43rd Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials, May 16th, "Characterization of the Diane Arbus Archive" by Janka Krizanova

Janka Krizanova, Research Scholar in Photograph Conservation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has focused her time at the Met on the in-depth study of the Diane Arbus Archive. The Diane Arbus Archive was acquired by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2007 and contains 800 final prints, 800 work prints, over 6,200 rolls of film, over 6,500 contact sheets, the artist’s personal library, photographic ephemera and equipment. Krizanova’s tasks of characterizing the materials in the archive can seem quite overwhelming but the wealth of materials offers a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the artist’s working method.
After completing an overview of the archive, Krizanova selected 26 photographs that were representative of the different papers used by Arbus. One remarkable aspect to the archive is the presence of several empty photographic paper boxes. This aids in the characterization of the papers in the archive. Krizanova was able to find and obtain unexposed boxes of paper and paper catalogs by different manufactures that correlated with the empty boxes in the archive. Using a step tablet, Krizanova printed several of the papers she purchased to perform comparative analysis with the selected papers in the archive. She is in the process of performing the technical characterization on the 26 representative photographs in the Arbus archive, 5 printed reference samples, and three paper catalogs.
The characterization Krizanova will perform includes: dimensions, thickness, backprinting, surface topography, XRF, color measurements, and fiber ID. She has already collected the dimensions, thickness, back printing, and surface topography of the selected materials. The 26 representative prints in the archive exhibit a range of dimensions including; 8×10, 8 ½x11, 11×14, and 20×26. The thickness measurements illustrate Arbus used both single and double weight papers. Backprint was present on 8 of the 26 prints; five with Agfa and three with Kodak. The surface topography suggests Arbus typically used smooth, glossy papers and she likely used Kodak Ektamatic SC for her contact sheets.
For the last year of her fellowship, Krizanova plans to broaden the selection of prints to characterize in the archive, continue to work on the surface topography using the “texturescope” developed by Paul Messier, and collect the XRF, color measurements, and fiber ID from the selected samples. Krizanova also plans to conduct analysis on the stabilization prints found in the archive. At the end of her fellowship Krizanova intends to publish a paper about the technical characterization of the Diane Arbus archive.

43rd Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials, May 14, "Object:Photo – A Presentation of Deep Data from the Thomas Walther Collection Project at The Museum of Modern Art" by Lee Ann Daffner

Object:Photo | MoMA
MoMA Object:Photo Home Page

After The Museum of Modern Art acquired the Thomas Walther Collection, a rare collection of fine art photographs made primarily between World War I and World War II, MoMA was awarded a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to conduct a comprehensive study of the collection.  The survey culminated in a symposium, publication, exhibition, and interactive website sharing the data collected during the four-year endeavor.
During the Photographic Materials Group Session, Lee Ann Daffner focused on the data collected during the survey and the way in which the interactive Object:Photo website uses the analysis to build relationships between photographs by geography, exhibitions, artistic schools and spheres of influence.  The site is designed to encourage organic browsing by the user by highlighting action links in red, a bright contrast to the black and white theme reminiscent of the silver gelatin photographs which largely make up the collection. Before reading further about the project, I recommend spending time exploring the site, available at http://www.moma.org/objectphoto. It’s rich with information, yet feels more like wandering through an exhibition than browsing a website full of technical data.
Not only does Object:Photo make the Thomas Walther Collection images available online, it also highlights technical and historical data of each image. High resolution images of the front and back of each photograph, specular images highlighting the surface texture and sheen, detailed description of the photographic paper and technical analysis, as well as essays, exhibitions, and related articles are included to enrich each photograph in the collection.
In collaboration with Paul Messier, polynomial texture map (PTM) and microraking images of paper texture were created. This setup and process is illustrated and described beautifully in the Materials section of the site, and Mr. Messier outlined similar protocols for analysis later in the conference during his presentation titled “Revealing Affinities across Collections through the Language of the Photographic Print.”
Linking artwork with technical analysis, Object:Photo places each photograph in context in comparison to the others an artistic expression of the world between the two world wars. The presentation of the material is geared toward universal understanding by both scholars and museum visitors because “it was important to share all the data,” according to Ms. Daffner. MoMA’s data on x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis, fiber analysis and paper thickness is available for download in Microsoft Excel file format.
While this website pertains only to the Thomas Walther Collection and the research conducted during the four-year survey, the Object:Photo project is an excellent example to other institutions who may conduct similar surveys in the future.  Ms. Daffner and MoMA should be proud to encourage the development of industry standards and research protocols with Object:Photo. Please take the opportunity to explore MoMA’s Object:Photo site at http://www.moma.org/objectphoto.

