Twitter, Emojis, and the 10 Agents of Deterioration by Mariana Di Giacomo

Mariana Di Giacomo – @MarianaDGiacomo

Being on Twitter is extremely fun for me. People are hilarious and I’m constantly learning from those I follow. As a paleontologist, I am drawn towards fossils, and Twitter is no different. I follow paleontologists, museums, and even SUE the T. rex. I also have another interest, and that is conservation of museum collections. This makes me also follow conservators, organizations, and anyone who tweets about these topics.

A while ago, I signed up to manage the account @RealScientists, hoping to get the word out about my work in #FossilConservation. This account has over 66,500 followers, and these numbers increase weekly with every person curating the account. The idea of doing this felt exciting, but also scary because I was afraid I was not going to be able to manage speaking to such a huge audience. When one of the admins of the account contacted me, I was super happy to have the opportunity to share my work.

Curating the account means you can tweet as often as you want for a whole week. You are free to do polls, engage in Q&As, talk about your science, and even about yourself. It is a great way for others in the Twittersphere to know you, and to learn from you. I tweeted mostly about my experience in paleontology collections, but also focused on conservation.

There is one tweet in particular I want to share because I did not expect it to be so popular, and for people to be so interested. It was a tweet about the 10 agents of deterioration. My idea was to make the tweet accessible to those not working in conservation, by using emojis. This proved to be an excellent choice; the tweet has 330 likes, 146 retweets (plus 25 retweets with comment), and was seen by more than 32,000 users. Who knew people would be so excited about preventive conservation and collections care?

Image by Mariana di GiacomoImage by Mariana Di Giacomo

The most exciting part was not only seeing the likes and retweets, but reading and replying to comments. I kept tweeting that day about the different agents of deterioration, and even though those tweets were not as popular as the main one, I received comments on them as well. People were intrigued by the effects of light, as well as by the effects of temperature and relative humidity. The agent “thieves and vandals” felt odd to one user, who thought this was no longer an issue in museums. Money and budgets was also a topic of discussion, as well as participation of conservation professionals when deciding construction and renovation projects. Emergency preparedness and involvement of the inside and outside community were touched upon, and people responded positively. It blew my mind how interested people were in these topics.

One of the short conversations I enjoyed the most was about education in conservation. An educator asked how to support students interested in these topics, and I gave her some suggestions for success in the field, but ended up talking about advocacy for diversity in conservation. This brings me to the last thing I want to talk on this post: the importance of social media.

I know this has been spoken about a million times, and those managing accounts for museums and collections say this all the time. However, all of us working on conservation need to be more active if we want to inspire change. From the 330 likes I had on the post about the agents of deterioration, many came from conservators and museums, but a lot came from people outside the field. People are fascinated by treatments’ “before and afters”, but they also care about collections. Bringing communities into the backstage is something we should all do, and should do more often. In a single week, I had over a million views of my tweets, from people from all over the world. This shows how powerful social media can be for outreach purposes, and why we should be more involved.

Tell people about what you do. Be humble. Recognize when you don’t know something. Be open to comments and suggestions. Learn when to disconnect. Have fun. Inspire. Those are the things I learned during this week. If you’re on Twitter, you should consider signing up for something like this. If you’re not, what are you waiting for?

ECPN Spring Webinar Announcement: Lights, Camera, (Preventive) Action! Careers in Preventive Conservation

The Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) is pleased to announce our upcoming webinar, “Lights, Camera, (Preventive) Action! Careers in Preventive Conservation” taking place on Thursday April 26th from 12:30-1:30 pm EDT.

Preventive conservation is an integral part of many cultural heritage jobs, encompassing any actions meant to minimize the deterioration of collections. But what does this look like in practice, exactly? And how is this role addressed in conservation training? Find out in this webinar, which will feature an introduction to the concept of preventive conservation and highlight potential career paths into this vital specialization.

ECPN has invited three speakers to provide their perspectives on this topic.  Dr. Joelle Wickens, Preventive Conservator for Winterthur Museum, Gardens & Library and Associate Director of the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC), will provide an overview of preventive conservation activities, skills, and training. This will be followed by a facilitated discussion in which Jessica Pace, Preventive Conservator at New York University Libraries, and Jamie Gleason, Associate Preventive Conservator at the National Gallery of Art, will touch on their own career pathways into this conservation specialty and their own roles and responsibilities at their respective institutions. 

ECPN is seeking questions for the facilitated discussion session with our speakers. To submit your questions in advance, please post in the comments section below or send them via email to Questions will be accepted until the morning of the webinar, or can be submitted during the presentations via the GoToWebinar platform.

Attendance is free and open to all AIC members. Please register here to watch the webinar. If you are unable to view the program on April 26, or are not a member of AIC, the full video will be recorded and uploaded onto the AIC YouTube Channel following the broadcast.

