Textiles Specialty Group – Thursday May 13th, 2010 – 1st half of the morning session

8:00 – 8:30 a.m. Conservation of a Felt Sculpture

Erin Eslinger, Intern to Senior Textile Conservator Beth McLaughlin, Midwest Art Conservation Center, Minneapolis, MN

The treatment of Robert Morris’s 80″ x 142″ untitled minimalist sculpture, on display at the Walker Art Center was used as an example of an simple and successful interventive conservation treatment that still incorporates the artist’s intent. The artwork consists of 8 layers of cut and layered wool felt, hung from metal (brass) grommets at the top corners in a loose manner that creates a swag effect. Although the artist intends his work change over time, the weight of the hanging felt layers has cause tearing and distortions around the two metal grommets from which it hangs. After consultation with the artist, he agreed to the complete replacement of the metal grommets. The grommets were cut and pulled apart, revealing tears, holes and severely distorted felt around the grommet areas. The felt was locally humidified and flattened in these areas.

Needle-felting was chosen to add additional support to the grommet corners. As compared to adhesive, needle-felting is non-invasive and reversible. Erin explained that in chosen a support material, the higher the wool content, the better the bond. Also, it was essential that the color and width of the support material match the original as closely as possible, as the patches would be slightly visible. This material and attachment technique also allowed the original felt layers to still drape in a natural fashion.

I thought this talk was very clear and neatly presented, and was a good example of a conservation treatment that worked at stabilizing the object so that it could still be publicly displayed while still maintaining the desires and intent of the artist.

Click here for more on needle-felting

8:30-9:00 a.m. The Conservation of Three Hawaiian Ahu’ula

Beth Nunan, Assistant Conservator, American Museum of Natural History and Aimee-Ducey-Gessner, Object Conservator, Frankfurt, Germany

It’s a little strange blogging about my own talk, but at least I know I’ll get all of the details right for this one!

I presented a paper on the conservation of three ahu’ula or Hawaiian feather cloaks in the collection of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii. An IMLS grant in the summer of 2007 brought Aimee and myself from our respective graduate programs to work with object conservator Valerie Free to research, stabilize, and prepare new mounts for three of the 12 cloaks in the museum’s collection. The three cloaks are labeled the Chapman cloak, the Joy cloak, and the second Joy cloak (after their collectors/donors). Originally worn by members of the ali’i or ruling chiefly class as battle garments, they later developed into symbols of status and prestige. It was the goal of the conservation department to stabilize the entire collection of 12 cloaks so that the exhibit can be rotated. That would allow the public to see the wide variety of cloaks in the collection while at the same time help to preserve the cloaks by exposing them to shorter periods of display.

The manufacturing technique for the cloaks are very similar. All three cloaks are comprised of sections of netting made from olona, a plant endemic to Hawaii and one of the strongest natural fibers in the world. The netting uses variations on a simple fisherman’s knot, with gauge sizes varying from section to section as well as within design areas. Larger feathers conceal more netting, allowing a larger gauge (and therefore less cordage) to be used.

The most common feathers used on the cloak are red and yellow, obtained from the o’o, mamo and i’iwi birds. The Hawaiian o’o feathers are wispy and lemony yellow in color, and are lonely located under the wings and rump of the birds. The mamo’s feathers are shorter and warmer in color, described as crocus yellow. The i’iwi feathers are read and are from all over the bird’s body, allowing more feathers to be collected per bird. Of the three, the i’iwi is the only bird of the three that is not extinct.

The cloaks were in varying states of condition, as a result of numerous travels, usage before entering the museum collection, and extended display periods as museum objects. The Chapman cloak had a number of undocumented losses that may have been a result of use as a battle cloak, or at some later point in its life. All three cloaks had numerous tears and previous repairs, many of which had resulted in uneven stress on the netting and distorted feather layers visible on the front. Unstable or unsightly previous repairs were reversed and redone, aligning the tear edges evenly to prevent feather distortion. Nylon netting was used to add strength to some areas, particularly on the Chapman cloak, where the netting was sewn to the upper 2/3rds of the cloak to provide strength.

A new mount was designed to provide a more cultural appropriate form for the cloaks. Previous mount techniques included attaching the cloaks flat to the exhibit wall, or attaching the cloaks directly to a felt covered foam form using Velcro. The flat display did not allow the design to be correctly ‘read’ as it should be viewed in a three-dimensional shape, where the later design added uneven stress the netting during mounting and removal. The foam forms were also very large and took up valuable storage space. The new mount uses collapsible arms (similar to an umbrella) to which hook-side Velcro tabs have been attached. Hook-side Velcro tabs were also sewn to the back of the cloaks, and the cloaks were each laid onto a thick polyester liner, which acts as the ‘soft’ Velcro attachment. The liner can then be stuck to the mount. This relieves stress to the cloak as the liner itself is pulled on and off the mount, while the cloak remains fully supported. The liner can be kept with the cloak in storage.