43rd Annual Meeting- Architecture and Wooden Artifacts Joint Session, May 14, “How to Salvage your Historic House Museum after a Car Crash: The Marrett House Emergency Preservation and Conservation Project” by Benjamin Haavik and Alexander M. Carlisle, Historic New England

marrett-exterior Marrett-parlor
When a drunk driver crashed into the parlor of Marrett House (1789) in Standish, Maine, the staff of Historic New England was able to see first-hand how well their disaster plan worked!
The damage was serious: clapboard smashed, wall studs snapped, wainscoting was knocked out, and furniture was displaced inside the room.
Local staff were on the scene quickly to secure the area. A team drove up within hours of the crash, to add temporary supports for the 2nd floor and to board up the hole in the house. The insurance company was called, and the policy was able to cover some recovery costs.
With such extensive damage, recovery was not straightforward. The floor carpet (dating to 1857) was undamaged, and due to its size, it was rolled and boxed to remain in the room during construction work. Furniture and objects had been removed from the room immediately, to be treated and stored.  The house remained open for tours during the entire process.
The conservation and restoration of the structure was carried out with the goal of maintaining as much of the original materials as possible.  The 1857 wallpaper and paint finishes were protected in situ. Where new support beams were needed, the modern additions were marked with copper tags to identify them as non-original. Plaster, lathe, and wainscoting were replaced; in the end, only spot retouching of the paint on the paneling was necessary.
Only three pieces of furniture were actually damaged (two chairs and a card table), and one vase fell during the crash.  No pictures fell off the walls, and the rug was totally fine.  Overall, they feel lucky that the damage was not worse.
Here are some tips they shared for disaster response:
-photograph the damage before starting recovery: this is good documentation practice and can help with insurance claims
-don’t throw anything away: a small bit of veneer from the damaged table was later discovered among the wood splinters and debris swept up during recovery (and saved in a box), and was able to be reattached
-make sure the emergency telephone tree makes sense: HNE is geographically far-flung, and in this case the first people called were NOT the closest to the scene

43rd Annual Meeting – Architecture Specialty Group – May 16, Mid-Century Modern Wood Issues at the Weston Havens House by Kitty Vieth and Molly Lambert

Weston Haven's Section
Kitty Vieth, a senior associate at Architectural Resources Group, presented the work required to rehabilitate the most fragile structural conditions of the Weston Havens House. Molly Lambert, a conservator in private practice, discussed techniques she used to remove tide lines from interior cedar paneled walls.
The Weston Havens House is a Mid-Century Modern construction designed by architect Harwell Harris and built in 1941. It sits in the hills of Berkeley and has an 180-degree view of the San Francisco Bay. Weston Havens was the only owner of the house until his death in 2001. He bequeathed the property to the University of California Berkeley who now uses the house for visitors.
The house features a modernist design with upper and lower levels cut into a hillside. A curvilinear stair leads to the lower floors. There are two guest rooms with private terraces. The house contains original finishes at are intact. Kitty Vieth was brought in to evaluate the conditions of the materials and all building systems.
Upon evaluation, two high priority projects were defined. The first project was the Pedestrian Bridge that was in a state of near collapse. The bridge displayed a keel type construction with paired studs. Slow growth Redwood found in the Berkeley area was used to construct the Bridge. All of the wood showed deterioration, especially the structural components. Fortunately, the main beams were still structurally sound, but Vieth was not able to save the rafters and studs. The bridge was reconstructed using long slow growth of redwood that is already beginning to fade to grey and better match the original materials. A finish was used to protect the reconstructed bridge.
The second priority was the East wall and roof area. The seismic activity of the area was considered. Redwood boards were greyed, worn and cupping in some locations. Vieth consolidated and rehabilitated the windows and walls on East wall.
Molly Lambert spoke next about earlier work she undertook in the house when Weston Havens was still alive. This and other modernist structures often have redwood paneled interiors. When roofs leak tide lines form on the interior panels. Molly did two different campaigns to repair tannin tide lines on the interior of this house. She was able to get 80-90% of the tide lines out. Tannins in the wood migrate with water causing the darkened lines.
Her technique was as follows:

  • Wipe down the entire panel with wet cotton PVOH sponges (cellulose sponges) with grain.
  • Harvest some of the tannins with a swab using distilled water or spit and transfer to needed areas.
  • Don’t take too much of the tannins away.
  • In-paint with a tannic acid mixture as needed.


