General Session, May 30, "Using Webinars to Tackle Conservation Misinformation in Ontario's Community Museums" by Fiona Graham

“Conservation is an elusive practice just outside of budgetary reality.”  Fiona Graham, a conservation consultant in Kingston, Ontario, received this comment in a survey filled out by a small museum in Ontario, and it made her take notice.  Museums believing that conservation only equates to (costly) treatment leaves no room for implementing best practices, taking vital preventive measures, and leads to a general misunderstanding of the basic principles of preservation.  Graham set out to change the perceptions of these museums and chose webinars as her format.
Who: Ontario’s Community Museums–roughly 300 institutions that range in size but are not art galleries, private collections, or national museums.  Only 14 have in-house conservators (in one case, 9 museums share one conservator!).  The collection care for the remaining 286 falls into the hands of non-conservators.
Why: 185 of those Ontario Community Museums receive operating grants from the Ministry’s Museum Unit to survive economically.  In order to receive these grants, the museums must meet regulatory requirements, including a conservation standard.  To assess the state of conservation and preservation in the museums, a questionnaire was distributed to the museums, and Graham and her team discovered some startling misunderstandings.  For example, many respondents believed that light damage was caused only by UV, that pesticides are still needed, and that cold temperatures are always bad for collections.  (Since they are in colder climates, it’s especially disconcerting to think of the expenses paid to raise temperatures in these museums.)
What was done:  To debunk misunderstandings at as many of the museums as possible, the Ministry funded two 1.5 hour long webinars.  The webinar format was chosen because it can reach a targeted audience, has wide accessibility and the ability to be interactive, is inexpensive to produce, and has been successful through the Ontario Museums Association (an organization that provides training in museum work).  After institutions answered preliminary questions on their registration forms, webinars were conducted as powerpoint presentations narrated live by a conservator using the icohere platform.  The first webinar, Conservation 2.0, was a “good practice” refresher course meant for non-conservators, while the second, Climate Control: what do you really need?, focused on misinformation hot spots.  Participants used their own computers and sent questions to a moderator who passed them to the conservator to answer.  The Ontario Museum Association posted the slide deck and audio to their website after the webinars ended.
More details?  The prep questions: Define what conservation means in the context of your museums? What question about conservation would you like answered in this webinar? What do you think relative humidity and temp levels should be in your museum’s collection areas? Do you monitor RH and/or T; do you actively control RH? (The webinars included a disclaimer that “this webinar is not a substitute for proper training.”)
Results:  The webinars were open to all, not just the Ministry-funded institutions, and 55 organizations participated during the live broadcasts.  The prep questions from the registration forms informed the content of the webinars.  There was positive feedback overall, with requests for more programs.  The negative feedback regarded the amount of detailed information on conservation.  Graham recommends being very clear on expectations.  The webinar team will be able to gauge the long-term results of the refresher courses during the next audit in 2018.
(Author’s comments: This talk was part of the general session on Engaging Communities in Collections Care.  The U.S. Heritage Preservation organization also offers webinars to help smaller institutions with collections care.  Their webinars are part of their Connecting to Collections (C2C) online community.  Past programs are available in their archives.)

“42nd Annual Meeting,” Collections Care Speciality session, May 29th, 2014, "Simple Method for Monitoring Dust Accumulation in Indoor Collections." Bill Wei

“Simple Method for Monitoring Dust Accumulation in Indoor Collections,” by Bill Wei was the first session in the Collections Care specialty section that was given on Thursday afternoon. As a museum technician in Preventive Conservation, dust is something I deal with on an almost daily basis. I thought that Bill’s talk could lend some valuable insight to my work, and I wasn’t wrong.  Bill Wei is a Senior Conservation Scientist at the Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, and in his session he presented on a simple and easily implemented way a museum could monitor how fast dust accumulates in an indoor collections space. He used the Museum de Gevangepoort and the Galerij Prins Willem V to demonstrate how the method.
The talk started off with a humorous introduction by Bill about views on dust in museum spaces. How for some people, museum professionals in particular, we can take a defensive stance on dust as if it implies we aren’t doing our jobs. For other individuals, dust adds an element of age that seems appropriate. He also mentioned that when the words “dusty museum” are googled the result is over 12,000 hits. Apparently more than just museum professionals see dust. Bill brought up the fact that dust is not only an aesthetic issue in museums, it can present chemical and health issues, and it can be costly and timely to remove. The two sites were then introduced, both of which house collections and are historic buildings. Construction was being done near the sites, and there was a concern about how much more dust accumulation this might cause, so they provided a good case study. Bill then introduced the question of how do you monitor dust?
Bill explained that dust on the surface of an object causes the light to bounce off in many different angles, as opposed to at the same angle, this makes a surface look matte. The resulting matte surface can then be considered to have lost gloss. This loss of gloss is something that can be measured using a glossmeter. The type of glossmeter used during this test was made by Sheen manufacturers. Bill was careful to point out that this test doesn’t measure how much dust you have, but how quickly it will accumulate. For this run of the test Bill used microscope glass slides, because they are cheap, reusable and glossy. The steps of the test are as follows:

  1. Using the glossmeter, measure a clean slide on a white background (copy paper is suitable. This should be the same background used throughout testing.)
  2. Put slides out at various locations you wish to test, remembering that the more slides you put out, the more work you will have to do. The slides should be placed in out of the way locations and staff should be told about them.
  3. After a predetermined amount of time (ex. one month), using the glossmeter measure the slide on the same background that you used in step 1.
  4. Clean the slide, and reuse, starting over at step 1.