9:00 – 9:30 a.m. The New York State Battle Flag Preservation Project – 10 Years Later

Sarah Stevens, Associate Textile Conservator, Peebles Island Resource Center, New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Waterford, NY

In 1863, New York State sent a call for the return of battle flags with the promise that they would be cared for by the state. Over 2000 flags were collected, rolled up and stored at the capital in Albany.

In 1997, the Department of Military and Naval Affairs began working with conservators at the Peebles Island Resource Center to learn how to best care for these treasures, resulting in hiring textile conservator Sarah Stevens to begin documentation, stabilization, and accessible storage – a process that will involve using the same mount for both storage and exhibition.

Sarah presented a series of treatment examples to show the wide range of condition issues that she has been facing while she has been treating over 500 flags in the last 10 years. Additionally, she is able to use this opportunity to examine the affects of treatments conducted in the 1960s and how they have influenced modern day approaches.

The first treatment example consisted of a large 19th century silk and wool flag. She began humidification of the flag using a traditional table-top humidification chamber but found that she lost all humidity while trying to work on the textile, making the process time consuming and cumbersome. Creating a large humidification chamber from an outdoor car garage allowed her to work within the humidified space with less risk of continuous drastic ups and downs in RH. She did mention that it takes about 1 day for the chamber to reach optimal humidity (>90% RH).

Painted flags presented an opportunity to work with paintings conservators to determine treatment of ‘bloom’ on certain paint areas – they advised reduction of the bloom using vinyl eraser gently rubbed across the surface.

Stabiltex ‘band-aids’ as Sarah referred to them (Stabiltex backed with BEVA) allowed her to make mends on the flags, as the small, light, transparent patches spanned the breaks in painted areas. Painted flags with extensive structural damages were lined with Stabiltex/BEVA.

In the 1960s, a number of the flags were “preserved” by lamination – resulting in what is now a yellow, heavy film encapsulation. A first removal attempt with heat was tried, but solvent ended up work best. Acetone was applied and the film slowly peeled away.

Another 1960s treatment consisted of net encapsulation – approximately 650 flags were treated in this way between 1961-76. This treatment consisted of a machine stitched line spaced every 1 inch apart holding a scratchy net to the surface. The edges of the netting were also stitched. A sample section of the netting was removed, revealing disfiguring stitch holes and netting impression in the flag, making complete removal of the netting not worth the risk to the flag. In areas of painted silk, the netting was removed from the painted area to place ‘band-aids’ to stabilize the tears, and the netting was placed back over.

At this point, about 500 flags have been treated, leaving over 1500 to go. New York State has recently cut funding, so they are looking for grants to help fund the project’s completion.

Paintings Specialty Session – Friday, May 14, 2010

2:30pm – 3:00pm

Evaluation of Cleaning Agents for Artists’ Acrylic Paints with the Aid of High Throughput (HTP) Testing / Alan Phenix and Thomas J.S. Lerner, Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, CA; Malinda H. Keefe, The Dow Chemical Company, Midland, MI; Bronwyn Ormsby, Tate, London, UK

The presentation was made by Melinda Keffe from The Dow Chemical Company. The material she presented was building on the development of the HTP test methods for measuring cleaning efficiency which was presented at the AIC’s 2009 Annual Meeting in Los Angeles. The study reported on the effectiveness of Dow specialty ethoxylate surfactants (biodegradable, nonionic), Ethylene oxide/butylenes oxide diblock copolymers (biodegradable, nonionic), and non-polar (i.e. aliphatic hydrocarbon) solvents on soiled acrylic paints. The aim of the research is to provide results for aqueous systems based on parameters such as: pH; conductivity; surfactant type and concentration; chelate type and concentration; and combinations of these variables using the HTP test methods for measuring cleaning efficiency. The test results indicated that the Dow cleaners were at the top of the list in most of the cleaning samples with mineral spirits solutions. However most of the highly effective solutions also had a high conductivity which could contribute to swelling and cleaning issues with acrylics. It was also noted that the acrylic painted surfaces were dirty but not sooty – and Ms. Keefe admitted it would be interesting to test the affects with soot. Analytical tests to post-cleaned surfaces will be posted in publications being made in scientific journals. They are trying to modify the solutions and test the systems further using volunteers. Ms. Keefe extended an informal invitation for those willing to participate as a volunteer for these tests. If you are interested, please contact authors.

