42nd Annual Meeting – Workshop, May 28, Respirator Fit Test Lecture and Respirator Fit Testing, May 29 by appointment, AIC Health and Safety Committee

In the past year have you:

  • Grown a beard to emulate your conservation idol Steve Koob?
  • Participated in a juice cleanse which inspired a new pattern of healthy eating and daily lunchtime walks?
  • Had a little work done ?
  • Contracted Hepatitis B while doing archaeological site conservation in an exotic foreign location? (I sure hope not!)

Steve Koob, Conservation Idol

Juice cleanse

Rivers set for Charles comedy gala
A little work

If you answered yes to any of these questions then you are a candidate for a respirator fit test even you don’t work in a place where an annual test is required. Facial hair, weight loss or gain of 20lbs or more and any other changes in the shape of your face may mean that the respirator you have been wearing is no longer tight-fitting. Serious illness may compromise your respiratory and/or other systems making respirator use dangerous.
I trust that those reading this are already aware of the importance of protecting ourselves from the potentially harmful chemical compounds (vapors and particulates) and other irritants (such as mold) that we may be exposed to in the course of our work. Depending on the risk, such protection might be afforded in a variety of ways such as via the use of laboratory fume hood, appropriate room ventilation systems including workstation elephant trunk style air outlets, and/or personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a dust mask or respirator.
If you don’t work in a museum or other institution with a designated health and safety officer following OSHA required guidelines, you might be unclear about what kind of mask is required for a particular contaminant and even what “fit testing” means. Personally, never having been “fit tested” before, I will admit that for years I wasn’t even 100% clear whether it meant “are you fit (in proper health) to wear a respirator?” or “does the respirator fit?” Of course it means both! These days all you need do is consult the very informative AIC Health and Safety Committee Wiki to get your fill of information about respirators and so much more
As a conservator in private practice, I have no employer checking up on whether or not I am protecting myself. Several years ago I purchased a respirator, which seemed to fit well. While wearing it with the correct cartridges for the organic solvents I was working with, I figured “If I can’t smell the vapors it must be fine.” But I was never really sure that it fit and it is important to follow guidelines about the life of your cartridges to be sure you are getting adequate protection.
When I signed up for the respirator fit test, the AIC Health and Safety committee sent me the six-page OSHA Medical Evaluation Form (mostly check boxes with yes or no) to fill out and have signed by my doctor prior to fit testing. Keep this in mind if you plan to participate in fit testing at AIC next year – you must plan ahead and have this signed paperwork in hand or you will not be allowed to be tested! This form is available for download on the wiki.
 The respirator fit testing consists of two steps, both of which fulfill the annual requirements mandated by OSHA. First, a brief Powerpoint, given by James R. Smith, Safety Coordinator at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, covered topics from the requirements of the Respiratory Protection Program (29CFR 1910.134) to hazards requiring a respirator, how to choose the correct respirator, care and maintenance, donning and doffing and training requirements for employers. The lecture was accompanied by handouts prepared by AIC Health and Safety and we were given a 10 question true or false quiz at the end.
I had scheduled my fit testing appointment prior to traveling to San Francisco. AIC Health and Safety asked participants to choose their top three time slots on the given date in order of preference. When I arrived, I noticed that there were still a couple of time slots available. I would highly recommend pre-registration for fit testing at AIC if you plan to do it next year because then you are guaranteed a spot.
The fit testing itself was quite simple. After donning my mask, James handed me a card with a poem to read while moving my head up and down, side to side and in a circular motion.
While I read this rainbow poem, he followed me with a little pen like device emitting an irritant smoke. I believe that the finale required bending at the waist. The test was brief and painless and I was relieved to hear that I had passed – particularly since I had already used the respirator on numerous projects. Once the test was over, James offered to prove to me that the respirator worked by allowing me to experience the irritant sans respirator. I declined saying that I trusted the test. However, he said that some people like to have proof and offered again. Somehow I took the bait and learned first hand that indeed, the gas is an irritant and my respirator is working properly.
Thank you to James, Kathryn A Makos, MPH, CIH (Industrial Hygienist (Ret.) Smithsonian Institution) and the rest of the AIC Health and Safety Committee for offering this service at the annual meeting.