Please see below to learn more about our speakers:

Dr. Joelle D. J. Wickens is Preventive Conservator for Winterthur Museum, Gardens & Library and Associate Director of the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC). She received her Ph.D. in Conservation and MA in Textile Conservation from the University of Southampton, United Kingdom, and BA in American Civilization from the University of Pennsylvania, USA. Joelle’s current research includes: the development of techniques that quantify and mitigate outside light in a manner sympathetic to the historic house environment; devising accessible and sustainable storage practices for museums with limited staff; the development of materials and courses for the teaching of preventive conservation.

Jessica Pace is the Preventive Conservator at New York University Libraries.  She received her MA in Art History and CAS in Conservation from the Conservation Center at NYU, and her BA in Art History and Visual Arts from Barnard College.  Prior to this role, she worked in objects conservation at the Brooklyn Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis in Turkey.  Her current projects include devising accessible and economical housing for archival collections, creating training programs in preventive techniques for librarians and archivists, and improving housing and handling of materials during transport.

Jamie Gleason is the Associate Preventive Conservator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. He earned his MA (CAS) in Object Conservation from Buffalo State College in 2013, and a BA in Art History from the State University of New York at Albany. Jamie began his career at the National Gallery as the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Object Conservation, moving to the Gallery’s newly formed Preventive Conservation Department in 2015. He has worked at museums and cultural institutions across the United States. Before pursuing his interest in conservation, Jamie worked as a picture framer for seven years.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS – STASH Flash V Storage Tips Session

STASH_logoTo complement AIC’s 46th Annual Meeting conference theme, the 2018 STASH Flash Storage Tips session will focus on the interplay between the material composition of artifacts and the materials chosen for the construction of storage and support solutions. The program covering storage solutions for all collection types has been scheduled as part of the Collection Care session and will be followed by additional talks related to storage rehousing. The program will utilize a lightening round or “Tips” format as well as guided, audience participatory discussion.  We are calling for contributions of short (5 minute) tips on the following themes:

  • An item’s composition will affect the materials chosen for storage as well as the design. How is your storage solution guided by the relationship between collection materials and storage materials?
  • Quality materials appropriate for long-term storage are expensive. How have you adapted economical non-archival materials to make them safe for use in a storage solution?
  • Do you have a tips on a new material that will expand our range of choices for storage?
  • Innovative storage solutions for individual artifacts or collection groups that do not conform to either theme will be accepted if space allows.

Presenters will be asked to show up with their solution in a ready format for uploading to the STASH website after the conference.

To submit your ideas please send a short abstract including the following information to Rachael Arenstein ( or Lisa Goldberg ( by December 22, 2017.

Object/collection type:
And a description of approx. 150 words on the project

Thank you from the session organizers,

  • Lisa Goldberg, STASH Editorial Committee Chair
  • Rachael Arenstein, AIC e-Editor
  • Karen Pavelka, Collection Care Program Chair
  • Gretchen Guidess, Collection Care Program Committee

45th Annual Meeting – Opening General Session, May 30, “Preventive Conservation in the Renovation of the Harvard Art Museums: Before, During, and Ever After” by Angela Chang, Penley Knipe and Kate Smith

I was particularly interested in “Preventive Conservation in the Renovation of the Harvard Art Museums: Before, During, and Ever After” by Angela Chang, Penley Knipe and Kate Smith, as my employer LACMA is currently undergoing a similar museum building project.

Angela Chang, who presented the paper, began her talk with a brief summary of the museum’s history, which concluded with the presentation of the new LEED Gold building by Renzo Piano as well as the new storage facility that housed the entire collection during the museum building’s construction. She demonstrated how Harvard’s conservators successfully integrated the aspect of preventive conservation into an already established design and construction process. She also stressed the importance of cooperation and communication with external groups, such as administrators, donors, architects, and others, for the success of the project.

Angela discussed three main topics in conjunction with the new building.

  1. Samples of all potential and existing materials in the construction of the storage facility and the new museum were tested using the Oddy Test. Results of the tests, among other topics, were discussed in weekly construction meetings held with architects, contractors, engineers, and project managers. Only 50% of 900 tested material samples passed the test and some materials needed to be tested repeatedly due to sample mix-ups. Existing fireproofing material made of cementitious plaster, for instance, was completely removed from the storage facility for the sake of the preservation of the collection and health of humans.
  2. 300 computerized and smart, single or double blinds control the light levels in the exhibition spaces and the conservation labs, but the new museum building turned out to be more light flooded than initially expected. A seasonal programming schedule was derived from a light monitoring program based on over 50 readings and requirements from the facility department. Based on the seasonal occurrence of light leaks, conservation staff needed to identify exhibition areas not suited for light sensitive artworks and still works on permanent displayin order to safely exhibit parts of the collection. Light blocking films, for instance, are currently being tested to address light leaks.
  3. For a short time now, visitor incidents are recorded systematically and measured with a program developed by Security, Conservation, Collections Management, and IT called Art Touch Cards. The 46 guards can notify conservation and collection management staff immediately with urgent issues; minor issues are reported by filling out cards that are compiled and reviewed daily. Based on quarterly analysis of the data, artworks and galleries with a high incident rate can be identified and issues can be addressed. Improvements were made by adding colored lines of tape in the galleries as visual barriers, editing label texts, limiting the amount of visitors in one room, staffing galleries, and training guards.