43rd Annual Meeting- General Session: Practical Philosophy, May 14th, “Philosophical and Practical Conservation in the Installation, Re-Treatment, and Storage of a Rubber Sculpture by Richard Serra”, Presented by Emily Hamilton.

Like many artists working in the 60s, sculptor Richard Serra was drawn to the possibilities of natural rubber prior to his more recent steel installations.  Like many conservators working in modern and contemporary conservation, Emily Hamilton was faced with the arduous task of conserving it in an ethical, stable, artist approved way for display for a museum expansion.  I was drawn to Emily’s talk for several reasons, as the issue of stabilizing rubbers works keeps popping up in my career.  In 2003, I was gearing up for graduation at Washington University in St. Louis, when across the park, conservators at the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) were preparing ‘Untitled’ an oversized sculpture of three overlapping panels for a major Serra exhibition. The treatment while well guided with methylcellulose patches, something I could not readily detect at the time, did not maintain its desired appearance or stability in the decade that followed while it in storage.  In 2014, Emily would get a chance to try the treatment again following the museums renovation.

Degradation and separation of latex, and previously rolled storage that exacerbated the problem.
Degradation and separation of latex, and previously rolled storage that exacerbated the problem.

The basis of both the 2004 and 2014 treatments were from research conducted by Michelle Barger at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), which she presented at the 2008 ‘The Object in Transition’ at the Getty I had been fortunate enough to attend during my internship year at the Museum of Modern Art.  (Free to Stream).  The talk focused on the conservation of Eva Hesse’s ”Expanded Expansion” made of similar materials at the same time as Serra’s piece.  Michelle’s work not only focused on the technique of applying cheesecloth patches with methylcellulose, but also the ethicacy conserving a work that had deviated so far from its initial appearance and stability without the help of a living artist to give advice.
Working with Michelle’s research, Emily Hamilton created a modified innovative approach to the treatment, using the previous 2004 treatment as a facing to stabilize the structure from the front so she could apply patches from the back and ultimately remove the discolored 2004 patches.  With assistance from the installation staff, she was able to perform treatment in situ on a support that allowed for adequate rolling and flipping with Tyvek and a large diameter tube.   Emily’s practical approach is evidence that its not just the treatment materials we use, but how we choose to use them based on the object.  The final push to provide flat storage for these objects is most definitely a win for natural rubber artwork overall, I just wish I could convince my private clients to do the same.  As a final thought Emily offered the possibility of restoring some of the three dimensional qualities to the work in the future, so it would look closer to its intended appearance and convey some of the verbs Serra had chosen to invoke.  Previous time constraints and the fragile nature of the piece did not lend this possibility.   Fortunately her treatment and storage solution, along with a living artist to consult, just may allow for that possibility in the future.
An image of Serra's 'Untitled' at the time of creation in 1968 vs, the appearance in 2014 following treatment.
An image of Serra’s ‘Untitled’ at the time of creation in 1968 vs, the appearance in 2014 following treatment.

43rd Annual Meeting- General Session: Practical Philosophy, May 15th, “After the Fall: The Treatment of Tullio Lombardo's 'Adam' ”, Presented by Carolyn Riccardelli; Lawrence Becker, Michael Morris, Jack Soultanian, Ron Street, George Wheeler.

Image 1
Image 1: Major and Minor fragments

I have a confession….  I’ve had a secret crush on ‘Adam’ since I first started my graduate training at Buffalo State College back in 2005.   I first met Tullio Lombardo’s 1490-95 monumental Renaissance sculpture when I had just completed my first year of study.  I had heard of this major conservation project at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the ambitious Carolyn Riccardelli who had just been selected to take on what was in fact a monumental task.  On my way back to begin my second year of study, I stopped by the Met where Carolyn was kind enough to show me the 28 large pieces and hundreds of small fragments (Image 1) that once made up what was a nearly pristine prime example Italian Renaissance sculpture in North America prior to its fall in October 2002.  While tragic, it also presented an unprecedented opportunity to study and treat such a work on American soil using modern technology and materials which would be best suited for the repair.
Carolyn and other members of ‘Team Tullio’, a collection of conservators, conservation scientists, material scientists and engineers, explained the 3D laser scanning of each piece and the virtual reconstruction they were able to do with the technology to minimize damage to the fragile clean break edges.  It was later that year as I was pursuing my own graduate research on calcareous stone, that I found myself back at the Metropolitan Museum of Art meeting with George Wheeler, a member of the research team who was performing tests on viable adhesives and pinning materials which were previously presented at meetings prior to this talk.
The results of this material testing were combined with the initial 3D scans using a new tool to conservation based in structural engineering called ‘Finite Element Analysis’.(Image 2)
Image 2:  Results of 3D scanning and Finite Elemental Aaalysis
Image 2: Results of 3D scanning and Finite Elemental Analysis