FAIC & the Samuel H. Kress Conservation Fellowships

Since 2011, FAIC has been proudly administering the Samuel H. Kress Conservation Fellowships. These prestigious and competitive awards are given to museums and other conservation facilities so that emerging conservators can have an exceptionally involved experience in the field following graduate work. I was truly delighted when the FAIC review committee scores indicated that Whitten and Proctor Fine Art Conservation would be in the final group of host institutions selected for the 2012-2013 cycle, becoming the first private practice to receive a Fellowship award. Jill Whitten and Rob Proctor have a rich background in teaching, mentoring, research, and publication, and I knew that they could offer a unique and challenging environment for a Kress Fellow. Scroll down to read Jill, Rob, and Gabriel weigh in on the unique perspectives offered by their private practice setting.
Eric Pourchot
FAIC Institutional Advancement Director
How did you balance your roles as mentors and small business owners?
Jill and Rob: Luckily, teaching comes naturally to us. We have worked with wonderful conservators in the best institutions and we feel that we have a great deal to share. We enjoy the teaching aspects. Being so engaged in the studio is also good for our business and for completing projects.
Learn more about Whitten & Proctor’s Kress Fellowship by reading the rest of the interview…

41st Annual Meeting, CIPP Seminar, Wednesday, May 29th presented by Alexandra Darraby

The CIPP strikes again with a well-attended and informative seminar to assist all of us in Private Practice. This year the topics covered business structures, service agreements aka the contract and insurance with an overarching theme of Risk Management. We then had an interactive roll-play so we could see an example of how the pieces all work together.
Business structures are one component for risk management and are determined by state law. The details of a Sole-Proprietor, Limited Liability Company and Corporation were covered (I’ll add to the wiki soon). The main differences: Sole-proprietor can have their personal assets attached by a creditor. An LLC (not no liability, just limited) has the pass-through taxation benefits of a sole-proprietor, but is made up of members, who can be individuals, corporations or other LLCs. Corporations have shareholders with stock holdings as well as Officers, Directors, Committees and annual meetings. So while thinking about what structure is best for your business, one needs to consider all the intricacies that go with each structure, as well as your tolerance for risk and tolerance for paperwork. Check out the business links on the CIPP web-page: http://cool.conservation-us.org/coolaic/sg/cipp/blinks.html.
Taxes play a part in your business structure –Sole-proprietors are pass-through, so they go with your personal tax return. Corporations do it a little differently and so the IRS has come up with some options: S-corp and C-corp. And then there is an LLC, which can file using most of the tax options. I would recommend consulting with an accountant.

Conservators In Private Practice seminar at the 41st Annual Meeting
Conservators In Private Practice seminar at the 41st Annual Meeting

Ms. Darraby, in conjunction with CIPP and the AIC Board, produced a Professional Services Agreement in 2009 and it can be ordered from AIC: http://www.conservation-us.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=store.&prod_cat_ID=17. It is free to CIPP members and comes with guidelines for use. The template was reviewed by lawyers and insurers and uses language that will hold up in court. Because each state has its own special idiosyncrasies, it is important to adjust the template for your business and the state it is in. And here is where I would recommend consulting with an attorney, especially if a client asks to make changes in your service agreement. A balance is needed to make sure your business is protected and you are upholding best practices for the client and their art. Sometimes one must ‘just say no’, although I know that can be extremely difficult.
Next we had a panel discussion regarding insurance with representatives from DeWitt Stern and Claire Marmion, an adjuster from Haven Art Group. Insurance can be the survival of your business because it protects you and your assets. But, you must read all the fine print and consult with your broker to make sure you have the coverage you need.
A few key points:
-Superstorm Sandy has led to some changes, such as restricting water coverage and likely higher premiums going forward.
-Your homeowner’s policy probably does not cover your home business.
-General Liability insurance follows you as business owner – so you may have coverage while working on-site.
As an adjuster, Claire outlined some key things an insurance company would want from us if we come in as the conservator assessing a piece post-event:

  1. the treatment proposal needs to state categorically if the damage is reversible or not, i.e. will the client be pleased post-treatment.
  2. Include as much exact detail about the treatment steps as possible
  3. Be upfront about your fee to assess
  4. Commit to a cost – a range is ok
  5. Give a timeline for finishing the work; if you can expedite the treatment for an additional fee, add that in too.