Angela summarized her presentation by pointing out that all departments serve a collective purpose and that how relatively simple management systems, like the Art Touch Cards, can bridge interdepartmental communication gabs. She reiterating how the success of the building process, as well as its maintenance, is dependent on the close collaboration of different departments and external groups.


45th Annual Meeting – Workshops, May 28-29, “Reading Between the Lines: Understanding Construction and Exhibit Design Drawings” – Collections Care Network

I participated in the “Reading Between the Lines: Understanding Construction and Exhibit Design Drawings” workshop along with 12 other conservators. During the introductions, we learned that the participants come from all over the country and as far away as Taiwan and Australia. Many had signed up in order to prepare ourselves for upcoming major renovations or new construction in our institutions. The workshop was taught by four instructors: Jeff Hirsh (Architect, Principal, Director of Cultural Practice at EwingCole), Bill Jarema (Principal, Mechanical Engineer at EwingCole), Angela Matchica (Principal, Electrical Engineer and Lighting Designer at EwingCole), and Mike Lawrence (Chief of Design at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History). EwingCole, an architecture, engineering, interior design, and planning firm, has worked extensively with museums and other cultural and research institutions. They recently collaborated with Mike Lawrence and Cathy Hawks (Museum Conservator at the NMNH and a participant and organizer of this workshop) on building the Q?rius Learning Space at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, a permanent exhibition space in which visitors can engage with the museum collections through hands-on interactions. Much of the materials that were used in the workshop – drawings, specs, images, and group exercises – are documents from the Q?rius project.

The workshop covered a lot of ground, filling two full days during which we plunged into the complex world of construction projects. The workshop utilized a mixture of powerpoint presentations, tabletop exercises, and both planned and impromptu Q&A sessions to guide us through each step of the renovation process and help us to understand different types of construction and exhibit design documentation.

Day 1: Introduction to stakeholders, phases of design, basic terminology, reading mechanical and electrical drawings

We began with an overview of the stakeholders in a given construction project and the progression of projects from start to finish. I found it very helpful to learn about the types of documentation created during the various phases of planning and what level of detail can be expected from each phase. For example, a project starts from a concept report, which narrates the scope, timeline, and intent, progress to schematic designs, then to more detailed design development drawings, and finally to construction documents, which will go out to contractors for bidding. This lesson was supplemented by a tabletop exercise that asked the participants to find light temperature information among documentation from various phases of Q?rius design process. The exercise helped to drive home the importance of becoming a stakeholder and communicating preservation priorities at an early stage of the project, since it is becomes increasingly more costly and difficult to make revisions as the project progresses.

In the morning, we also learned basic terminology and symbols found in drawings. Because depicting the numerous things that are happening in a space – both inside and outside of the walls – is so complex, multiple drawings representing various levels of detail, multiple perspectives (elevation, plan, section), and specific categories of information are necessary. These drawings are supplemented by written documentations such as indices, keynotes, and specifications to convey the full scope of information. A reviewer must understand the system of symbols used as shorthand to indicate important information such as past edits, recent changes, the location of detail drawings, and demarcations of areas slated for demolition. At the start of the workshop, Jeff Hirsch had introduced the building as “a tool for preventive conservation”, and as the session progressed, I found it increasingly more helpful to think of the drawings as a set of instructions for using a very complex tool – in our case we are looking for ways to maximize the building’s ability to support collections preservation.

In the afternoon, we delved deeper into the different types of construction drawings by examining the general, architectural, mechanical, and electrical drawings, which each come with their own system of symbols that are used to communicate a wealth of meaning. Despite the sometimes daunting complexity of the drawings, it became clear that they follow a very specific and consistent order. I learned that when reviewing the drawings, it helps to understand them as both a set of instructions for the contractors and a legally binding contract for all stakeholders. As the latter, edits and revisions are closely tracked from version to version. Successful drawings clearly, thoroughly, and accurately communicate the scope of the project, including what is being demolished, what is being built, and what materials are being used for construction. Since each drawing can contain an overwhelming amount of information, approaching them with specific questions in mind makes them easier to navigate.