This tool allowed the team to virtually see the areas of stress/strain in the sculpture, and determine the best and most minimal areas to use fiberglass rods for pinning along with the selected adhesive cocktail (B72:B48N, 3:1 in acetone).  This theoretical research was then put into practice on a large scale sculpture similar in size, stance and material to ‘Adam’, but definitely not of the same value (a replica of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ from wishihadthat.com).  ‘David’ posing as ‘Adam’ was broken in similar locations and subjected to what was my favorite aspect of the project, an external armature system used for clamping during the reconstruction).  The armature allowed for the pieces to be joined and held in place with precision as the often overlooked 2 week evaporation period of the solvents took place to insure maximum adhesion and reducing creep.
Finally, after over a decade of research and practice, the team implemented the treatment of ‘Adam’ in what can only be described as mesmerizing .  Now if only it were that easy and fast.  Carolyn’s talk concluded with a well-deserved standing ovation, something I had never witnessed before at a talk, but gladly jumped in with full support of the team.  This project truly was monumental and the research is something I am very fortunate to have witnessed during my graduate training and beyond.   For the Metropolitan Museum’s Report  (source of all images included) Or you could just go see it for yourself at The Met!

43rd Annual Meeting- Research and Technical Studies Session, May 15th, “Back to Natural Processes: Controlled Carbonation for Recalcifying Malacological Artifacts”, Presented by Edgar Casanova-González, Jocelyn Alcántara-García & Nora Ariadna Pérez-Castellanos

Seashells were considered to be very significant items in the pre-Hispanic world. For certain cultures they were as valuable as precious stones. They were used as jewelry, decoration for textiles, musical instruments, currency etc. In the Tlalocan-Tepantitla temple, located at the famous Mexican pyramids site “Teotihuacan”, as in many other sites, seashells were discovered in hundreds, probably serving as sacred offerings. Some were also decorated.
The seashells from Teotihuacan were buried for hundreds of years in a damp acidic soil. Therefore, the protein matrix that is embedded in the CaCO3 layered structure has solubilized almost completely. Moreover, CaCO3 structure itself has greatly degraded, as it naturally reacts with acids. Alcántara-García and Casanova-González indicated in their presentation that the shells “would crumble by the touch of a hand”. Mechanical cleaning was not a viable option in their state.
SEM image of an Archeological shell showing two mineral layers (aragonite) about to delaminate (photograph courtesy by the presenters. Has not been published yet)
The two researchers presented their initial trials in establishing a mass treatment procedure for the degraded, non-painted seashells. The procedure should be inexpensive, time efficient and on site, via controlled carbonation. They tested both artificially aged seashells and actual samples from the site. Firstly the shells were stabilized in a humidity chamber, then they were submerged into a limewater (Ca(OH)2) solution and were kept inside a sealed CO2 saturated atmosphere for controlled carbonation.
Before and after treatment, the samples were examined for changes in their properties: hardness and water absorption tests were performed as well as colour change assessment. The mineral structure was also analyzed by XRD and SEM. The preliminary results were encouraging. The hardness and porosity properties were improved and the colour change was minor. However, on the archeological samples, the CaCO3 which was formed by this process, accumulated as a superficial layer on top of the natural ones, and initially did not penetrate well. This new layer did not render enough stability to withstand handling and to hold the shells without them disintegrating.
My thoughts as a listener object conservator: Shells, much like bone or ivory, are created in biological processes but their composition is mainly inorganic. In cases of structural degradation of these materials, I am more familiar with consolidation treatments which involve diluted synthetic resins of various types. What I liked in this presentation was the shift in approach towards shells. Alcántara-García and Casanova-González presented an interesting new approach to restore the degraded shells which mostly lack protein matrix. As a mineralized, non-organic substance, they applied a treatment that is more common in stone conservation. This diffusion in materials, methods and thoughts between the different fields was very interesting for me.
(The presenters requested that I mention that the results of their research have not been published yet)
Hadas Seri, Object Conservator, Chemistry Conservation Laboratory for Organic and Metal Artifacts, The Israel Museum