3:00pm – 3:30pm

A Question of Technique: Condition Issues Associated with Layering Structure in Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean park Series / Ana Alba, Postgraduate Fellow and Susan Lake, Director of Collections Management and Chief Conservator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution; Mel Wachowiak, Senior Conservator, Museum Conservation Institute, Smithsonian Institution – Ana Alba presented the research. Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park paintings began in 1967 and continued over 25 years. An artist applied, preparatory synthetic layer has been discovered in cross-sections from some of the paintings from this series. It was initially found as a dripped material along one of the tacking edges. Ms. Alba traveled to look at over a dozen other Ocean Park paintings from this series and discovered that those with this heavy, clear resinous layer beneath the paint have suffered condition issues (cracks and flaking paint), while those without it did not. The Hirshhorn’s Diebenkorn, No. 111, 1978 has a complex pattern of lifting cracks that extend over most of the painted surface. Analysis of materials was done at Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute (MCI). FTIR identified the ground as an acrylic gesso and the paint medium as oil. It also identified the clear layer as an ethyl- acrylate-methyl methacrylate polymer (possibly Rhoplex AC-33), noting that an aged Rhoplex is similar in spectra as aged acrylic. Many of the cracks correlate with the charcoal under-drawings and white preparatory layer. The artist’s manipulation contributed to the cracking, as the paintings with thick layers have cracked more. The Ocean Park paintings on commercially prepared canvas have fared better (these have no clear synthetic layers but the paint application is the same). It was surmised that the alkyd’s polyester backbone has a higher molecular weight; that it dried faster; became more brittle with age; and is now causing cracks. The alkyd layers are separating from both the oil layers and the acrylic gesso. Summary: brittle layers are failing over a flexible support – Rhoplex AC-33 may cross-link but remains flexible. Ms. Alba concluded with an appropriate quote from Diebenkorn, stating “if you get an image, try to destroy it.”

4:00pm – 4:30pm

Do Weave Matches Imply Canvas Roll Matches? Don H. Johnson, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Rice Univeristy; Ella Hendriks, Conservation Department, van Gogh Museum; Muriel Geldof, Netherlands Instiute for Cultural Heritage; C. Richard Johnson, Jr., School of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Cornell University Mr. Johnson’s presentation augments the 2009 presentation given by C. Richard Johnson at the AIC meeting in Los Angeles. Their findings are based on computational algorithms for measuring thread counts and angles in both warp and weft determined from scanned x-ray images that produce “maps” of these variables across an entire painting. Mr. Johnson’s background as an electrical engineer prompted him to look at the horizontal and vertical threads (warp/weft) as a ‘signaling’ or frequency; with some interference (he jokingly referred to the painting is the interference). The peaks of the weave are the signals – axes; where an angle measure can be taken. (I hope I got that right because I was trying to type it out as quickly as he was saying it) Anyhow, an estimated periodic structure in 2-D spectrum with wedged areas around the peaks can be determined. This produces the weave maps (similar to heat maps), where the weft signals are wavy and the warp are crisper. These maps are like fingerprints for the canvas (not the painting) and may tie it to a roll of woven canvas. It is Easier to identify warp direction alignment in these maps. Over 42 van Gogh paintings were lined up by the computer program and placed in a possible roll sequence. The warp matching indicated cusping at edges, and the warp angle identified the type of loom used to crate it. But there were inconsistencies and so off they went to Belgium to learn more about the preparation of the pre-primed canvas, from the loom to the hand-primed artist canvas (at a factory that still hand-prepares canvas today as it was in van Gogh’s time). They discovered that the canvas is shipped to priming factory in large bolts of woven fabric, then cut to 10 meter lengths and put on priming frames. The canvas is hand sewn to the priming frames using hook and lace tensioning, which is what causes the cusping that was found (as it is looped around nails). The cusping is weak along the top edge and more pronounced along the bottom. After observing this manufacturing technique, their findings were most consistent in the warp direction, which related the canvas more to the bolt production, not the roll. Therefore, weave match means a bolt match. (Phew)

Unfortunately the remaining presentations were missed by this blogger as she had to catch her shuttle bus to the airport.

Objects Specialty Group – Wednesday, May 12, 2010 – Cont.