If the insurance company is being too slow and you know leaving the piece in its’ current condition will be problematic the longer it goes untreated, be sure to have the client push the broker to push the claim through.
We had a few paintings conservators who had done assessments that took a very long time to go through the insurance process and the wait made the treatment more difficult and time-consuming.
The interactive element was fun. We were given a scenario and paired up to discuss what the different people should/could do. We then had four intrepid volunteers (Sue Blakney, Yuri Yanchyshyn, Gordon Lewis and Claire Marmion) enact the meeting between the parties to see what the solution might end up being and then discuss the outcome. Ms Darraby noted that the volunteers were just too nice!
Please add comments, especially if you feel I left out something!

41st Annual Meeting – Book and Paper Session, June 1, “Testing the Waters: Applying New Techniques to the Cleaning of Acrylic Paint Film by Amy Hughes and Daria Keynan”

New York-based paper conservator Daria Keynan and Amy Hughes, third-year graduate student at NYU Institute of Fine Arts, shared exciting new contemporary cleaning techniques that have the potential for more effective and efficient treatment of paper-based objects by custom-matching the pH and conductivity modular stock solutions to the original object. This presentation was a wonderful and inspiring cross-specialty exploration of how paintings conservation techniques can be applied to paper conservation – and who doesn’t want more tricks up their sleeve?
Keynan was first introduced to the concept at the 2011 CAPS (Cleaning of Acrylic Painted Surfaces) workshop at the Museum of Modern Art. (I am now kicking myself for thinking that these workshops wouldn’t necessarily apply to my work as a book and paper conservator, so jealous!) To date there have been four innovative series of CAPS workshops supported by the Getty Conservation Institute to further the dialogue between theory and practice among conservation scientists and conservators as well as to introduce the concept of modular cleaning systems. Struck by her experience at the 2011 CAPS workshop and impressed by their use for treating acrylic paint films on art on paper, Keynan has further explored the use of pH and conductivity customization for other areas of paper conservation.
The CAPS workshop introduced several different cleaning techniques to minimize removal of surfactants when cleaning acrylic film surfaces. Acrylic paint and modern materials are scary (my word, not theirs.) Emulsions are often complex with many proprietary and artist-introduced ingredients. Colors react differently after drying, in treatment, and as they age. Some colors may be more sensitive to chemical and mechanical cleaning than others. Surfactants and other soft solids may never solidify, creating a tacky surface that can attract dust and grime. Conservation treatment, particularly aqueous treatment or mechanical cleaning with damp cotton swabs, can introduce immediate disfiguration like abrasion or swelling. Readily soluble surfactants can leach to the paint film surface or verso of the paper substrate. Treatment can also jumpstart deterioration that is not apparent until the future due to unknown chemical and mechanical consequences.
Of the many cleaning techniques available within contemporary conservation, Hughes and Keynan limited their presentation to the customization of pH and conductivity as a more finely-tuned and safer aqueous cleaning technique. They shared their methods by highlighting the treatment of works of art on paper brought to the Daria Keynan Paper Conservation in Manhattan for treatment where adjusted water – tweaking the pH and conductivity of the deionized water – was a key factor of success.