43rd Annual Meeting – Sustainability Session, May 15, “Conscientious Conservation: The Application of Green Chemistry Principles to Sustainable Conservation Practice”, Jan Dariusz Cutajar

Jan Dariusz Cutajar, graduate student at UCL, began by commenting that inspiration from last year’s AIC conference had caused him to investigate this topic. Cutajar states that in some instances the terms, ‘sustainable’ and ‘conservation’ are used interchangeably, but he argues that each term needs to be carefully defined: ‘sustainable’ as reusable, not causing harm to the environment, people or culture. Sustainability has environmental, social and economic faces – it is a cultural construct.
Cutajar believes that currently sustainability initiatives are not well integrated into conservation programs.
The existing Green Chemistry principles, outlined by the mnemonic “Productively” he has replaced with a mnemonic of his own devising: “To Conserve”, which stands for:
T – Temperature and pressure considerations
O – Only use what you need
C – Conscientious waste prevention
O – Optimizing Health and Safety
N – Negligible toxicity is best
S – Safer, alternative methods
E – Environmentally non-persistent, biodegradable chemicals
R – Renewable materials and energy sources
V – Verify solvent sustainability
E – Examination and monitoring
These principles must work in combination with the eco scale: factors of time, price, safety and fate of materials.
Cutajar surveyed a range of university and institutional conservation laboratories and private practitioners about their sustainable lab practices with regard to chemical usage. He discovered that there is a general awareness in the profession of the impact of chemicals but differences in available time, money and other resources resulted in different approaches. He found that university laboratories had the most sustainable practices, with institutional conservation departments being hampered by time pressures such as digitization and exhibition programs, and private practitioners being restricted by both time and cost considerations. He feels that stronger communication of sustainability principles and a cohesive change in attitude and habits within the sector will further improve sustainable conservation practice.

43rd Annual Meeting – Book and Paper Session, May 16, “Let me Help You Help Me: Outreach as Preventive Conservation”, Library Collections Conservation Discussion Group