The calculation that is then used to determine the rate of accumulation of dust over the time period is
Fraction change= (Dusty Slide after 1 month measurement – Clean Slide measurement)/ (Clean slide measurement)
Multiply that by 100 to get the percentage.
Bill explained that for every month that you take a glossmeter measurement, you add the value of the new measurement to the previous, since this is cumulative you will go over 100% at some point. You can then use these values and plot them in a graph over time.
If you wanted to test the dust samples, to find out where the dust was coming from and what it was made of, you could incorporate small conductive carbon stickers on the slides. Since this talk focused on the accumulation, not the source of the dust, this topic was not discussed in detail.
The placement of the slides was at one point done both vertically and horizontally surface. The vertical placement was done to mimic how much dust a painting might accumulate. However the vertically placed slides needed a much longer period of time to really show a loss in gloss, so it was not considered as necessary to run both types of slide placement.
When it came to analyzing the results of this test one thing that was found was the fact that the slide nearest the entry had the most dust. When it’s results were plotted onto a graph it produced the steepest slope over time. The more visitors a museum has, the more dust accumulation occurs. During peak tourist times there was a correlating peak in dust accumulation. One thing that was also noticed at the Museum de Gevangepoort was that during construction periods there was also a rise in dust accumulation. The results confirmed a long held thought that visitors are one of the main sources of dust in museums.
Bill then talked briefly about the chemistry of dust. When the dust was analyzed it was found to contain salts, iron, chalk, sand, clay and concrete among other things. When the makeup of the dust was looked at, it was possible to notice trends, for example during the winter months, February in particular there was a noticeable rise in the amount of salts found. Looking at what the dust was comprised of could allow scientists to identify the source of the dust.
Bill pointed out that the idea of too much dust isn’t really something that is definable in terms of science. It’s more defined by people’s perception of it. Different surface types can be just as dusty as one another, but if the dust is more visible on one type of surface, say plexi, the viewer read’s that surface as being less clean.
In discussing an action plan for dust monitoring Bill said you have to determine why you are doing it, i.e. to see if your new HVAC system is producing better results, and it’s important to define “too much dust” as a difference in gloss.
The questions asked after Bill’s presentation included, how many/ what angle should a gloss measurement be taken, to which Bill answered one measurement at 85 degrees was sufficient. He was also asked how often one should be taking measurements. He said that three to four weeks at most will produce good results, if you measure too soon a change won’t be seen.
Bill’s presentation was informative and lively. He presented a system for testing dust accumulation that could easily be implemented and followed. Thanks to Bill for a great talk!

42nd Annual Meeting – Opening Session, May 29, "The Long and Winding Road . . . Effective Advocacy, Fundraising, Networking, & Collaboration: Promoting Sustained Preventive Conservation Globally" by Debra Hess Norris

Across the globe, people are united in the desire to preserve tangible and intangible cultural heritage during catastrophic natural disasters, warfare, economic collapse, and other crises. Photographic collections, for example, are considered valuable to many cultures yet traditional photographic processes are disappearing. These collections are incalculable in number, many exist under poor conditions, and only a small percentage of them are inventoried systematically.
As professionals, we are accustomed to evaluating the condition of collections such as these and perform analytical research. While these pursuits are essential to the field, Debra Hess Norris reminds us that we must engage in intercultural dialogue, advocacy, and fundraising in order to effectively care for global cultural heritage.
We must not operate in isolation but rather promote education and training through hybrid and certificate programs. We must build public awareness and advocate for our cause through traditional media, social media, bilingual platforms, and crowd sourcing. We must pursue external support from organizations such as the Giving Pledge, Clinton Global Agenda, Gates Foundation, Luce Foundation, and US Ambassador Fund. The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works and FAIC should facilitate communication with the Institute of International Education, Department of State, and the Alliance for International Education and Cultural Exchange. In addition, AIC and FAIC must participate with ICCROM, ICOM, IIC, and UNESCO.
In closing, Norris reminds us that our projects – small and large, local and global – must be significant. She demonstrates this through a slideshow featuring John Lennon’s “Imagine” and images of photographic preservation projects from the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia.
About the Speaker
Debra Hess Norris earned an interdisciplinary B.A. degree in chemistry, art history, and studio art (1977) and M.S. degree in conservation (1980) from the University of Delaware. She has taught more than 100 workshops and seminars for conservators and allied professionals, has authored more than 35 articles and book chapters on the care and treatment of photographic materials, conservation education, ethics, and emergency response, and has collaborated on a series of Worldwide Photographic Preservation Projects with conservation professionals, organizations, and agencies.
Norris has served as chair of the AIC Ethics and Standards Committee (1990-1993), as president of the AIC (1993-1997), on the National Task Force for Emergency Response (1995-2000), and chair of Heritage Preservation (2003-2008). Currently residing as Chair of the Art Conservation Department at the University of Delaware and Professor of Photograph Conservation, she serves on the board of the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) and the Advisory Committee for the FAIC Hermitage Photograph Conservation Initiative.
Related Lectures/Webinars
ECPN Webinar: “Conservation Education, Outreach, and Advocacy” with Teresa Myers, Richard McCoy, and Sarah Barack. April 2013.
ECPN Webinar: “Self-Advocacy and Fundraising for Personal Research” with Debra Hess Norris. July 2012.

42nd Annual Meeting – Interest Session, May 31, “Syllabus Sharing Session”. Chaired by Emily Williams.

This was a pretty informal session but it was attended by a lot of really enthusiastic people. When I arrived in the room shortly before the start time the discussion had already started. By the time Emily Williams arrived (one issue with this session was a  lot of competing interests at the same time) only 5 minutes later, we were already well into it and she had her work cut out to herd the syllabus-sharing cats.
The initial premise of the meeting was for people either teaching or interested in teaching conservation to allied professions to get together and share their ideas for teaching. This arose from interest expressed at the last annual meeting. Emily Williams, who guided the session, explained that there wasn’t a big plan for it, they just wanted to provide a space for discussion and she wanted to distribute a short questionnaire to determine interests (see end of blog for the questionnaire questions; please send your answers to the questions listed to Emily Williams)
When I came in, the discussion centered on what kind of sharing was proposed. Some participants were unwilling to post their syllabi online for various reasons, although they’d be willing to share them with interested people via email. The group seemed pretty evenly split on this topic but even without general consensus on that topic there were a lot of interesting ideas and useful resources discussed.
One suggestion (sorry, everyone, I was having a hard enough time jotting down the ideas that were coming fast and furious and didn’t always note who said what) was a list of who was teaching what, where, and whether to undergrad or grad students, so that we could see who was teaching something akin to our interests and reach out to them. Another participant was interested in adding information on class size and whether the instruction was compensated. At this point, Emily came in and let us know that AIC’s e-editor Rachael Perkins Arenstein and she had just discussed setting up a Wiki page that could host just this sort of info, so that was great. This ‘Teaching to Allied Professionals’ wiki page would be akin to the existing Exhibiting Conservation .
Several participants offered useful resources; these came up at various points in the discussion but I’m going to lump them together here:

  • Chemistry in Art  is the first web-based community launched by the NSF-sponsored Chemistry Collaborations, Workshops and Community of Scholars program (cCWCS) . The CiA community is primarily designed for college-level instructors to network and to collaborate; and to access, share and develop curriculum materials.
  • GCI  has a lot of good teaching resources.  “The GCI is pleased to make available didactic resources that have been produced and used in the Institute’s courses, workshops and field training. These resources include outlines of teaching sessions, bibliographies, exercises, case studies, and technical notes that can be downloaded and used by conservation educators and students in the classroom and by professionals for informal, personal learning according to the terms described below.” GCI puts everything up under a Creative Commons License. Kathleen Dardes mentioned that she was particularly interested in getting feedback on this resource.
  • NEDCC also has resources available freely.
  • UCL has a very detailed online syllabus for their Conservation for Archaeologists course:
  • Renee Stein and Katherine Etre at the Carlos Museum have worked with science teachers to develop a resource for high school science labs based on art conservation. Carlos.emory.edu/science-art-conservation

There was some discussion of how to write a syllabus; Emily put forward the view that we should think of a syllabus as a contract between the student and instructor. Some felt that this might lead to a voluminous syllabus and suggested adding a generic paragraph that everything is subject to change. There was general agreement that it was important to communicate fully with students to understand their expectations and to explain your expectations. List outcomes and rubrics (this was unfamiliar use of rubric for me so I turned to Wikipedia for explication: “In education terminology, scoring rubric means “a standard of performance for a defined population”.” Live and learn). The students need to understand that taking one course will not transform them into conservators.   Instructors in a university setting may need to follow institutional guidelines for syllabus-writing but also may be able to get help from their Centers for Learning Excellence.
At our request Emily explicated what the relationship was between ETC (the AIC Education and Training Committee of which she’s also a member) and this syllabus sharing group. In short, the ETC is tasked with overseeing AIC’s education initiatives (mostly directed at conservator education) whereas our adhoc group was directed at conservation education for allied professionals.
At this point, we went around the room and introduced ourselves and talked about our specific interest in the topic. It was fascinating to learn how many different ‘allied professionals’ were interested in or could benefit by an academic introduction to conservation basics: art students (who could learn how to make their artworks more permanent or definitely ephemeral); museum studies programs; collections managers; archaeology and anthropology students; art history students; library scientists and archivists; programs for chemistry, materials science or engineering students, and others I’ve probably left out. One participant was especially interested in identifying and accessing online resources that could be used by students in the Developing World.
Emily polled the room to see if there was interest in a session for the next Annual Meeting on how to teach. If you weren’t there but would are interested, please fill out the extremely short survey at the end of this post.
I have not yet taught a full semester University level course, just classes in other courses and workshops in host countries. But I hope to do so in the next year or so as our Museum starts an exciting new initiative for teaching archaeological science to undergraduates. Having long felt that most American archaeology and anthropology students need to understand more about conservation, I’m pretty passionate about this topic and it was great to be in a room with others who share that passion.
We are hoping to organize a formal workshop on teaching for the Miami AIC meeting. To help us plan this and future events please answer the following questions and return this form to either Emily Williams (ewilliams@cwf.org) or Suzanne Davis (davissl@umich.edu)

  1. What resources would you most like to see AIC develop to aid you in your teaching. These resources might include items for the soon to launch “Teaching to Allied Professionals” wiki page, continued education courses for conservators engaged in courses, course materials for use in the classroom or other items. Please write down anything you think might be useful.
  2. Is there a particular challenge that you feel you or other conservators face in teaching Allied Professionals that you particularly wish to see addressed through workshops or the wiki page.
  3. Have you developed course materials or other teaching aids that you are willing to share with other conservators? If so, what types and how may we contact you?

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.

2. 2-bathing2

 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.
11. 7a-Heida-Zou-Bintou-Idrissa-Directeur   12. 7b-Ousmane-Heida


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.

Financial resources for pre-program conservation interns

Internships are an important part of preparing for graduate training in conservation.  They are often volunteer positions and finding ways to manage the financial demands of working without monetary compensation can be a challenge.  This is most often the case for pre-program interns but certainly graduate interns and even recent graduates can face similar issues.
Here are a few tips and resources for developing a strategy to address these concerns:
Of course the best way to make an internship financially viable is to be paid for your work.  There are two strategies in applying for funding to cover the expense of your internship: You can apply on your own behalf, as an individual, or you can encourage an institution — such as a museum or historic site — with which you’d like to work to apply for funds to host a paid intern.
For individual grants, a good place to start can be with your undergraduate alma mater, even if you are no longer a current student.  Most colleges and universities will provide information on available scholarships or grants that might be used towards funding internships as well as information on potential internship opportunities.  And don’t forget to represent yourself:  There are funding opportunities available specifically for women, minorities, new Americans, non-traditional students, and veterans and their families. The recently established Denese L. Easterly Conservation Training Pre-program Grant at Indigo Arts Alliance is open to individual applicants for funding for internships as well as other pre-program expenses such as additional required courses, supplies, and more.
For institutional grants, look for funding opportunities at the federal, state, regional, or county level with arts commissions or historic preservation offices.   For example, the LA County Arts Commission offers funding for a 10-week internship at a ‘non-profit arts organization’.  Check AIC’s ‘Grants and Scholarships’ page, especially the section on ‘Outside Funding Sources’, as some of those listed are national grants open to institutions and provide money that can be used to host an intern.
Finally, if you’re applying for a grant or scholarship, don’t forget to check out AIC’s ‘Five tips for a successful scholarship application’, also available through their ‘Grants and Scholarships’ page.  Grant-writing can be an essential part of work in the non-profit world and developing this skill is always useful.
Necessities and considerations:
There are several other aspects to developing a successful strategy for supporting yourself during an internship, paid or volunteer.
Health care:
Health care is essential and finding it affordably priced can be tricky.  With the new health care law, people may stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26, which is an advantage since family plans tend to be less expensive than those for individuals.  It is possible to shop online for insurance options via sites like the federally-supported www.healthcare.gov and many states are setting up similar online marketplaces.  The amount you pay will depend heavily on the type of coverage you need or want.  For example, if you are generally healthy, month-to-month insurance might be a cheaper option though your co-pay and deductible will be higher.  Also, if you are interning with an organization that offers health benefits to its employees, you might ask about the cost of purchasing their plan, though it is less likely to be available for volunteers.
There are potential tax benefits to being a volunteer intern and it’s important to make the most of these, especially if money is tight.  Certain volunteer expenses can be deducted on your annual tax return if you are interning for a recognized non-profit or 501(c) organization.  Also, don’t forget to make the most of education credits if you are a current student or if you are paying interest on student loans.  Lastly, if you need free or low-cost tax help, the IRS provides several options.
Other types of financial support:
If you are below a certain annual income, you may qualify for food assistance, though eligibility varies from state to state.  Likewise, some public transportation authorities offer subsidized fare passes for volunteers, low-income members of the community, and/or in partnership with certain businesses and organizations.
Based on anecdotal evidence, there is a variety of strategies and resources developed to manage a volunteer, part-time, or low-pay internship.  Here are a few from the experience of others:

  • Work full or part-time in a paid position simultaneous to a part-time volunteer or low-pay internship.  Look for paid positions with a flexible schedule or odd hours (e.g. mornings, swing shift). When seeking opportunities, consider those beyond working in a conservation lab which might contribute to your pre-program experience, for example in a frame shop, a library, as a set builder, or painting houses.  Many of these jobs give you an opportunity to develop hand skills or technical knowledge related to conservation (e.g. the use of solvents, hand tools, or collections management systems).  Remember that every job is an opportunity to develop important people and communication skills.
  • Supportive friends and family might be looking for ways to help.  One suggestion is to request professional memberships, community college tuition, bus passes, or supplies as gifts for your birthday, graduation or at holidays.
  • If possible, especially while gaining pre-program experience, live at home and work locally.  If you live in a big city, it may be easier to find experience in a major museum but if you’re outside a city, try looking at local historical societies and libraries where you might volunteer.  These opportunities will put you in good standing to apply to other, more specialized or even paid internships.

No doubt there are many ways to manage the financial challenge of working as a volunteer intern that haven’t been addressed or represented here.  We invite you to briefly share your suggestions or experiences on how you found, cultivated, or created resources during any of your pre-program conservation internships.

AIC's 41st Annual Meeting – Objects Session, May 30, “Bon Appétit? Plastics in Julia Child’s Kitchen” by Mary Coughlin

I wonder what Julia would think about the current state of her kitchenware?  In Mary Coughlin’s talk, “Bon Appétit? Plastics in Julia Child’s Kitchen,” Mary discussed issues she and her Museum Studies class faced while inside the Julia Child Kitchen exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH).  Mary is an objects conservator and professor at George Washington University.  Her class carried out a condition survey of the exhibition as it transitioned from its original installation into part of the new FOOD: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000 exhibition.
The kitchen was originally located in Julia Child’s Cambridge, Massachusetts home from 1961 to 2001 and was the setting of her last three television shows.  When Julia donated it to NMAH, the museum accessioned over 1,200 objects, ranging from spatulas to a Rubik’s Cube.  The kitchen was installed in the museum as Bon Appétit! Julia Child’s Kitchen, a temporary exhibition that was probably only meant to be on display for less than one year.  But as is often the case with well-loved exhibitions, it ended up being on display for a decade.
Mary’s class worked within the exhibition, actually in Julia’s kitchen on view to the public, as they carried out the condition survey.  It seems as though many of the museum visitors also wished to step inside the kitchen, as Mary humorously noted that they often heard the thud of visitors walking into the glass partitions.  In an effort to provide outreach to the public, a curator was posted outside the kitchen to discuss the project with visitors.  In addition, the students wrote blog posts about their experiences which can be viewed on the NMAH’s blog “O Say Can You See?” (For example, see one student’s post here).
After the condition survey, the class made recommendations for ways to incorporate preventive conservation into the new exhibition.  Two of the main problems encountered in the old exhibition were dust and degraded plastics.  The old exhibition did not have a ceiling, and the vents above the kitchen created a significant dust problem.  This issue was particularly problematic considering that many of the plastics within the kitchen are oozing and sticky.  The new installation is sealed on the top, and during Mary’s evaluation of the new exhibition six months later, she found a significant decrease in dust accumulation.  One problem area was a large gap around one of the glass door covers, but it has since been gasketed to create a better seal.
Mary’s class also found evidence of fading and discoloration in plastics.  For instance, the top surfaces of a set of rubber kitchen gloves had turned black, while the undersides remained blue. Mary placed mylar barriers underneath and between problematic plastics to prevent sticking and oozing on surrounding objects.  And when the gloves were reinstalled in the new exhibition, the top glove was flipped in order to display the blue side, following the request of the curator.
Mary mentioned the curator’s desire for authenticity within the exhibition and that they wished to have all the original objects on display within the kitchen.  While Mary’s class found evidence of plastic degradation, the museum continues to display the degrading plastics in a relatively similar environment as the previous exhibition (although the HVAC system is improved and dust is being mitigated.  She also noted that the degrading objects were not causing damage to other objects).  Mary’s talk raised questions that many museums and conservators must face, such as authenticity versus preservation?  Does displaying original degraded objects or surrogate objects in good condition change the meaning or importance of the work?   The answers to these questions may also be different within the context of a history museum as opposed to an art museum.
As I viewed images of oozing spatulas that are not dissimilar to those sold today, one of the questions I had (but didn’t get a chance to ask Mary) is whether there was any discussion with the curators about purchasing surrogate objects either to be displayed now or in the future?  Maybe similar objects could be purchased now, while they are still readily available, and stored in more optimal conditions (dark, cold storage?) to be displayed later if needed.
I can’t help but wonder, what will the plastics in the exhibition look like in another ten years?  And what would Julia Child think?  Bon Appétit?

41st Annual Meeting, Discussion Session, June 1st, 2013: Engaging with Allied Fields: Teaching Conservation in Allied Academic Departments and Degree Programs

If you missed this engaging session, you probably have no idea that it included 11 different talks, presented “lightning-round” style, and 2 lively discussion sessions (in fact, the session was so engaging that I neglected to take photos, which I had very good intentions of doing!).
Organized by Suzanne Davis and Emily Williams, the idea for this session came through their discussions with colleagues and their realization that those engaged in teaching conservation to non-conservation students in academic settings are not currently sharing resources, goals and feelings about this work. Their goal was to begin a dialogue about these topics between those involved with and interested in this topic. To provide a foundation for their session, they recently conducted an online survey entitled “Teaching Conservation in Allied Degree Programs”. To read more about this and to access the initial survey report, follow this link to Suzanne’s blogpost.
The first round of speakers included Gregory Dale Smith, Renee Stein, Cathleen Baker, Heather Galloway, and Emily Williams. I’m including a brief summary of each of their talks, with links as possible, below. Each of the talks was 5 minutes, and both the speakers and the organizers did a terrific job keeping their talks within this brief time frame!
Gregory Dale Smith is the Otto N. Frenzel III Senior Conservation Scientist at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. He unfortunately could not attend the session, so Suzanne presented his slides on his behalf. His presentation focused on a project for a course for graduate students in Indiana University-Purdue University (IUPUI)’s Chemistry and Biological Chemistry Department and the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program entitled “CSI: Conservation Science Indianapolis.” In this course, he had students carry out a technical examination of a purported 1874 Alfred Sisley painting. The museum had suspicions about its authenticity, so the project benefitted not only the students but also the museum. The project included provenance research, analysis, imaging, and a final report, and there are blogposts on the topic on the IMA website. Through this course, Greg hoped to transmit to students the interplay of connoisseurship, conservation and science. While they did not come to a definite conclusion in the end, the students were particularly engaged due to the fact that it was a real object and a real issue for the museum.
Renee Stein is the Chief Conservator at the Michael C. Carlos Museum and is also Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Art History at Emory University. Conservators at the Carlos have always been involved in teaching, and the course that Renee is teaching is now an issue-based and topical seminar. The course attracts mostly art history majors, and the goal of the course is to introduce them to issues in conservation-to the why, not the how. Renee also mentioned that the Carlos Museum is also exploring how the museum can help to teach science, and they are now doing this through a course focusing on the analysis of ancient art course, which is very forensic and analytical, and geared toward undergrad chemistry majors. Two other courses that are being taught on conservation include an imaging course and a freshman seminar on art and nature. A list of these courses and other conservation opportunities for students at Emory are listed here. Also of note are the podcasts that have been developed by the Carlos and are available on their website by following this link.
Cathleen Baker is a Conservation Librarian and Exhibits Conservator at the University of Michigan Library and Adjunct Lecturer in the School of Information. Cathleen discussed one course that she taught with the goal of to introducing students to the concepts of conservation. She achieves this through lectures and supplements them with hands-on activities with books, and instructs students on the uses of adhesives, cleaning and repairs. She expressed that she has been surprised and encouraged that her students are fascinated by materials and objects in today’s very digital/virtual world.
Heather Galloway is a Conservator at the Intermuseum Conservation Association (ICA). She is currently preparing to teach a course in the joint PhD program between Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Museum of Art. She has taught several other courses, and she described one which was geared toward upper level students and taught completely based in the museum galleries. This was not a practical course, and all of the written work required of the students was based on observations and research. She wanted them to focus on what they might learn if they had the opportunity to examine an object firsthand. In this course Heather also removed paintings from the gallery walls and had students examine them out of their frames and under different light sources. The ultimate goal of this course was to introduce students to the complexity of judgments and collaboration necessary for conservators to make decisions, and to build a more sympathetic audience among our future allied professionals.
Emily Williams is the Conservator of Archaeological Materials at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and she discussed a course she has been teaching at the University of Mary Washington, entitled “Introduction to Conservation.” Because of Emily’s specialty, she imparts a heavy emphasis on archaeological materials but also tries to incorporate information about other materials as possible. Her goal in this course is to lay the foundation for future collaborations rather than train conservators. Due to Emily’s experience that many archaeologists in the Mid-Atlantic region think of conservation as all hands-on and something that they can do with just a little bit of training, she discussed the challenge that she sees in teaching this course, between balancing hands-on, practical work with other activities. She explained that her students always want to do more practical work, and this may be because she teaches this course as a 3-hour class. In addition to including hands-on activities, Emily incorporates debates and discussions into her classes. At the end of her presentation, she posed the question that she is pondering herself-through this course, is she achieving her goal of creating well-informed future collaborators or is she reinforcing the notion that the best and most important parts of conservation are hands-on?
Following this round of talks, Suzanne and Emily posed 2 sets of 2 questions or ideas each to the audience. Some of these were created from comments pulled directly from the survey recently conducted. We were seated in groups at round tables, each assigned with a letter A or B-the letters designated which questions we were to discuss.  I’ll write more about this, and the second discussion session, after summarizing the second round of speakers.
The second round of speakers included Richard McCoy, Erich Uffelman, Ian McClure, Sanchita Balachandran, Karen Pavelka, and Suzanne Davis.
Richard McCoy is former Conservator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and he has taught at IUPUI and recently was asked to create a course for Johns Hopkins online. Richard’s first course at IUPUI was project-based, focused on collections care and on documenting all of the public artworks on the university campus. To do this, he co-founded the WikiProject Public Art for his students to document the sculptures, and used Flickr for the photo management. He found that using Wikipedia and Flickr also worked as an advocacy tool for the artwork. In a second course, Richard had his students document all of the public art in the  Indiana State House. In his last course, he focused on survey and research, and had his students research the historic Madame Walker Theater, create an excel database of their survey, and reorganized the theater’s museum. Richard is now creating a course for Johns Hopkins online in museum studies. This course will be entitled “Core aspects of conservation- a 21st century approach” and will have a goal of teaching students how to look at art, and also have students gather more resources for sharing with others on this topic.
Erich Uffelman is faculty at Washington and Lee University in the Department of Chemistry. Erich presented a record number of slides in 5 minutes, illustrating his course “Science In Art:  Technical Analysis of 17th Century Dutch Paintings.” This is a 2-part course that is conducted over a year, ending with a trip to the Netherlands. This course covers both the art historical aspects as well as the scientific and analytical work that is involved in conservation. Erich has been publishing about this course since 2007, and his publications include resources as well as the strengths and limitations of the approaches used in teaching this course. Erich ended his presentation by mentioning the Chemistry in Art workshops offered through the National Science Foundation, taught by Dr. Pat Hill. These workshops are geared toward university faculty and other educators and focus on how to integrate chemistry and art into a curriculum.
Ian McClure is the Director of the Center for Conservation and Preservation, Yale West Campus and Susan Morse Hilles Chief Conservator at the Yale University Art Gallery. He discussed several ways in which his department is involved in teaching, including an undergraduate course focused on the technical examination of art. The goal of this course is to teach students about various methods of investigation and to help them understand how to interpret their observations. In addition to this course, they also work with postdoctoral students in computer science. One of their recent initiatives is teaching teachers in the Summer Teachers Institute in Technical Art History (STITAH). This project is supported by the Kress Foundation.
Sanchita Balachandran is a Conservator and Curator at the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum and is a Lecturer in Near Eastern Studies at the university. Sanchita explained that the museum is used frequently for teaching, and a majority of her time is devoted this work, as she teaches one course per semester. She is teaching a seminar “Examining Archaeological Objects”more regularly, and she also teaches in other departments. Sanchita shared some of her main goals in her courses, which include: sharing excitement about objects with students, teaching students how to look at objects and make original observations, and instilling a sense of wonder in her students. Sanchita mentioned that one of the challenges that she has faced in teaching in this capacity is that not having a PhD is difficult in an academic environment, and makes it more difficult to apply for research funding. She ended her presentation with the idea of the “conservator identity crisis”. She explained that now that only 10% of her time is dedicated to treatment, she thinks a lot about what defines a conservator–someone who does treatment regularly and thus practices what he/she teaches, or someone who is able to teach about these issues but in some ways is far removed from the hands on aspect?
Karen Pavelka is a Conservator and Lecturer in the School of Information at UT Austin. As a full-time faculty member, she teaches 2 courses per semester. Courses that she teaches integrate conservation into the I-school curriculum, and include a paper lab course and classes that focus on disaster salvage, risk management, and preservation management. Karen pointed out that her classes are popular (they fill up within the first minute of being offered!) and often have waiting lists. Her courses are mainly geared to grad students focusing on library and museum studies. Karen stated that her goal in these courses is to integrate conservation into these students’ worlds, and impart the idea that everyone is responsible for preservation, but also to help them understand when to call a conservator-essentially, to help educate these students so that they become valuable and well-informed colleagues. Karen described one project that she has created for her students called the “annoying object exercise”. She created fragile, oddly shaped objects and then asks students to design and build a support for these objects which can be produced quickly, cheaply, and easily.
Suzanne Davis is Head Conservator at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan. Suzanne gave an abbreviated version of her presentation so that the rest of the session could be used for discussion. Just briefly, Suzanne discussed that she teaches a conservation unit in a theory-based, graduate-level museum studies course at the university. She posed the question, WTH (what the heck) should she be doing with these students? Should she be teaching them to think about conservation in a critical way, which is what she has been doing, or should she be giving them practical advice/tips so that they can make more informed decisions about using conservation services and resources in their future careers?
On that note, Suzanne and Emily moved everyone into the second period of discussion, again with 2 sets of questions for the audience to ponder.
Discussions topics included (but were not limited to):
–       What are the costs and benefits of adjunct teaching?
–       How do you see the role of conservation and conservation science in education for allied professionals? Do you see it as providing enrichment and/or as an aid in developing critical thinking skills? Do you want to produce more educated consumers of conservation resources and services? What are your personal end-result goals for the classes you teach?
–       Salvador Munos-Vinas and other scholars have argued the need for more theory in conservation and conservation education. What is your opinion? Does a lack of theory in conservation affect conservators’ ability to engage with education in theory-rich fields such as archaeology, art history, and museum studies?
After discussions amongst our groups, Emily and Suzanne opened the session up for some quick discussion at the end.
Some of the points that came out of this discussion included:
–       there is a need for conservation specific teaching resources
–       those who are teaching would find it helpful to look at other syllabi
–       in general the audience was interested in more teaching instruction and strategies in the form of a webinar or workshop – the workshop idea was more popular
–       there are a lot of guest lecturers not full time teaching – people would like more information about how to convey a single talk or 2 in a larger course
–       resources that do exist include:

  • an email listserv for conservation educators, which has been fairly dormant but you can contact Rachael Arenstein or Emily Williams if you’d like to join – the pre-requisite for joining is that you must be teaching in an academic setting
  • AIC’s YouTube channel-this is also a place for those making videos to share them
  • AIC’s Facebook page and AIC wiki
  • Coursera, Khan academy, Stanford Teaching Commons 

Suzanne and Emily promised that they will eventually publish the discussion from this session, so stay tuned for that!

41st Annual Meeting – Objects Session, May 30, “Establishing Conservation in an Unconventional Venue in Okinawa” by Anya McDavis-Conway

Ms. Conway’s paper presented multiple themes: the establishment of a new conservation lab, brief history of Okinawa, and cultural materials and their subsequent materials research and treatment. What is particularly different about the first theme is that the Conservation Laboratory was begun without a museum collection. The laboratory was established within the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) – a new, international research university staffed with 50% Japanese and 50% international staff. OIST applies advanced technology while using an interdisciplinary approach to higher education, and includes giving back to the Okinawan community in its mission statement. OIST President Jonathan Darfan was interested by the merging of art and science and wanted the conservation lab to be an important part of community engagement. Thus, with the establishment of the conservation laboratory, it was incumbent upon the conservator to find her museum collection partners.
Anya described this process as “setting up conservation in reverse”, and stated that the Okinawans were rather suspicious of her. I can believe their skepticism: “why would I want to had over my collections to a non-Okinawan” (prevalent in an island with a history of occupation) or: “Why are you doing this for free?”. Anya took time to visit the museums, got to know the only Okinawan conservators, a paper conservator named Toma-san and his son. She learned from him and other museum staff that all other treatments would either not get done or would be sent off the island (likely to Japan). Occasionally there was someone on Okinawa who would do lacquer repairs, and I wondered if they would be the gold repairs that we see on Asian ceramics sometimes.
Eventually Anya found two partners in the Yomitan Village History Folklore Museum, a small historical museum focusing on the small port of Yomitan. The other was the Tsuboya Pottery Museum. In the Yomitan museum, there was a definite need for collections improvements and conservation. The museum is located next to Zakimi Castle, which meant that there were also archaeological finds, in addition to historic, in the collection. There is also a traditional house, which was presented kind of like a period room (but house).
Tsubo means pottery in Okinawan (the Tsuboya Museum), and the curators there are very interested in pottery technology. Anya’s lab and connections in OIST are a perfect fit for their interests, and she discusses, later, the pottery research project they begin together.
Once Anya began getting treatments, she quickly realized that she needed more space than her 1/2 counter in OIST’s biology lab that she was given initially. I must think that they intended to provide more space, but perhaps wanted to wait until the projects actually came. OIST ultimately provided a decent lab space and some analytical equipment. Anya worked with the physicists to obtain such equipment: a Raman with a horizontal exit so objects can be placed next to it for analysis without sampling them, FTIR with ATR and, coming soon, a p-XRF. Jennifer Mass, the scientist from the Winterthur program, was also able to consult, in person, in the analytical set-up.
Interesting investigations were discussed. The first described looked at the leather on sanshins, which are three-stringed instruments that look a little like a banjo. They were originally played at the Royal Court, but now are played by more and more people. The sound box of the sanshin is usually covered in python skin, which is imported from the mainland. The two that were brought into Anya’s lab, however, were not made with python. Their origin was not easily detectable, so Anya worked with Sasha Mikayav, a scientist at OIST, to look into DNA sequencing for identification. The skins were ultimately too contaminated to provide good data, and Sasha recommended liquid chromatography – mass spectrometry instead. They prepared a sample from a cowhide from a music store as a control/test, and this was successfully identified as bovine. They will analyze other types of skins as they obtain them, and then test the sanshins after. But the fragile leather could wait no longer, and losses were filled with Japanese tissue toned with Golden acrylic emulsion paints and tacked in place with methyl cellulose. She made appropriate storage boxes and mounts for the sanshins after treatment because she thought it would begin a conversation about collections housing. I am curious if this worked, as it was an interesting decision.
The other major project begun is the pottery analysis project undertaken by Anya, OIST and the Tsuboya Pottery Museum. They are beginning to characterize pottery – both individually and as a group – using pXRF and XRD. They will be working with an Okinawan geologist to look at sources, tempers and inclusions using thin sections and traditional petrography. This project is the beginning of a long collaboration, as Okinawa has a long history and tradition of pottery making, and it has never before been systematically analyzed. Importantly, Anya wants to know if anyone in the audience had Okinawan pottery in its collections. If so, she wants to know! Please contact her if you have information on Okinawan pottery and/or specimens in your collections. Her information is in the AIC directory.