HughesKeynan_slide14_2013BPGIn the Garden
(1986) by Paula Rego was surface cleaned to reduce dust and embedded grime altering the surface sheen. After dry cleaning with cosmetic sponges, Hughes tested various acrylic paint colors for pH and conductivity testing. Cylindrical pellets of cast agarose gel (recipe and supply information to be published in their BPG Annual post-print) were uniformly shaped with a medical-grade biopsy punch. (Heed Hughes’ warning, online image searches for “biopsy punch” are not for the weak-stomached!) The agarose pellet, acting like a poultice, was placed in contact with the acrylic paint film for 45 seconds to absorb the surface pH and conductivity. Agarose was selected because it imbibes the surface readings without visibly swelling the paint with excess moisture as in more aggressive techniques like local, direct application of deionized water. Keynan explained that the contact time of the agarose pellet can be matched to the estimated treatment time so that testing parameters can meet real-world treatment situations, increasing the predictability and reproducibility of testing results.
HughesKeynan_slide15_2013BPGThe pellet was transferred from the paper surface to the well of a pocket-sized, hand-held pH meter (Horiba Laqua pH Tester from Cole-Parmer) to record the pH of the paint surface. A droplet of deionized water was then placed on the pellet and transferred to another pocket-sized, hand-held conductivity meter (Horiba B-171 Twin Conductivity/Salinity Pocket Tester from Cole-Parmer) to record the conductivity of the paint surface. (As someone who absolutely dreads calibrating our cumbersome pH meter I was overjoyed to hear how easy these were to use – my purchase order request is already submitted.)
The conservators used the recorded pH and conductivity for a given area of the painted surface to identify the optimal working solution for cleaning. They selected from among a variety of premixed stock solutions that were created according to the CAPS workshop directions using deionized water, glacial acetic acid, and ammonium hydroxide in a range of ph 5-8 and conductivity 1000-6000 µS (micro Siemens.) Once mixed, the stock solutions can be stored in the refrigerator for up to several months. Keynan also reported that they often add several drops of an antimicrobial preservative for a longer shelf life.
The embedded material and dust on In the Garden released easily with 3-4 passes of lightly damp, pre-blotted cotton swab rolled over the surface. Hughes warned that since acrylic film is susceptible to abrasion it is important to monitor the paint surface during treatment. Cotton might not be appropriate for all acrylic surfaces so additional experiments with different swab materials may be useful. Similar success was seen in the mold removal and stain reduction of Maquette for Smoking Cigarette Relief (1983) by Tom Wesselmann.
Since Superstorm Sandy hit New York City in October 2012, Keynan’s studio has seen many complex treatments because of the unusual and unknown composition of the storm water which was often contaminated by sewage (uh, gross.) Many of the paper-based objects were stained with tidelines that were difficult to remove and fluoresced brightly under UV. Standard paper conservation techniques often visibly removed the tidelines but were deemed unsuccessful since under UV they shifted along the paper fibers or sank but were not completely removed from the paper support. She related that altering the pH and conductivity of her treatment water dramatically improved treatment results. Removal of the fluorescing blue tidelines (both external and internal) was achieved by local application of the adjusted water and using fumed silica poultices to block the formation of new tidelines.
HughesKeynan_slide34_2013BPGThe last example Keynan shared was a sample of naturally aged 2-ply paper board. (This was exciting, anyone else ever stare blankly at a nasty tideline on an illustration board and just sigh?) Traditional and adjusted treatment waters were applied with cotton swabs in several passes to clean the surface with varying results. Traditional deionized water cleaned less and was uneven, leaving a soft and vulnerable surface. The solution set at pH 6.6 and 6,000 µS glided more easily and had more even results. It also felt more controllable when working. The third sample solution set to pH 5.5 and 14,000 µS gave the most effective cleaning but in real life would probably not need three passes. After drying, the surface readings for all three areas had almost identical conductivity and pH readings.
Keynan concluded that by matching a pH- and conductivity-adjusted solution to the surface of the object it is possible to create a near chemical equilibrium at the surface to eliminate leaching from or depositing into the paint film. In treatment, using adjusted solution equals maximized cleaning efficiency with less wetting out of substrates, less pigment transfer, less repeated action, less loss of surface texture, and reduced distortion of the working area. Conservators have always adjusted pH for various uses, but by measuring the conductivity we can tailor our treatments to the physical needs of the object material with more refinement and subject it to less invasive treatment. Adjusted waters are an incredibly useful tool for improving and refining treatments in our conservation practice.
Hughes and Keynan’s presentation was an approachable and exciting take on the contemporary research going on in the field of conservation science and paintings conservation, especially as led by Chris Stavroudis (freelance paintings conservator in Los Angeles) and Richard Wolbers (Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation) in, well, all things related to cleaning painted surfaces and the Modular Cleaning Program.
Other presentations at the AIC meeting in Indianapolis such as “Mass Spectrometric Imaging of Acrylic Emulsion Paint Films: Engineering a Microemulsion-Based Cleaning Approach” (Paintings + Research and Technical Studies Thursday, May 30) show that the MCP and CAPS research continues. During the question-and-answer period Dr. Anthony Lagalante (Villanova University) shared that he and Stavroudis had recently recorded a video about using and calibrating the meters – it was on the cutting room floor, but will be posted to the CAPS website soon. Lagalante also sent me a link to their illuminating Studies in Conservation article that is currently available as a pre-print:

C.E. Dillon, A.F. Lagalante and R.C. Wolbers “ Aqueous cleaning of acrylic emulsion paint films. The effect of solution pH, conductivity and ionic strength on film swelling and surfactant removal” Studies in Conservation 57(1), (2014). http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/maney/sic/pre-prints/2047058412Y.0000000076

The concept presented by Hughes and Keynan in “Testing the Waters” has the potential for wide application for all book and paper conservators. Working with stock solutions is a fast and economical lab practice. Customizing treatment solutions increases the workability and effectiveness of the treatment. Many of us in the room instantly coveted the easy-to-use digital meters as we thought of the hassle of calibrating traditional models. I’m intrigued by how this research can be applied to aqueous treatments meant to introduce alkaline reserves to acidic paper.
This was a welcome multi-disciplinary presentation that encouraged conservators from other specialty groups like PSG and RATS to attend the BPG program. I am not alone in hoping for more presentations like it at future meetings so we can all benefit from the exciting things happening in all areas of our conservation community.

AIC’s 40th Annual Meeting – CIPP Business Meeting – “Levity and Brevity”

The following was written by George Schwartz, Chair, CIPP

To call what we had on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 a CIPP Business Meeting would be a misnomer. We conducted no official business, because we got carried away, absorbed in a deep and animated conversation with AIC Board President Meg Craft and AIC Executive Director Eryl Wentworth who generously accepted our invitation and spent a great deal of their precious time explaining the structural differences between Specialty Groups, Networks and Task Forces, which are forms of organizational groups within the umbrella of the AIC. We were attempting to determine if it might be advantageous for CIPP to change to one of these other formats and the ramifications of such a change.

Meg and Eryl commanded the attention of all attendees who asked many clarifying questions and the time just flew by in a productive conversation. While there were no conclusions reached, after weighing the pros and cons, we decided to remain with the present structure while keeping our options open as we go forward. I want to thank Meg and Eryl for their insight, patience and for the time they so graciously granted us.

Our Business meeting adjourned with many small groups engaged in conversation long into the night, with some adjourning to the bar. In a different post, I will welcome our new directors to their positions and conclude Board business in accordance with customary practice.

AIC’s 40th Annual Meeting – CIPP Seminar Reaching Out – The Art of Using Outreach to Grow Your Business

The following post was written by CIPP Chair George Schwartz:

Those in attendance in the fully booked CIPP Seminar Reaching Out   The Art of Using Outreach to Grow Your Business were not disappointed. We held our breath listening to all the exceptionally useful and practical material presented by out two charismatic and animated presenters.

Ann Shaftel took the podium first  and held our attention with her anecdotes, while giving us practical advice on how we can increase our visibility to the public. Ann spoke from the perspective of many years of practical experience. She wrote a regular newspaper column as an expert in preservation, conservation and restoration, appeared on regular radio and TV programs, live to air call in shows, and even movies.

She explained practical ways of capturing the attention of the audience, to educate and enlighten listeners on the finer points of our field. Ann addressed ethical and legal issues that can become unforeseen pitfalls in doing public outreach. It was obvious that her hard work in putting together her program paid off by capturing the attention of everyone present. We’re grateful for her efforts.

Scott Haskins followed with his presentation after a brief intermission. Those of you who know Scott, already appreciate his success and expertise in social media outreach. During his rapid-fire presentation we also got to appreciate his incisive critical thinking, his quick wit and exceptional good humor.

Scott came very well prepared. Within minutes of the start, we were making unbelievable videos without any camera equipment and posting them on YouTube. Here is a link to the one I made: http://tinyurl.com/7p6l7co . Most everyone came up with something useful just by following Scott’s instructions. He showed us other facilities to produce useful promotional outreach materials and what’s even more important, advice on how to determine who our audience is, what the content needs to focus on and how to avoid the mistakes that so many people tend to make.

I cannot meaningfully summarize the hundreds of points we touched on, but check back here on the AIC Blog as Scott has prepared some useful information which he plans to post online soon.

In closing I have to say, that the knowledge that I gleaned during these presentations was alone worth the cost of my trip to Albuquerque!