The structure of this session was three brief presentations followed by three breakout groups to discuss each of the presentations, with the presenters rotating between the groups.
Laura McCann, Conservation Librarian at NYU Libraries, was the first presenter and spoke about library training of student employees.
She gave an interesting presentation on the process their library has undergone in developing a more efficient and successful training program for student workers. Originally the Conservation Department of 3 staff members conducted hands-on training of small groups of students through workshops. While this had benefits of being able to design their own teaching content, increasing awareness among para-professional staff about the work of conservation and library materials preservation needs, and improving communication between conservation and other departments, there were problems such as the students being distracted during the workshop or not attending due to scheduling conflicts, and conservation issues not being correctly identified or work being poorly performed by the students when in placement.
By reaching out to the other library departments, a new approach was devised. Now there are fewer sessions and they involve a presentation (not hands-on) and pizza! The students’ managers are present and the sessions are compulsory. This has resulted in less conservation staff time required in training, more students receiving the training and a large increase in the number of library books correctly identified for conservation treatment.
The next step from here is to adapt this model to other situations, such as NYU’s new allied libraries in Brooklyn, Abu Dhabi and Shanghai with the challenges of geography and time differences added to the usual constraints of limited conservation resources and staffing. Ideas that they are exploring include Preservation Training LibGuides and short video tutorials.
Dawn Walus, Chief Conservator at Boston Athenaeum, spoke next about outreach and access at her institution.
The Boston Athenaeum has a wide and varied outreach program. They hold architecture tours of the building, open house events for the public to view spaces such as the conservation laboratory, evening events with their curators, tours and workshops with groups of young children, and an annual conservation fundraising evening. Members have special events such as specific tours and conservation lab visits, and digital images of the collection made by the digitization team feature in a digital photo frame in the membership office.
As well as public encounters, the Boston Athenaeum offers summer institutional exchanges, internships in conservation through a relationship with the North Bennet St bookbinding school, and scholarships for researchers to study the collections available in the research room. They also take advantages of public curiosity of collection institutions through articles in traditional and social media.
This last point linked well to the third speaker, Suzy Morgan, Preservation Specialist at Arizona State University Library, who spoke about using social media to promote conservation.
Social media is a very powerful tool that conservators can use to direct and control the conversation about conservation without the message being misrepresented or diluted by traditional media. She pointed out that it is resource-light, requiring ‘only’ staff time and not expensive equipment, specialized staff (such as IT) or knowledge.
People are very curious about conservation, so there is a fresh audience out there waiting to respond to your efforts. The online community is very interactive, allowing you to have a conversation with both positive and negative responses, and presenting teaching moments as well.
Some advice Suzy gave was to look at how large institutions are using different social media platforms and copy the approaches you like. Be humorous, allow for some silliness, and keep it short. She reminded us tha the work conservators do is very photogenic and social media platforms are ideal for sharing photos, sound clips and short videos, which often represent our work better than text.
Finally, she said that there are lots of resources on the internet to explain ‘how to’; don’t be discouraged by the well-established platforms that large institutions have, be prepared to give it a try – start small take it slowly, and have fun.
Discussion groups
The three presentations were followed by breakout groups where each presenter came to speak to a group about the issues raised in their talk.
Laura McCann:
–        Q: How many students per year do you train?
–        A: About 20 people; they are tied into the general student orientation program for the library. Also, they use short training videos for patrons and para-professionals.
–        Q: Have you made your own training videos?
–        A: No, not yet. Need management approval. Also, some rare book departments might want more hands on or intensive training for their materials.
–        Q: Could we crowd source this?
–        A: In theory some of these information guides should be able to be assembled collaboratively, but each institution will likely want to add their own specific or specialized information. Other ways of distributing information include putting information cards around the library and in the reading room, or using table tents to inform general readers.
Dawn Walus:
–        Q: What is a good/not good age range for children to come and tour a conservation lab?
–        A: Young children can really appreciate a ‘book hospital’ or ‘make a book’ workshop experience and then take home a souvenir to show to siblings and parents; teenagers are hardest to engage – insist on no cell phone usage in the lab
–        Have workshops on old audio-visual equipment, as some people still have these things at home but don’t know how to use them
–        Q: How can you tell is your lab tours or other outreach programs are a success?
–        A: Speak to docents to see if they get questions about conservation programs; have a kids activity table and monitor its usage; talk to membership office and see if have increase in memberships or donations
Suzy Morgan:
–        Q: Is the social media you do part of a larger institutional social media program?
–        A: No, they are personal accounts, but contribute to the library’s larger social media efforts
–        Q: What is your favorite platform and which are the most effective?
–        A: Suzy is into Twitter and Tumblr and having a go with Vine; she hasn’t tried Instagram. Tumblr is easy to start, has no length limit, can post text, photos, video, links etc and also schedule posts for future release. Each platform has its own style; some are more personal and interactive than others. You need to work out your communication style and decide on the audience you want to reach, then write appropriately.
–        Q: Do you have restraints on your content ?
–        A: No, because she is doing it through personal accounts. To avoid onerous institutional policies, it takes time to build management trust in the social media program to see that no inappropriate content is released.
–        Q: Any advice on gaining institutional trust?
–        A: Start by offering to help with the social media program, provide content and slowly build up your involvement. Show examples of other institutions’ successful social media programs to build faith in your own.
–        It was noted that some institutions force staff to spend large amounts of time contributing to social media programs, and that can adversely affect the time available to spend on other work. If this is the case, ask for help from other staff/workshop participants etc and delegate. You could also point back at your job description if social media is not included.

43rd Annual Meeting – Book and Paper Group Session, May 16, 2015. “Multitasking on a Shoestring: Storage and Display Mounts for Oversized Maps at the Library of Virginia” by Leslie Courtois