3:00 – 3:30 p.m. Plaster, Pliacré®, and Paper

Mina Thompson and Conor McMahon, Associate Conservators, Museum Resources Division, Department of Cultural Affairs, New Mexico

Mina Thompson gave this talk about the history of conservation in the Museum of New Mexico System, focusing on archaeological ceramics and Spanish Colonial Santos as examples of artifacts who’s retreatment and reexamination have influenced choices made in recent years toward less toxic and more easily reversible treatments.

The Mimbres ceramics in the Museum’s collection had suffered under previous treatments which resulted in extensive staining and discoloration. These disfiguring stains prevented accurate reading of the ceramic vessel’s illustrations and designs. Research revealed the previous treatments included coating/consolidation with cellulose nitrate and Plaster of Paris fills. Joint masking was achieved through natural resins and polyvinyl acetate resin. Linseed oil-based overpaint had been used to tone the fills. The staining appeared to be a result of oil absorption into the ceramic body.

An ammonium bicarbonate poultice applied over a mulberry tissue interleaf was used to reduce the staining. Removal of the stains and coatings revealed paint polish strokes, use-wear marks, and in some cases previously filled kill holes in the base of the vessel. Other plaster fills were left in, as they provided structural support; they were toned with acrylic paints. Where additional structural fills were needed, Pliacré® epoxy was used.

The second collection type examined were Spanish Colonial Santos. In 1952 the Museum hired Elizabeth Boyd, an artist/restorer, as the Curator of Spanish Colonial Art. It was E. Boyd who contacted Gettens in the 50s for help with Spanish pigment identification. The carved and painted Santos that Boyd focused her research exhibit numerous areas of wear and paint loss, some of which is quite distracting. Losses were masked by creating mulberry tissue fills toned with acrylic and tacked at the edges of the loss using methylcellulose. This covered the exposed gesso with a completely removable fill. [blogger’s note: post-talk comments revealed that this technique has been written/presented by P. Hatchfield and M. Maricolo and is available in previous AIC post-prints (year uncertain) – successful tissue fills have been made on stone, wood sculptures, and ceramics]

The Museum of New Mexico’s continuing goals for conservation are to make knowledge about treatments available for shared collections, so that other institutions with similar collections/problems can benefit from their knowledge. They are also very interested in the idea of a database of early conservators with archival documents and images.

Paintings Specialty Group – May 14th – Morning Session Continued

Up in Smoke, Treatment of Fire Damaged Paintings

The final talk of the morning session was from Rustin Levenson Art Conservation Associates in Miami Florida. Rustin Levenson along with Conservator Veronica Romero, and Assistant Conservator Kelly O’Neill all delivered a talk about 178 paintings that suffered smoke and fire damage at the Harold Golen Gallery in Miami, Florida. They explained that during Art Basel week a promotional balloon on top of the gallery became tangled in electrical wires and caused the gallery to go up in flames. The contents of the gallery, valued at half a million dollars, were a range of oil and acrylics both varnished and unvarnished that were less than 15 years old. The Lowbrow works, depicting scenes of punk music, hot-rod street scenes, and other sub cultures, were mostly owned by the artist’s themselves. Golen, the gallery owner was able to provide rudimentary documents about the works.

The conservators had to set up a site for the salvage operation with an emergency storage room. They were able to take advantage of the dry season in Florida and work outside on occasion. They ultimately treated 85 paintings, 61 acrylic and 24 oil. The talk then began to focus on the issues associated with the cleaning of the acrylic paintings.

They vacuumed the fronts and versos with a hepa filtered vacuum. Early on they discovered that the rubber soot sponge was not going to be of great use to them. It was actually driving soot into canvas fibers. They had more success with the PVOH sponge (specifically the Super brand) with chelating agents. They utilized naphtha emulsions on both the oils and acrylics and rinsed with VM & P Naphtha with 1% ammonium citrate. One VM & P Naphtha Emulsion with mineral spirits trimethylpentane was rinsed with VM & P Naphtha. Another recipe was a 10% xylene emulsion with 7% trimethylpentane, which was rinsed with DI water.

Levenson then stated that with the artist’s permission they “went out on a conservation limb with a saw” with some experimental cleaning. When some of the more traditional formulas, such as EDTA chelating agents or Vulpex failed, they began to gather other cleaning agents from local home hardware stores (Home Depot). For example JC100 was tested and rinsed with DI water, as well as Gonzo stain remover, a water based surfactant solution. They found the best solution for them to be an ethylene glycol monobutyl ether with Vulpex 3-10% or in a VM & P Naphtha emulsion. De-Greaser #88 or Formula 88’s slogan reads, “get rid of the mess with the best.” They rinsed with DI water and/or VM & P Naphtha.

Microscopic images of test areas showed a clean and intact surface. Extremely damaged works were donated to the Getty for their continued research on the cleaning of acrylic surfaces.

The talk was extremely well delivered and presented a practical case study of the problems associated with cleaning acrylics, along with successful results.

Cleaning Beverages Off Photographs AIC-PMG Afternoon Session

Presented by Pilar Hernandez Romera, Photograph Conservator, Ottawa Museum Network (see program for other co-authors)

Such a practical topic – the opening incident a spill on photographs discovered after – no surprise – an opening at a museum… no witness. The museum needed assistance.

Tests objectives – to find an appropriate cleaning method. To know how much time one must react. To discover the liquid.

The testing involved observing the effects of beverages on the emulsion…. An exhaustive list of the possible suspects or culprits developed that might be gel-like – not red wine, for example.

Investigated techniques for removing stains from fabrics – using absorbing materials that may include blotter, filter paper, cotton swabs, and paper towels… Teas diagram used for the solvents… but what are the components of beverages? Checked out the principal materials.

Tested water, ethanol, and acetone. Tested on glass and gelatin silver plates. Various beverages dropped on surfaces. Practical focus appreciated. Liquid absorbed best by blotter – cotton swab not effective. Residues may be glued to the blotter.

Water not effective – very slow. Ethanol did not solubilize the materials. Acetone left foggy appearance.

Mix of 20-80 water – acetone had the best results in solubilizing the residues. Popular housekeeping techniques are clearly not possible.

Second sample prepared with reproduction of black-and – white print hung in the same way with 10 ml of the beverage. (Interesting methodology.) Checked progression of the drops when applied. (based on viscosity and composition of the beverage.)

Some of these materials caused stains that could not be removed. Coke and Coke Light and Beer could not be removed especially. Effects include stains. Emulsion deformation and swollen emulsion caused by sugar inclusion.

Cleaning tried with Gel acetone Klucel G 8%. Good results with champagne and white wine. Beer as well. Coke and Coke light staining remained – no cleaning possible. Attempted to study multiple cleaning.


Blot the excess.

    Water-acetone 20-80 mixture to solubilize residue.

    Time is crucial.

    Acetone gel can be applied – required more research.

    Lager beer caused less damage… sugar and viscous liquids cause swelling. Coke problematic.

    Water and champagne the best – here the drinks may be limited for receptions that occur near receptions. No questions.

The Restoration, Treatment, Scientific Examination, and Re-treatment of an Egyptian Limestone Relief

Friday, May 14, 2010

Objects Morning Session, 8:30am

The Restoration, Treatment, Scientific Examination, and Re-treatment of an Egyptian Limestone Relief from the Tomb of Ka-Aper

Presented by Kathleen M. Garland, Senior Conservator, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Right off the bat, Ms. Garland began her talk by admitting to occasionally feeling a need to be validated in treatment decisions by conservation science. I appreciated this as I think a lot of us feel this way from time to time.

After hearing a review of the history of piece, we learned that the relief was not in great shape when it was acquired. The surface of the stone was lifting off of the substrate, which made removing it from the wall difficult. Consolidation tests were performed in 1992 and it was found that methylcellulose and Kucel G darkened the stone the least, but they were not strong enough. In the end, it was consolidated with Butvar B98, 2% in ethanol/toluene.

After removal, it sat in storage for approximately 15 years due to a lack funding for research and treatment. Then the Mellon Foundation provided funding for research and consultations which allowed for comparison of the relief to other examples from the same tomb, such a piece in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Conservation scientists were also consulted and a variety of analysis undertaken to better understand what was happening at the surface of the stone and what treatments were previously done. Additionally, Egyptologists were also consulted for their expertise and knowledge.

The conclusion of the talk was that undocumented pieces such as this must rely heavily on advice from others in a variety of specialties. This is a theme that I have certainly noticed in a number of talks during this conference and one that undoubtedly cannot be overemphasized.

PMG Tips Session During Lunch Session

Elena Bulat: At Weissman Center, Harvard University with 9 million images.

Rubber cement adhesive – in preparation for an exhibit of advertising photography. Collection is 260 photographs many mounted with rubber cement adhesive with back and window mats. Silver gelatin and chromogenic color. On gelatin emulsion removed with 100% ethanol and cotton pad. Not removed from the verso. Removed smoothly and easily. Don’t use q-tips just use cotton pad wrapped around finger.

Use Klucel G poulitice (10%) like an MC poultice – in this case to remove PVA. Here black paper was adhered to the reverse of carte-de-visites. Mechanical removal followed by poultice of Klucel G. Free solvent resulted in staining. May not work for all PVAs.

Burnished scratch reduction on silver gelatin prints – in this case slightly moist cotton swabs that are “patted” on and off. Step-by-step offered renewal for the scratched area.

Kallitype identification with XRF. Many institutions have portable XRF. This image was in the lab for silver mirror reduction but emulsion layer was not visible under magnification which was surprising. XRF was used. Hard to identify Kallitype from platinum or matte silver gelatin print. Comparison made using known sample. And comparative study of the album of photographs from the same time period. Similarities present in known Kallitype and analyzed sample. Presence of silver mirroring is of interest here owing to the absence of a gelatin layer. Is this possible? Doug Nishimura consulted and noted that this may be possible if the photograph is coated. Determined to leave mirroring intact.

Brenda Bernier, Weissman Center, Harvard University

Brenda notes that in the library discussion group there was an excellent presentation. Synthetic leather for book repair from NYPL. They have been trying to get a synthetic that mimics leather for book repair. They made a silicone mold of leather and used acrylic gel and paints to fill in the mold. The results looked good and the materials can be shaped. Check out the Book and Paper Annual or contact NYPL.

Sara Shpargal notes her experience with replication of missing cover that worked very well. See Sara if you want more info on case treatment as well.

Nora Kennedy, Sherman Fairchild Conservator of PhotographsMetropolitan Museum of Art

Photographic Information Record launched last year – an artist’s questionnaire. Involved conservators, curators, and collection managers. This can be downloaded from the AIC website under resources. But how do we get photographers to fill this out? Nora and others are pushing this everywhere. Writable PDF so it has been working well at the Metropolitan. Ideally something that photographers fill out automatically. New translations as well in the works.

Textiles Specialty Group: Thursday, May 13 Morning Session

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Textiles Morning Session, 10:30am – 12:00pm

Comparative Approaches in Textile Conservation: the Whalley Abbey Vestments and the Whalley Abbey Orphreys

Leanne C. Tonkin, ICON/HLF (Institute of Conservation/Heritage Lottery Fund) Conservation Intern at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, U.K.

The first talk after the morning break was given by Leanne Tonkin and she discussed the 2007-09 treatment of the Whalley Abbey vestments and orphreys. These treatments were conducted as part of her training at the TCC.

Ms. Tonkin began with a brief historical background of the vestments. It has been 20 years since they were last treated, and a lot has changed in the field since then. At the time of their last treatment, the focus had been on cleaning to create a newer and fresher look. Ms. Tonkin had the opportunity to discuss the previous treatments with the conservator who performed them. When asked what should she would do differently now, the conservator’s response focused on surface cleaning and vacuuming: “The washing I’m not sure about; solvent dry cleaning I’m not sure about now…I’m tending towards hands-off….”

When compared to the altar frontal, it became clear that aesthetic was a bigger concern in the original treatment of the vestments. The altar frontal was found to be less altered from the previous treatments and exhibited more of the original handwork.

Current treatment included an SEM-EDS analysis which revealed corrosion where metal threads are joined. The appearance of the metal thread showed improvement after a cleaning treatment. Additionally, local humidification of the altar frontal was performed using Melinex barriers, moistened blotting paper, and Symatex.

The comparison of the treatments highlighted shifts in the ethics over time. Priorities during the last 20 years have changed in how textiles are viewed and treated.


The Effects of Long Term Display on Previous Treatments

Abby Zoldowski, Assistant Textile Conservator, Peebles Island Resource Center, New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Waterford, NY

Ms. Zoldowski’s talk discussed two bedcovers at the Schuyler Mansion, which was occupied by the Schuyler family from 1763-1804 and was acquired by the state in 1911. Both bedcovers have undergone three previous treatments and faced a nearly continuous exhibition in-between. Ms. Zoldowski gave an in-depth look at the treatments over time and the effect the long term display had on them.

To begin with, bedcover #1 underwent a treatment campaign in 1976. An AT image was shown, and the initial condition was described as weakened, rotted, with losses and breaks. The records indicated a treatment with sodium perborate overnight, wet cleaning, extensive rinses, extracted, and then air dried with cheesecloth. It is not known how fibers reacted to this. Yellowing was probably decreased, but fibers were likely further weakened. The bedcover was placed back on exhibit after this treatment.

The second time it was taken off display was 1982-84. It was still described as weak and brittle. This time treatments were listed in 1982 as wet cleaning with Orvus, air dried (no drying cloth), crepeline overlay. Treatment was not finished at that time, so it was then again treated in 1984 with another wet cleaning with Orvus, air dried, (no drying cloth), and further stitching. Accumulated oils and surface grime were the reason for the second cleaning and stitching campaign. After treatment, it was requested that bedcover not be put back on display, but it was put back on exhibit anyway.

It was taken off display again for a third round of treatment in 2009. It was very fragile and prone to breaking when handled. It was surmised that the ’76, ’82 and ’84 cleanings may have altered the tension in the fibers. Conservators took off the crepeline overlay and tested the pH of the bedcover. The pH range was 5.1 (stuffed areas) to 4.8 (unstuffed areas) before treatment. Discoloration of the textile was treated with wet cleaning and this increased the pH to a range of 6.5 to 6.6 after treatment. However, it was noted that discoloration had not been altered significantly during this treatment. It was determined at this time that the bedcover could not withstand any more stitching, so it was rolled on a padded tube and finally placed in storage.

The first treatment of bedcover #2 in 1976 was almost the same as that of bedcover #1, with the addition of an acetic acid rinse in-between initial rinses and extraction. And, as was the case with #1, this bedcover was put back on display after treatment.

The second treatment occurred during the same time period as the first bedcover and included wet cleaning with water, air dried with drying cloth, local Stabilex overlays and local in-fills. Its condition was noted as fragile and exhibition recommendation was for 1 year, after which it should be placed in storage. However, it was instead left on display for 19 years.

The 2009 condition assessment of bedcover #2 noted that it was brittle from light damage and a number of holes were evident. Treatment was similar to that of the first bedcover. Discoloration was not significantly altered, nor was the pH range. However it was noted that the fabric had a softer hand after treatment. Bedcover #2 was also rolled on a padded tube and placed in storage.

An interesting observation was made Ms. Zoldowski at this point on the role of conservation and the conservator during the last 30 years. While recommendations for the removal of the bedcovers after the first two treatments were ignored, the recommendation after the 2009 treatment was followed. This suggested to the author that curators may be more willing to listen to conservators and pay more attention to object care today than they did 30 or even 20 years ago.


Evaluation of Costume Supporting Forms for Major Exhibitions: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, and First Ladies

Sunae Park Evans, Senior Costume Conservator, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Washington, DC

Ms. Evans gave a very engaging talk discussing forms created for various exhibitions of clothing from historical figures. A suit from Benjamin Franklin and a uniform of George Washington’s were the first items discussed. The historical significance of both was covered. Franklin’s suit had been in storage for a long time and had light damage from previous display. In honor of his 300th birthday in 2006, a suitable support was created and it was exhibited for 3 months.

Washington’s uniform had a bit of a different history as it had been on display almost continuously. The uniform came to the Smithsonian in 1883 and an 1889 photograph showed a man modeling the outfit. When placed on exhibit, legs and a head were often not included in the mount. However, during the 60’s and 70’s full figures with heads were created for display purposes. For recent exhibitions, historical accuracy became an important aspect in displaying these artifacts. In 2000, Washington’s boots were recreated by a bookmaker in Colonial Williamsburg who pointed out that Washington didn’t like pointy toed boots and preferred them rounded.

Furthermore, a (somewhat humorous) account was given about the groin area of the uniform and the proper positioning of the mount for exhibition. Ms. Evans delicately covered the subject, mentioning that tailors at the time would have asked their customers which side they preferred and then tailored the pants accordingly.

On the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, a suit of his was displayed along side one of Mary Lincoln’s dresses. Due to their height differences, they didn’t like being photographed together, so creating forms for this was a unique opportunity to see them side by side. The fully supportive form for Lincoln’s suit was contrasted to an image of the suit displayed in the 1920’s where it was simply hung on a hanger, with his hat on a table.

And last, but not least, an exhibition of First Ladies’ dresses in the 1930’s quickly became a very popular exhibit for the Smithsonian’s American History museum. A special gallery to exhibit the gowns was designed to minimize light and environmental effects in 1992. A 6 month rotation was recommended, but the gowns were kept on display for 14 years due to their popularity. They were then again reinstalled on exhibit in 2008 after the expansion/renovation of the NMAH.

A few examples were taken from this exhibition. In 1992 forms for first ladies such as Martha Washington, Julia Grant, and Helen Taft were built that show the limitations of mounting materials of that time. Those mounts were created from fiberglass. Better fitting mounts were created from ethafoam in 2008. The ethafoam, it was noted, is preferred because it is inert and lightweight. Stress and strain in the outfits were analyzed to create the most appropriate form for each situation.

Light Fading of Autochrome Color Screen Dyes Under Anoxic Conditions

Luisa Casella, Andrew W. Mellon Research Scholar in Photograph Conservation, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Based on her work previously presented at PMG and VERY significant to the field. This presentation outlined the autochrome process and degradation problems. Introduced in 1907 -1935 – Lumiere Company. Conservation issues – physical fragility and sensitivity to temperature, relative humidity and light. Research led by Bertrand Lavedrine.

Current policy is NOT to display autochrome plates. True of many cultural instiutions. Dyes identified are listed.

Dyes must be tested under anoxia conditions. Light fading of each dye required. Dyed starch samdwiched between varnish and on glass plus dyes in filter paper tested as well as historical samples and varnish layers on glass without dyes. Spectophotometric data gathered.

Carefully prepared anoxia set up described. The caps failed originally but this challenge was addressed. 54 days in light fading unit or 2000lux for 9 hours per day over 7 months was equivalent exposure. Full light exposure change noticeable more in oxygen than in argon. Varnish layers were protective. Setoglaucine demonstrated most change in OX and AR. This is the most light sensitive dye in the screen. (blue violet).

Analysis of these samples are interesting. Yellowing under anoxic conditions are visible. Changes at all levels of light exposure. Varnish changed much less under argon conditions. Greater degree of yellowing with sample exposed in OX. Auto-oxidative degradation – similar to that documented in paintings conservation literature. Increasing fluorescence of unprotected areas – i.e. those areas exposed to light.

Overall change is reduced under anoxic conditions. Extensive silver mirroring present under ageing and oxygen exposure. Very interesting and unexpected.

Benefits of using anoxic conditions possible. Sealed package designed. This work is in progress. Historical plates – unexposed – used with the layer of silver removed. Oxygen scavengers used and aluminum film on the edge.

No UV. No heat. Good white balance. Low energy such as LEC Panel from E-lite tested. More neural light possible. NOT bright enough for rendering details of the autochrome. Lite Pad resulted in excessive heat. Care should be taken in using this in a display case. OLEDs may be promising but were not tested here as they are not available in the US yet. Anoxia reduced light fading within certain limits of light. Confirmation of extreme light sensitivity of these dyes is clear.

Can we look at specific wavelength that cause fading and can these be excluded? This is being investigated.

A Conservation Plan for the Mexican Suitcase AIC-PMG Afternoon Session

Mirasol Estrada, Andrew W. Mellon Advanced Residency Program

Neither Mexican nor a suitcase. But stunning in historical value. Three boxes that include uncut rolled negatives by Robert Capa and others who documented the Mexican Civil War (1936-39). The journey of the boxes is symbolic. Cornell Capa was looking for the negatives which were not discovered until 2007. The discovery was featured on NYTImes published in 2008. Strong visibility to the field.

Photographers represented – Robert Capa, Gerda Taro (first woman war photographer to die on the frontlines), and David “Chim” Seymour.

Note that work created by Capa may infact be created by Endre Friedmann and Gerda Taro.

Concerns – ICP asked GEH for assistance focused on handling and reproduction. Materials remained at ICP.

Condition: All nitrate. Tight curl. Generally good condition. Filmstrips cut. Broken sprocket holes.

A wonderful object that offers important challenges associated with context. Maintaining the meaning of the format is essential. No moisture to be used owing to potential risk. Balance between preservation and access mandatory.

How to handle curled film? Scanners not option for rolled films and/or recording of all edges. Scanner for motion picture technology not possible owing to broken sprocket holes. Film viewer allowed safe access. Manipulation was modified to allow the print to stay flat using two pieces of glass to hold edges of the film. Planar Film Duplicating Device developed to be used in copy stand. Digital or analog capture possible. Minimal stress to film. A creative solution. The resultant images are exceptional. Loss of definition was a concern but not reality.

Newton rings resulted. These were eliminated with the use of a very good quality glass.

Cold storage proposed for long-term stability. Kept in their original shape and placed in archival box with mat board included to absorb moisture. Original boxes were stabilized and facsimilies created in acetate for the original boxes.

ICP is preparing an exhibition in September. Check out ICP website for more information on this treatment and research project on NOTESON PHOTOGRAPH.

Questions – was any of the film cleaned prior to duplication? Superficial cleaning recommended with compressed air.