AIC’s 39th Annual Meeting- Objects Session, June 3, “Balancing Ethics and Restoration in the Conservation Treatment of an 18th Century Sewing Box with Tortoiseshell Veneer,” by Lori Trusheim.

Trusheim’s presentation clearly guided listeners through the processes involved with the treatment of a sewing box in a private collection. This talk addressed the main conference theme of the AIC meeting and explored how the Code of Ethics can be applied to aid treatment decisions. I particularly enjoyed how thoroughly Trusheim outlined the steps involved with procuring replacement materials, as well as how the owner’s expectations have influenced the treatment.


39th Annual Meeting – CIPP Seminar: Obtaining Work Through The Insurance Industry

Written and Video Review of the 2011 CIPP Seminar – Philadelphia

“Claiming Your Piece of the Insurance Pie”


There was at this seminar an excellent cross section of insurance experts that are intimately associated with the art conservation field: George Schwartz our fearless CIPP leader and Vice Chair last year (our new Chair For 2012) who teaches on this subject; Sylvia Leonard Wolf of Fine Art Appraisers and Consultants, NY, NY; Barbara Chamberlain, Director of the Central Region USA, Art Collection Mgmt for Chartis Insurance from Palm Beach, Fl; Mary L. Sheridan, Assistant Fine Art Manager, Chubb & Son, a division of Federal Insurance Co. from NY, NY. Let me also give an honorable mention to Gordon Lewis whose wealth of experience in working with insurance companies in many capacities, his contacts, his coordination of and for this meeting, his input during the meeting is much appreciated.

George’s presentation the first two hours was an excellent primer in understanding how the insurance field works in settling claims. His depth of detail and the valuable information he presented in his PowerPoint we hope will be available online soon. Much or all of his information seemed to be a direct result of working with the insurance industry for decades in the capacity of an art conservator (sorry about the reference to your age George) and being a teacher on the subject.  Perhaps this is not the place to try and summarize his presentation and I won’t try. If you would like to contact George call (561) 912 0030 or george@conservart.com www.ConservArt.net

See his video clip:

Sylvia Leonard Wolf, who teaches her subject at NYU, spoke from her extensive experience as an appraiser and how appraisals impact claims and treatments that conservators perform. She works closely with conservation issues and spoke eloquently and on subject while presenting important issues that conservators must be sensitive to. A couple of key points she made are that conservators should always remember:

*Always get paid for everything you do (bill out at full rate) for your expertise, consultations and services when working on issues for insurance companies.

* If you are looking to network for contacts, appraisers refer conservation work.

You may contact Sylvia at www.sylvialeonardwolf.com, (845) 679 6363, SylviaLWolf@gmail.com

Barbara Chamberlain, Chartis Insurance, gave a terrific presentation and the audience was well served by her openness to respond to questions. Her staggering responsibilities regarding high-end collections clients was most interesting. She confirmed the high regard that Chartis has for the Conservation Field and indeed considers it an essential part of the team to service their clients. It was very interesting to hear the priorities Chartis has to care for and prepare collections in order to avoid damage… not just respond to damage. She is available for you to contact her at (561) 623 4050 and at barbarae.chamberlain@chartisinsurance.com See her video clip: 

Mary Sheridan, Chubb & Son Insurance, was very open and personable about her company’s efforts with high end art collections and clients. Many similarities between Chubb and Chartis in how they care for collections and respond to needs were expressed. Mary’s discussion and her participation in questions and answers were invaluable and very entertaining. Her extensive experience with art conservation was evident and she spoke on subject and to our profession’s interests. She is available for you to contact her at (212) 612 4384 and mlsheridan@chubb.com

In summary, I think it was generally expressed among attendees and presenters that  a follow up effort would be beneficial to art conservators in order to better understand how to get work from insurance companies, as there are many different sources from which a conservator can receive work. See the following video clip: 


If you have suggestions for the 2012 CIPP program in Albuquerque, NM, contact Judith Tartt of Art-Care (www.art-care.com), new CIPP Vice Chair and program organizer.

Express yourself and reach out: “Like” this article by clicking on the thumbs up below, refer this posting to others you connect with via Facebook, Twitter etc. Please pass the link for this blog post along to other conservators.

Scott M. Haskins, Professional Associate AIC

Fine Art Conservation Laboratories (FACL, Inc.)


805 564 3438