The talk began with an introduction to the Library, which as a state resource, also houses the archives and is mandated to make all content accessible, from the original object to digital access. The original building was built on a Jeffersonian model, which is supplemented with a massive offsite storage comprising some 97 million items over fifty-five miles of shelving, and yet has a very small staff for conservation and exhibit preparation. The Library has a very enthusiastic curator of maps, a benefactor with a interest in sponsoring maps scholarship and a robust interest group that seeks to use the collection. As such, Courtois presented a solution she has come up with that allows her to access and mount for display their extremely oversize maps without much additional help, using a modular system of her own invention and implementation.
With insights into the use of maps, “a highly aesthetic visual documentary material”, Courtois discussed several of local interest, including: the Mitchell (1755), the primary map used to define the nation after the revolution; the Sayer & Bennett map of the Chesapeake bay (1777); the John Henry map of Virginia (1770); and the “monster” Boye Map of Virginia (1826), printed from nine copper plates. Indeed, the scale of these editions permitted the publisher space for extreme detail and decorative elements that formerly were best perceived by the original user up close in their folded, pocketed format. The irony of the preservation rehousing, a 5mm thick Mylar and map folder hybrid, which permits flat storage and prevents improper folding damage, is that it can prevent the observer from seeing the details due to enforcing a certain distance due to its dimensions (up to 40” x 60” standardized, and custom for sizes beyond that). The flat housings also take up space on tables, if not exceeding the surface area available for reference, thus limiting the number that may laid out at one time, and lastly makes for an ergonomically unsound, and risky relationship of viewer to the object. For these reasons, the goal was to go vertical, for the least cost, and without having to rehouse the object in yet another expensive format.
The solution arrived at was to use Hexamount panels (or alternately, double laminate cross-directional corrugated board) as the vertical panel support, which are fastened to arms on independent wooden floor stands (or stanchions), hand-built by Courtois of simple materials and construction. The stands themselves are sturdy and functional, and once the panel is attached to swiveling arms by hook-and-loop tape, the feet are only visible part. The stand bases are made up of 3/4” furniture plywood, and two-by-fours are used as the risers. The arms to which the panels are attached, are fixed to the risers with a hex bolt that may be loosed and tightened, to allow for an angled presentation. There is no cross-brace or frame other than the panel itself, allowing the independent stands to be adjusted in width to each other based on the size of the Hexamount panel, allowing for flexibility of size. All told, the stands cost about $184 or about $30 each to make up six, including drill bits, wood, paint, wide Velcro ™ strip; the Hexamount runs about $87 per panel not including shipping.

Front and back views of oversize maps mounted to independent wooden stands are shown
Vertical presentation of oversize maps on in-house built stands

The maps are supported on the panel using a pass through hinge system: the storage folder is pierced with wide slits above the map, and Mylar strapping is passed through matching slits in the panel behind and below and and affixed at the back.
Image shows a piece of Mylar slipping through a slot in a support board for a mounted object
A piece of Mylar is slipped through a slot in a support board for a mounted object.

Difficulties include supporting wide maps in the middle where sagging is a potential issue, but this can be resolved with additional strapping. Mounting and dismounting the large panel tends to be the stickiest issue, if you’ll pardon the pun. Once a large surface area of hook-and-loop tape attaches, it can be difficult to pry apart, so when setting up, it is helpful to place a removable barrier such as a slim ruler or other in between the hook and loop to allow for a break-away point if the strips are aligned improperly. For removal, it helps to have an assistant, and using a ruler to split the hook-and-loop as sort of zipper helps to peel them apart. (It was suggested during Q and A that leaving a few thin squares of Mylar or metal foil in place could also serve as a tool entry point for later removal; although visible tabs might present a security concern).  For the Boye map, which was previously treated and edge mounted with a fabric extension similar to that which is used for quilt-hangings, a folded over fabric tube at the top allows for a rigid strut piece of corrugated or other material to be slid through the tube and which is tied in with linen tapes to the support board.
Courtois suggests a couple of further tips during the Q and A:

  • To deal with a problem that also came up in the pre-conference 2015 STASH Flash II session (search this blog for that session review) – the tendency of hook and loop tapes’ adhesive to detach from substrates. The Hexamount surface is somewhat friable, and she suggests first lightly marking out the areas to which the tapes will be applied, and consolidating the stripes with PVA and allowing them to dry before laying down the tape.  During Q&A, she added that she may be using more Velcro than is necessary, which impedes the dismount.
  • For passing the mounting straps through the through the thickness of the support, it helps to use a slender tool such as a thin ruler, to keep the strip from bending and to find the matching outlet.
  • Always know your route, and that you have a path to safely transport the mounted work. Courtois suggests using a dolly to transport all the stands at once, since there may be many a double door, ramp or other obstacle to be managed on the way to the exhibition site. With limited staff on hand, the logistical concerns of movement must be thought through thoroughly.
    Michelle Facini, co-author of Big Paper, Big Problems (see also:poster and tables) noted that in responses to her Kress-funded survey even the use of the term oversized is challenging – every institution’s parameter for oversize is different!  However, all face the same expensive choices, as sizes increase, so do material costs. Inquiring about the Boye map, