42nd Annual Meeting – General Session, May 29, "A LEED Primer for Conservators: Or, What Should I Do When the Architect Proposes Daylight in Our New Galleries, by Scott Raphael Schiamberg and Rachael Perkins Arenstein"

Both Scott and Rachael emphasized the importance of working together.  This is NOT the attitude they endorsed.
Both Scott and Rachael emphasized the importance of working together. This is NOT the attitude they endorsed.

When I perused the list of talks for this meeting, the subtitle of this one immediately caught my eye. In fact, I used it as one of the justifications for my Museum to support my attendance. There have been many skirmishes in the ‘natural light in galleries’ tug of war at the Penn Museum lately. It turns out that the light issue was peripheral to the LEED discussion but I’m so glad I was drawn into this fascinating and useful talk.
Scott started off explaining that to be good clients for architects, conservators should have a basic understanding of LEED. Like all of us, I’ve been seeing LEED mentioned in every building project I read about or walk past but I never really knew was it was or how it worked.
From the US Green Building Council website: “LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Prerequisites and credits differ for each rating system, and teams choose the best fit for their project.”
With gentle humor, Scott filled out this definition for us. He compared LEED to eating one’s vegetables: sometimes a challenge but good for us. Considering LEED factors is Doing the Right Thing (something conservators always strive for, right?). He explained that the system is constantly evolving and getting better. There are five different ratings systems but none of them is a perfect fit for museum buildings; he hoped that there might be a special system for our special needs. Until then, we need to understand how the system works and how it can be used for and against conservation factors. Scott explained that sometimes architects (not his firm, of course) ‘game’ the system – using LEED to justify things like the aforementioned natural light in galleries: “if you don’t give in on this, we won’t make our LEED rating”. But the LEED system is point-based and natural light only counts for 1 point out of a possible 110. Putting a bike rack outside the building gives you the same point with much less impact on artifact preservation.
Scott emphasized that it’s not our jobs as conservators to be intimately acquainted with LEED, just to understand enough to work effectively with the construction team.
Scott’s takeaways before handing over to Rachael included:

  • The reminder that the client is always right. The Museum is the architect’s client.
  • Do your homework; it’s important to select the right architect. Check with colleagues and previous clients. (Speaking of someone who has been working with an absolutely stellar architectural firm recently and has coped with the results of less successful choices, I can’t emphasize this strongly enough)
  • Work closely with the architect
  • LEED is not perfect but is a good starting point and is getting better.
  • It’s more important to get things right than to chase LEED points, if they don’t align with your needs.

Rachael began by pointing out that new construction should be exciting but in her and many colleagues’ experience, it turns out to be more stressful than joyful. She theorized that the problems many of us have faced are not inherent in the LEED system but in the design process. We (and she included in this pronoun conservators, facilities staff, administrators, and donors) make our lives difficult. Rachael suggested some strategies for reducing the stress for everyone.
The most important factor is probably effective project management. All the stakeholders should be involved early. Rachael referred to the trap many of us have experienced: being told that it’s ‘too early’ to be involved in the process then, when we are allowed a seat at the table told that it’s too late to change the problem items. She reiterated the importance of wise choice of architect; the right architect needs to be responsive to the client’s concerns and this should be just as true of ‘STARchitects’. To be an intelligent client we need to be prepared to sit through a lot of meetings and to have done our homework. Rachael provided some resources she’s found useful:

Both the books are available on amazon.
She suggested that we as conservators need to have a voice in broader preservation concerns and emphasized that this is best done by contributing positively: “be an ally not a critic”. [Later several of us were discussing this profound fact at the lovely evening reception and Terry Drayman-Weisser shared her technique for responding to suggestions from non-conservators that horrify her conservatorial instincts: “That’s a good idea, let me work with you to figure out how we can manage that” I may not have the quote exact but you get the gist.]
Rachael’s LEED specific tips included the insight that there were three of the six LEED rating categories that tended to have the most potential for contention with conservation concerns: Energy and Atmosphere; Materials and Resources; Indoor Environmental Quality. But these are only contentious if the team is choosing to chase LEED points without considering the Big Picture.
Finally Rachael reminded us that all the planning in the world will not help if the plans are not followed through or carried out properly. Perhaps the most important tip was to ensure that the construction plan included an independent commissioning agent. Building commissioning (Cx) is the process of verifying, in new construction, all (or some, depending on scope) of the subsystems for mechanical (HVAC), plumbing, electrical, fire/life safety, building envelopes, interior systems (example laboratory units), cogeneration, utility plants, sustainable systems, lighting, wastewater, controls, and building security to achieve the owner’s project requirements as intended by the building owner and as designed by the building architects and engineers [thank you, Wikipedia]. An independent commissioning agent is one who ensures that everything has been done as laid out; clearly an outside specialist is to be preferred to the contractors who have an understandable vested interest in passing their own work.
I’ve tried to do justice to this very informative presentation but I’m sure I’ve left out or misrepresented some vital facts. This blogging stuff is hard – I don’t mean to discourage others from doing it; I’m really glad I did so but it’s just that it’s always harder to take coherent notes for others who weren’t there. So, if any of you who were there read this and have additions, emendations or suggestions, please do so. Until then, I’ll leave you with Rachael’s last slide:

Get Ready for San Francisco with the Sustainability Committee: Come see us!

AIC's 42nd Annual Meeting - 2014
This is the fourth in a series of posts by the Sustainability Committee in the run-up to the 2014 Annual Meeting, describing sustainability issues and initiatives in the city of San Francisco. The first blog post explained plastic bag and container laws. The second described the water crisis in California. The third post was about the California Academy of Sciences: The world’s greenest museum. Here, I will tell you about the activities the Sustainability Committee will be involved in during the conference.
1. We will be sharing a booth with the Health & Safety Committee. Stop by! We will have samples of sustainable materials and handouts on various topics relating to sustainability in conservation.
2. On Friday, May 30th from 1-2 PM, we will host a Sustainability Roundtable Discussion in the Hospitality Room: How Do We Support Meaningful Change in Our Cultural Institutions? It’s free! Come check it out. It will be a conversation about engaging decision-makers in museums, libraries, and archives on the topic of sustainability.  How do individuals rally interest, build momentum, and transition from well-meaning intentions to meaningful action in their cultural institutions at large? During this informal discussion, members of the sustainability committee along with facilitators Sarah Stauderman, Collections Care Manager at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, and Jia-Sun Tsang, Senior Paintings Conservator at the Smithsonian Institution will share real-life examples of the sustainability movement in cultural heritage. Bring your questions and ideas to share!
3. Some members of the committee have put together a poster for the poster session. The poster session will be divided into two venues. Our poster will be #46 in the SeaCliff Foyer: Life Cycle Assessments: Lighting, HVAC, Loans, and Treatments by Sarah Nunberg, Pamela Hatchfield, Dr. Matthew Eckelman, and the AIC Sustainability Committee. Check it out if these questions interest you: What is the environmental impact difference between LEDs and Halogen lamps? What aspects of a loan have the biggest environmental impact? How much energy does regularly shutting down, or coasting, the HVAC system save? Silanes vs B-72 in Acetone:Ethanol vs B-72 in Xylene: Which Has a Higher Human and Environmental Impact? The poster session runs from 10 AM Thursday through Friday evening. For those unable to see the poster in person, it will be available to download from the AIC website sometime in June.
4. At the CIPP Seminar on Wednesday from 1-5PM, two of our committee members will take part in a panel discussion on Greening your Business. AIC Sustainability Committee Chair Betsy Haude (Senior Paper Conservator, Library of Congress) will present an overview of the committee’s work and Sarah Nunberg (Objects Conservation Studio LLC, Brooklyn, NY) will speak on sustainable practices in the conservation studio.
5. Committee member Christian Hernandez has prepared a talk for the StashFlash Session on recycled materials and long-term storage. Christian will not be attending the conference, but is sending is PowerPoint.

Get Ready for San Francisco with the Sustainability Committee: The World's Greenest Museum

AIC's 42nd Annual Meeting - 2014
This is the third in a series of posts by the Sustainability Committee in the run-up to the 2014 Annual Meeting, describing sustainability issues and initiatives in the city of San Francisco. The first blog post explained plastic bag and container laws. The second blog post described the water crisis in California.
Did you know that the California Academy of Sciences, located in San Francisco, is the world’s greenest museum? It is also the largest public LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum-rated building in the world. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, it was built from recycled materials where possible, it has a green ‘living’ roof with six inches of soil for insulation and skylights that open to vent hot air, solar panels, radiant heating in the floors, and insulation made from recycled denim (yes, denim!).
The green roof is comprised of seven hillocks to pay homage to the landscape of San Francisco, and also to blend in with the setting of Golden Gate Park. It also has weather stations to provide data to the automated passive ventilation systems. The benefit of a living roof is absorption of moisture and carbon dioxide, and natural cooling of the building.  It was planted with native plants intended to survive well in the San Francisco climate. There has been some critique of that idea, because native plants may not be suited to a city environment, but any new idea takes a while to be perfected. Hopefully, green roofs will become more and more common within the next decade and difficulties will be smoothed out.  If you visit Golden Gate park, check out the building and see for yourself.
For more information on the LEED program and how it relates to preservation concerns take in the talk by architect Scott Schiamberg and conservator Rachael Arenstein at AIC’s Opening Session, May 29 10:50am – 11:10am  A LEED primer for conservators: or, what should I do when the architect proposes daylight in our new galleries?
I also recommend the de Young Museum, with its copper exterior that is intended to turn green over time to match the park setting, and the Japanese Tea Garden because it is beautiful.

Considering the Research Habits of Conservators

Help Chart Conservation’s Digital Landscape.
Not long ago I saw that the Ithaka S+R, the folks behind JSTOR, released a report about the changing research practices of art historians. Turns out this report was one of a series, with the others looking at the habits of  historians and chemists. Reviewing these documents, I was struck by just how my my own research habits have changed over the last 10 years thanks to digital devices and sites that help me collect, organize, and share information as I do my work. It seemed like a great way to start thinking through some of the issues that will be discussed when FAIC kicks off Charting the Digital Landscape for the Conservation Profession with a forum at the AIC annual meeting. This project, funded by the Mellon, Kress, and Getty Foundations, is an outgrowth of conversations that have been held about Conservation OnLine and the Conservation DistList over the last 5 years. To help start the discussion at the forum during the annual meeting, I’ve been asked to offer a short presentation at this forum on key resources I use in my job, what’s missing, and how challenges to access affect how I do my work.
There will be 3 other short talks too. FAIC’s Eric Pourchot will briefly introduce the Digital Landscape project and hopefully report on preliminary results from the survey that was sent out to AIC members recently. If you missed it, here’s the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/C83S9T2
Representing the Mellon Foundation, Ken Hamma will give us an overview of themes emerging from the various meetings they’ve held or funded around various projects such as ResearchSpace and ConservationSpace, the overall goals of those projects, and how they relate to what’s happening in other fields, particularly the digital humanities. I’m particularly looking forward to hearing from David Bloom, a biologist at University of California, Berkeley and coordinator of the collaborative biodiversity data sharing project, VertNet. He’ll be talking about interdisciplinary collaboration, building community online, and keeping that community engaged.
If you’re at the annual meeting, I hope you can come and voice your thoughts and ask questions. What would help you do your work better, more efficiently? The forum will be on Saturday, May 31 at 1:30-4 pm in Regency A&B, located on the street level of the Hyatt Embarcadero. If you’re at annual meeting, but only can stay for a little while, that’s fine — there will be a flyer available at the session with contact information to contribute thoughts or ask questions afterwards. If you’re not able to attend the session, I hope you’ll keep an eye out for updates on the project following this forum and other events related to this project over the next 8 months.

Get Ready for San Francisco with the Sustainability Committee: California Water Shortage

AIC's 42nd Annual Meeting - 2014This is the second in a series of blog posts by the Sustainability Committee in the run-up to the 2014 Annual Meeting, describing sustainability issues and initiatives in the city of San Francisco. (The first blog post, regarding plastic bag and container laws, can be read here.)
Over the last six months, we have been hearing about the water shortage in the state of California, and this post will attempt to answer: what is the cause, and how will it affect us when we are in San Francisco? According to the California Department of Water Resources; “There are many ways that drought can be defined. Some ways can be quantified, such as meteorological drought (period of below normal precipitation) or hydrologic drought (period of below average runoff), others are more qualitative in nature (shortage of water for a particular purpose). There is no universal definition of when a drought begins or ends. Drought is a gradual phenomenon.” The website also explains that cyclical droughts have been common in California since records have been kept. Paleo-climate research has shown that in the more distant past, California has experienced much more severe droughts than those in the recent centuries.
So, this is a normal cycle, but there are two major differences that make this drought more worrisome. The first is that many more people and industries are dependent on the water supply than ever before (38,332,521 people at last count, according to the Census Bureau). This article from Energy & Environment Publishing explains “The state’s population has shot to 38 million people today, compared with 22 million during the last record-breaking drought in 1977. Meanwhile, the state’s farms increased their revenue to $45 billion from $9.6 billion over the same time period. The earlier figure is in that year’s dollars.” Secondly, the just-released 2014 National Climate Assessment (see ‘Water’) predicts that droughts can be expected to intensify in the 21st century.
The governor declared a state of emergency on January 17th. This asked all Californians to reduce water use by 20%, brought contingency plans into effect, made financial assistance available for those most affected, and created a task force. The most notable effects of the water shortage state-wide have been: a predicted 7% loss of farmland and a corresponding increase in prices (not just in California, but worldwide), especially for avocados, tomatoes, almonds, lettuce, cotton, rice, melons, and peppers; drastic lowering of water reservoirs; loss of wetland habitat (many salmon will have to be trucked to spawning grounds this year); lowering of groundwater quality; and increased chance of wildfires.
Locally, San Francisco has not been feeling the effects as much as southern and western portions of the state. Already, city residents have an excellent record of conserving water, and the public utilities commission continues to encourage water-saving through voluntary initiatives.
What I predict we will notice while we are there is a parched landscape viewed through the airplane windows or on sightseeing forays into the surrounding region, higher than usual prices on produce, and lower levels in the surrounding bodies of water. The worst case scenario would be a concurrent wildfire in the region that affects air quality, flight schedules and/or camping plans.
The good news is that The Hyatt Regency San Francisco (the conference hotel) has a list of green practices that includes water saving features such as low-flow showerheads and toilets, aerated faucets, towel/sheet reuse, and drip irrigation.
Information Sources:
 California Drought Updates by the Association of Water Agencies
California Water Science Center
NBC News: California Drought
New York Times: California’s Thirsting Farmland
The Guardian: California’s Drought Portends High Prices for Cinco de Mayo Favourites

Electronic Media Group Call for Papers, AIC 2014 Meeting

The Electronic Media Group (EMG) of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) is calling for papers about the preservation and conservation of electronic media for the AIC annual meeting, May 28-31st 2014 in San Francisco, California. http://www.conservation-us.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageId=482&parentID=476
The theme of the meeting is Conscious Conservation: Sustainable Choices in Conservation Care. Topics could include sustainability of analogue media formats, migration and emulation strategies, approaches to digital asset management and preservation, care of electronic media collections, and case studies of particularly challenging artworks.
If your paper is accepted, you are expected to secure funding for your registration and travel expenses to attend the conference. See the AIC webpage for more information about grants and scholarships. – http://www.conservation-us.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageId=474
Please join the conversation – Submit an abstract by Friday, September 13.
Abstracts will be considered for:
General Sessions – General Session papers must specifically address the meeting theme. General Session papers will be considered for one of three categories: all attendee sessions, concurrent sessions, and concurrent interactive/discussion sessions.
Specialty Sessions – Specialty Session papers are encouraged to address the meeting theme but may also explore other topics relevant to that specialty, including: Architecture, Book and Paper, Collections Care, Electronic Media, Objects, Photographic Materials, Paintings, Research and Technical Studies, Textiles, and Wooden Artifacts.
Poster Session – Posters may address the meeting theme, but presenters can also address their current research interests. Posters are presented in the Exhibit Hall.
Submission Guidelines
You may submit an abstract for a combination of the three session types: General Sessions, Specialty Sessions, or Poster Session. You may submit your presentation to only one or two sessions if you so choose.
If you are submitting a Discussion/Interactive Session, please submit only for that, since the format is not compatible with the other General Session choices
Please indicate on the abstract the session/sessions for which you want the paper to be considered.
Please limit your choices to three sessions and rank them in order of preference. For example, your preferences could be one of the following:

  • 1st Choice: General Sessions, 2nd Choice: Electronic Media Specialty Session, and 3rd Choice: Book and Paper Specialty Session
  • 1st Choice: Electronic Media Specialty Session, 2nd Choice: Photographic Materials Specialty Session, and 3rd Choice: Research and Technical Studies Specialty Session
  • 1st Choice: Electronic Media Specialty Session, 2nd Choice: Electronic Media Specialty Group Session, 3rd Choice: Electronic Media Specialty Session
  • 1st Choice: General Sessions – Concurrent Interactive/Discussion Session

How to Submit an Abstract
Please send an abstract of no more than 500 words, along with a bio of no more than 300 words by Friday, September 13, 2013.
Email it to Ruth Seyler, Membership and Meetings Director, at rseyler@conservation-us.org
In the case of multiple authors please list all authors and include an email address for each author.
For further information, please contact Rose Cull – EMG Program Chair – roseemilycull@gmail.com