Some examples of information a conservator may need include: Do the edges of a demolition space impinge on existing collections? What are the fire ratings of the partitions slated for use in collections storage spaces, and will the fire rated partitions be fully enclosed (they must be in order to be successful)? Are there flammable materials sharing a wall with collections storage? Are smoke detectors and sprinklers located in appropriate areas? Are there enough outlets reserved for housekeeping, and are they readily accessible? What types of light sources are being used and how will they be controlled? If a new HVAC system is being installed, look to the mechanical schedules for the system’s ability to provide humidification/dehumidification and filtration information, and to the control chart for set points. Finally, with all systems that require maintenance and upkeep, it’s important to consider their proximity to collections materials, the frequency of maintenance, as well as space needs of associated personnel and equipment.

Day two: preventive conservation, exhibition design, and Q&A session

On day two, instructors began with an example in which the design team and conservators collaborated to identify an optimal pathway to move collections between the freight elevator and the Q?rius exhibit at the Smithsonian NMNH. An ideal pathway was not available, so the team mapped various options on the floor plan and used color coding to identify areas with issues such as security, access, and cleanliness. The drawing was supplemented by a filmed walk through of the actual path, which communicated potential issues with a clarity and immediacy that was difficult to convey through other media. I liked the way this example underscored the ways in which preventive conservation often relies on collaboration among parties with specializations beyond conservation, and that it focussed on an aspect of the environment – pathways – that is often overlooked when thinking about preventive conservation.

This followed with a tabletop exercise to find the outlets in the the drawings for the Q?rius space, which drove home how sometimes the little things can make a big impact on the maintenance of a finished space. In this case, it was important for us to consider the amount and location of outlets designated for a new space to make sure that enough are available for both display cases and for housekeeping use. In addition, we had to consider the accessibility of outlets for housekeeping and deduce from the drawings whether staff had to crawl into the base of display cases to reach outlets, for example. Through this exercise, we also learned that it was often necessary to switch between different sets of drawings (in this case, between electrical and exhibitions) because the information we needed was covered by overlapping specializations.

Moving further into the world of exhibition design drawings, we examined ways in which an existing space can be slightly modified to provide better climate collections objects. For example, Mike discussed an instance in which he built a vestibule as a means of limiting air exchange to an exhibit space that is located close to exterior walls and windows. In these instances the contractor schedule would be the place to look for information regarding the types of doors that are designated for use in a space.

Mike also walked us through the ins and outs of looking at drawings of custom exhibit cases, which provide detailed information on what can and cannot be done. I took a lot of notes here of factors that are important in the final product, such as: glass size (may be swapped to a different type without notice), acceptable deflection amount, potential need for levelers, desiccant chamber capacity (consider the climate of space that the case is going into), presence/type of lighting inside the cases, type of gasket used (does it actually press against the other side?), presence and composition of adhesives inside case. Getting custom cases sounded like a taxing process that was further complicated by the case builder’s use of proprietary materials.

The workshop concluded with a lively Q&A session that was populated by both questions that were pre-submitted by participants and by impromptu questions. Instructors and participants discussed questions relating to fire coding in collections and user spaces, condensation in air diffusers, preparing for a new building to be added to a museum, and considering the efficacy of using inhouse vs. outside consultants on construction projects. All in all, the workshop covered a lot of ground in two day period and offered a wealth of information that I was happy to bring back to share with my colleagues in preparation for our own renovations. I certainly felt more prepared and informed when our own construction drawings arrived at my desk several weeks later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah Giffin

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


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

Kaslyne O’Connor

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


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

Alex Nichols

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


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

João Henrique Ribeiro Barbosa

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


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

Annabel Pinkney

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


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

Hayley Monroe

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


#10 Towards Nondestructive Characterization of Black Drawing Media

Nathan Daly

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


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

Marissa Vassari

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


#80 Bedbugs: A pesky problem

Meredith Wilcox-Levine

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


#32 Treatment of a Shattered Bark Basket from Australia

Marci Jefcoat Burton

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


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

Julie Ribits

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


#22 Captain America Encounters Klucel M

Michiko Adachi and Cathie Magee

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


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

Elinor Dei Tos Pironti

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


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

Ashley Freeman

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

Abstracts for STASHc Flash IV Storage Tips session – May 29, 2017 at the AIC Annual Meeting

The 2017 STASH Flash storage tips session at the Chicago annual meeting will have three themes:

  1. Building on the conference theme Innovation in Conservation and Collection Care, the first group of presentations offer solutions that eliminate the need for treatment or complement an interventive treatment.
  2. The second group of presentations are supports that that serve more than one purpose such as storage, transport, and/or exhibition.
  3. Group three presentations focus on supports that can be mass produced to deal with collection-wide storage issues  as well as other novel ideas.

Presentations will be posted on the STASHc solutions pages after the meeting.

Group 1

Presenter(s): Clara Deck
Affiliation: The Henry Ford Museum
Collection type: Edison Diamond Disc Records
Abstract: THF counts among its wide-ranging collections a nearly complete run of the Edison Diamond Disc recordings, produced by Thomas A. Edison, Inc. from 1912 to 1929.  Played with a diamond stylus, these records are ¼” thick and made of a Bakelite-type plastic over a wood-pulp core. This collection is cataloged in over 6500 entries, which includes the 6000 discs. Most came directly to THF from the Edison factory in West Orange, NJ and are generally in excellent condition.  However, they are housed in their original acidic, wood-pulp paper jackets, which have become brittle over time. Some of the jackets bear unique printed information.  Handling closely-packed records in their original jackets causes damage. THF conservators worked with vendor Hollinger Metal-Edge to develop a custom-made preservation sleeve that will safely store the thicker-than-normal discs, as well as a “jacket-sling” to re-house the original record jacket. Some assembly is required.

Presenter(s): Basia Nosek and Susan Russick
Affiliation: Northwestern University Libraries
Collection type: Glass Plate Negatives
Abstract: Photographic materials on glass supports are prone to cracking, braking, and flaking emulsion. With large collections, treatment may not always be an option. For this reason, proper housing and implementation of preventive conservation methods is the only viable solution to prolong the longevity of the collections. While the National Archives’ recommendation of housing negatives individually in paper sleeves sounds straightforward, non-standard sizes, broken plates, and the need to maintain association with original envelope enclosures or groupings can complicate the process. By filling-in the negative space of standard four-flap enclosures we were able to accommodate different sizes and broken glass plates. Additionally, this method allowed us to keep all of the collection materials in standard size boxes. Ties and dividers were used to help indicate association of subsets of objects, keep items in order, and distinguish original housing groups. Lining boxes with foam and using corrugated board spacers added additional protection.

Presenter(s): Emilie Duncan
Affiliation: Graduate Fellow at Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation
Collection type: library/bound materials
Abstract: The separation of book spines from books, whether through natural deterioration or through treatment intervention, is commonly encountered in collections containing bound materials. Oftentimes – especially if the spine is leather – the replacement of the spine on the book is impractical or unsafe, as it can cause significantly more damage through continued use. As a result, there is a need for a storage solution that allows separated spines to be stored with their books. This can be achieved by modifying the design for a clamshell box to add a compartment to hold the spine. The compartment is located at the spine of the book, and has a Vivak window, allowing the leather spine to be visible while the box is closed and shelved. Not only is the spine material protected from the physical strains of being reattached to the book or flattened for traditional storage methods, but it remains intellectually and visually connected to the book from which it has physically been separated.

Presenter(s): Skyler Jenkins
Affiliation: Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona
Collection type: Ethnographic and Archaeological
Abstract: The Arizona State Museum (ASM) basketry collection became an official project of the Save America’s Treasures (SAT) program in 2011. Known as the Woven Wonders: Basketry Project, this effort addressed the need for new environmentally controlled, secure, unified space for over 35,000 catalogued items. Treatment protocols have been developed, approved, executed, and refined with funding from two IMLS awards. ASM’s five plus year long basketry project had many new treatment and storage techniques that evolved through collaborative treatment. Among these innovative ideas, an internal storage support for more flexible basketry material emerged. This allowed flexible baskets to be treated more easily, to be handled without damage, and to reduce the required space for storage. This session will explore the various types of internal supports created to be an alternative to unnecessarily large external supports, and to assist those who cannot expand their storage space.

Presenter(s):  Gretchen Anderson
Affiliation:  Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Collection type: Saddles
Abstract: Saddles are large and awkward to store.  They are often set on shelves or placed on sawhorses that are padded out with polyethylene foam.  Plastic sheeting is draped over them to protect them from dust and potential water drips.  The sawhorses take up a large foot print in a crowded storage room, and the legs are a tripping hazard. The sawhorses get moved around, creating additional risks for bumping and dropping the saddle.  This article describes a practical method to store saddles, improving support, maximizing space use, and generally protecting them in a cleaner and more efficient manner.  This system is primarily for long term storage, but can be adapted for display or for transport. The basic mounting system currently being used at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History will be detailed.  Refinements from the Science Museum of Minnesota will be described as well.

Group 2

Presenter(s): Connie Stromberg and Lara Kaplan
Affiliation: Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Contract Objects Conservators (for Inaugural Exhibitions). Stromberg Conservation, LLC and Lara Kaplan Objects Conservation, LLC
Collection type: 369th Hellfighters Gas Mask and Canister, Historical Artifact
Abstract: This gas mask is part of the field equipment worn during WWI by a soldier in the 369th Infantry, an African-American regiment known as the Harlem Hellfighters. It consists of a canvas mask with glass eye pieces connected to a painted steel canister by a collapsible hose. The object was in very poor condition: the mask was extremely fragile with many tears; the hose had ripped loose from the mask, and was deteriorated, deformed, and splitting at the seams; and the canister was rusting and had lost about half of its paint. Slated to go on view in the inaugural exhibition of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, creative collaboration among conservators, mount makers, and curators was necessary to successfully treat and permanently support the mask for its safe display, transport, and storage.

Presenter(s): Rebecca Beyth
Affiliation: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Collection type: 3-D Object Collections
Abstract: In 2016, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum built a new off-site collections and conservation center to house its collections. The relocation from a previous off-site facility was critical to the museum’s preservation mission, and improved its storage, research and transportation capacity. Rehousing was necessary to safely transport many of the 3-D objects. An initial survey determined which 3-D objects required specialized housing. Staff used four common methods to house 3-D objects based on their material, size, shape and condition:

  1. Secure 3-D object to a tray, which could be removed from the box.
  2. Secure 3-D object directly into the box with ties.
  3. Secure 3-D object in the box using a shaped bumper, which is held in place by the box lid.
  4. Cavity pack 3-D object in the box.

Using these methods (with modifications as needed) the team successfully rehoused approximately two-thirds of the 3-D object collections, including all items classified as high-priority due to their material or condition.

Presenter(s): Vasarė Rastonis
Affiliation: Columbia University Libraries
Collection type: oracle bone enclosures
Abstract: Columbia University’s C.V.Starr East Asian Library contains one hundred and twenty eight oracle bones. These are the library’s oldest documents, some of which are dated as early as 1554 BCE. The bones had been stored in roughly two different manners; the first group of sixty three bones was enclosed in plexiglass sleeves with board inserts, and the second group of sixty five was housed in a variety of boxes and cardboard trays. In the Autumn of 2015 the storage methods were reviewed and revised with the assistance of Eugenie Milroy of A.M. Art Conservation. Upon consideration it was determined that the plexiglass enclosures of the first group were almost ideal and could be used with a few modifications and that the second group would be enclosed in a set of prefabricated boxes fitted with Volara® foam and Tyvek®. Although the two types of storage systems are quite different from one another, not only in their appearance but also in the amount of time needed to prepare them, they both achieve the desired goal of safely storing the oracle bone collection.

Presenter(s): Annie Hall
Affiliation: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Collection type: Product Design and Decorative Arts – smaller objects
Abstract: Cooper Hewitt’s recent mass digitization rapid capture project required the development of object support systems to safely and efficiently move over 30,000 objects from storage to the photographic stage and back to storage. A team of contract art handlers were hired by the mass digitization company and Cooper Hewitt staff were required to provide guidance and ensure handling protocols were in place. Systems for movement of object types were developed so the team could safely and efficiently move objects for each object category within the given time. A modular bin system with movable dividers was devised for smaller fragile objects such as glass and ceramics. Custom-sized cavities lined with Volara were constructed for each object and a previously designed object storage support system was modified to ensure objects were fully supported during the short trip to photography and back to storage.

Presenter(s):  Jakki Godfrey, Lisa Bruno, Carol Lee Shen
Affiliation:  Brooklyn Museum
Collection type: Ancient Egyptian Objects (but could be for any varied object collection)
Abstract:  From 2008-2012, 127 of the Brooklyn Museum’s ancient Egyptian objects traveled on a 12-venue loan exhibition.  To minimize handling, many objects were mounted to Medex boards or plinths for both transport and display. Boards and plinths were either coated in Zinsser® Shieldz® primer sealer, painted and padded out with polyethylene foam or covered with Marvelseal 360, padded out with polyethylene foam and/or polyester batting and covered in fabric.  Objects meant for vertical display included hanging hardware on the back of the transport/display board. Plinths used to display large heavy objects were furnished with handling access to fork lift or gantry in place. Many objects held up well during the exhibition tour; however some very fragile objects such as the Museum’s animal mummies suffered some damage. Methods for traveling these fragile objects has since been modified.

Group 3

Presenter(s): Hildegard Heine and JP Brown
Affiliation: The Field Museum, Chicago, IL
Collection type: Housings for lightweight oversize organic objects
Abstract: This presentation discusses a modular framing system that we adapted to make supports for fragile, oversize (and occasionally poisonous) organic objects from world cultures, especially oversize masks in the Pacific. Although the no ‘one size fits all’ approach is possible for these objects, we developed a housing design that can be customized to several different object geometries. The main construction material is lightweight, square-section aluminum structural framing tube. Polyethylene or Mylar sheet is stretched over the framing, providing a barrier to prevent loss of loose material and to mitigate against dust deposition, air currents, and damage during handling and transport.  The framing can also easily be modified to include bottom, top or side panels. A reversible flap sealed with a magnetic strip provides access for one side of the housing to allow for access. Handles attached to the framing permit easy transport of the entire structure. This modular framing system based on standard materials suits a wide range of object types and allows for flexibility in designing supports for specific object needs.

Presenter(s): Kate Wight Tyler
Affiliation: Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
Collection type: Modular Support System for Decorative Arts Objects on Compact Shelving
Abstract: A reproducible storage system consisting of support components in standardized shapes and sizes was developed to respond to targeted collection-based needs at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. Primary stability issues were first identified and categorized and support components were designed and manufactured to:

  • Stabilize vulnerable objects on mobile and static shelving
  • Economize shelf space
  • Promote visibility and access
  • Provide a mechanism for safe object handling
  • Economize supplies and resources
  • Encourage sustainability through re-use

The most useful and innovative designs were:

  • Circular Tyvek pillows filled with a mixture of polypropylene pellets and glass beads for weight
  • Accordion-fold divider system that was designed to efficiently re-house boxes of flatware (but could work well for other objects of similar size/shape – hairpins, fans, pens etc.) and was mass produced by Talas using their archival board.

A detailed description (including patterns and designs) for components and all materials and sources will be included.

Presenter(s): Louise Stewart Beck
Affiliation: The Henry Ford Museum
Collection type: Electrical objects; Scientific & Industrial Collection
Abstract: Thanks to a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, we are currently rehousing a collection of electrical artifacts. As we go through the process of removal from storage, conservation, digitization, and packing for transport and storage, we have encountered objects that present interesting packing challenges. These include objects without a stable resting position, extremely dense and heavy objects, and hazardous objects. Our presentation will demonstrate the materials and methods we have used to solve these issues, including ‘scaffolding’ for unstable objects and the accommodations that we have made for the high total weights that we are dealing with when palletizing. In addition, our conservation department frequently receives queries on the movement of this type of material from smaller institutions, and in response to that we have begun to work on a series of handling and packing videos that address scientific and industrial collections, including this project. Our presentation will include brief clips from that undertaking as well.

Presenter: Ben Fino-Radin
Affiliation: Associate Media Conservator, The Museum of Modern Art
Collection type: Digital Materials in Time-based Media Art Collections
Abstract: At many institutions and collections, increasingly, conservators of objects, paintings, prints, and photographs are tasked with the new and added responsibility of stewarding and defining the storage conditions for collections of time-based media art.  No matter how small the collection, the storage needs of the digital components of time-based media artworks, has ushered in the need for a wholly new set of vocabulary and skills and understanding in order to employ proper digital housing for transportation and transmission, and in order to collaborate with experts to specify a proper storage environment.  This lightning round will offer tips on the fundamental concepts and vocabulary needed in order to approach the housing and storage of digital materials in collections that include time-based media art.

CCI and ICCROM Publish the ABC Method for Risk Management!

From an email announcement sent by CCI:

CCI and ICCROM are pleased to announce the publication of The ABC Method: a risk management approach to the preservation of cultural heritage. This is a comprehensive manual aimed at those working in cultural heritage institutions. The ABC method has been refined over many years through an international course presented by CCI and ICCROM, as well as by its application in numerous case studies by CCI, ICCROM and colleagues around the world.

Adopting a risk management approach will help you determine the priorities for preventive conservation and decide between options to address them. Risks occur in many forms, from the rare and catastrophic to the cumulative and slow, from the familiar to the unfamiliar, from those easily observed to those often overlooked. Risk management integrates the knowledge of those who care directly for the heritage asset with what can be applied through science and technology. An abridged publication, A Guide to Risk Management of Cultural Heritage, is also available for those who want to become familiar with the approach and tools of the ABC method.

In March 2016, the Risk Management and Risk-based Decision Making for Museum, Gallery, Archive and Historic House Collections workshop was held at CCI. Webcast recordings from this advanced professional development workshop explain how to use risk management techniques to make decisions regarding the care of collections on display and in storage.

For questions and further assistance: or

Updated NPS Museum Handbook Collections Environment Chapter Available

National Park Service Logo

The National Park Service Museum Management Program is pleased to announce that the updated NPS Museum Handbook Museum Collections Environment chapter is now available.
The chapter, developed for over 385 National Park museums located throughout the USA, provides guidance on how to achieve an optimal environment for different types of collections located in a broad range of climate zones and housed in various building types, including furnished historic structures.
It includes:

  • Sections on “Collections Environment Basics” and “Building Basics for Collections”
  • Easy-to-follow sequential steps with recommendations on how to manage and control the museum environment.
  • Recommended temperature and relative humidity set points. These set points are expanded slightly from the earlier NPS recommended ranges to accommodate the range of climate zones in which park collections are housed, and that can also allow for greater energy efficiency.
  • Updated light standards.

Checking Datalogger
Other recommendations include :

  • Moderating climate fluctuations by containerizing collections in well-constructed and sealed metal cabinets
  • Rotating objects on exhibit to minimize light exposure
  • Guidance on flash photography and copying
  • Guidance on minimizing air pollution in spaces housing collections

Power to Preserve: Creating a Collection Care Culture: AIC’s Collection Care Network Hosts a Session at the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting

–By Marianne Weldon, Objects Conservator and Collections Manager of the Art and Artifacts Collection, Bryn Mawr College
On Sunday, May 29, I attended the panel entitled Power to Preserve: Creating a Collection Care Culture moderated by Rebecca Fifield.  This session was developed by AIC’s Collection Care Network (CCN) for the Collection Management track at the Annual Meeting of the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, D.C.  The AAM Annual Meeting Theme for 2016 was Power, Influence, and Responsibility, encouraging exploration of “how the themes of power, influence and responsibility shape the work of museums in the U.S. and around the world”.
A goal of the presentation was to share influencing strategies to support development of collection care, as well as to highlight resources and partnerships available through AIC. The three presenters spoke of ways that they have been working at their institutions to foster relationships with partners within and outside their institution to better enable them to care for their collections.
 Maryanne McCubbin spoke to fostering aligned goals across an institution.  She emphasized the importance in finding common ground among museum staff and that most people working in the museum are collections stewards in some way whether directly or indirectly.  She outlined the importance of fostering that relationship with others that work in the museum in a variety of ways including:

  • Avoiding rhetoric and demystifying what collections staff are doing. Avoid terms that people won’t understand, such as agents of deterioration.
  • Being proactive and available so people don’t feel like they are bothering you or that you are too busy for them.
  • Provide frequent, regular, repeated communications on many levels and in many directions up and down the chain.
  • Make sure to demonstrate that you have the “big picture” in mind and that you understand and present things in an inter-disciplinary way.

Kathy Garrett-Cox spoke to the importance of working with community partners to enable smaller institutions to create a collection care culture beyond their institutions.  At Maymont, an American estate in Richmond Virginia, the staff numbers 3 full-time and 3 part-time, which is small when considering the needs of institutions during emergency response.  Garrett-Cox spoke about the formation of The Museum Emergency Support Team (MEST), which was formed by a group of small local organization in 2006 in response to Hurricane Katrina as an alliance for response to help to share resources, planning and training.  She additionally outlined many specific examples of the way the group grew and changed over the years, introducing challenges associated with volunteer group continuity, what worked, and what didn’t.
Patricia Silence works at Colonial Williamsburg Foundation where she manages the preventive conservation team of 20 members.  She gave numerous examples of ways that demonstrated the power of communication strategies to strengthen staff partnerships in supporting collection care. Overall, these ideas helped create relationships where colleagues in other departments wanted to help further collection care. These strategies included:

  • Meeting with over 150 site interpreters and supervisors in small groups and explaining the reasons for temperature set points. This included a briefing on dew point and how they use temperature to reduce the possibility of having water in the walls. This has helped their facilities department get fewer calls regarding comfort issues.
  • Tracking the number of hours spent cleaning gum off of items and cleaning up soda spills in order to explain why these items should not be allowed in historic buildings with collections.
  • She emphasized the importance of expressing professional “needs and desires” in terms of value. Giving reasons beyond collections value when necessary and aligning the rationale with the goals of colleagues in other departments.

Additionally Patricia spoke of areas for improvement, where things haven’t gone as well as she would like.  One specific example was in the area of excessive lighting, where additional buy-in by leadership and security staff is still needed.
As a result of all the panelists discussing both things that worked well and areas that needed improvement, discussion with the audience then centered around how we respond to hearing “NO” at our institutions and what are the most compelling arguments to win institutional support for preservation programs.  Several  members of the audience responded with ways that they build partnerships with allies within their institution or develop data to support their argument before again attempting to implement change.
The panelists presented a variety of examples, both successful and unsuccessful, to promote collection care cultures at their institutions. It contributed renewed energy to go back to our institutions to continue to forge stronger relationships to support collections care in a variety of creative ways.
Find out more information about the activities of AIC’s Collection Care Network.
Rebecca Fifield is Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections at the New York Public Library. She is a graduate of the George Washington University Museum Studies program and a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation. A 25-year veteran of large and small art and history institutions, she is Chair of AIC’s Collection Care Network and an Advisory Council Member of the Association of Registrars and Collections Specialists.
Maryanne McCubbin is Head, Strategic Collection Management at Museum Victoria. Maryanne has worked in archives and museums for close to thirty years. An expert in history and care of heritage collections, her work has centered on the development, care and preservation, use and interpretation of collections. Her current position involves addressing the big, tough issues around managing a major, complex state collection.
Patty Silence is Director of Preventive Conservation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, responsible for preservation in the historic area, museums, storage, and loans. Her focus is on site maintenance, environmental management, emergency preparedness, exhibit preparation, pest control, and safe transport of collections. Patty has over 30 years of experience in encouraging colleagues to gain and use expertise in collections care.Kathy Garrett-Cox is Collection Manager of the Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island and formerly Manager of Historic Collections at Maymont in Richmond, Virginia, where she worked for 11 years. She currently serves as President of the Virginia Conservation Association and as Chair of the Richmond Area Museum Emergency Support Team. Kathy speaks frequently on coordination of conservation projects and writing disaster plans. She recently coordinated the Central Virginia Alliance for Response program.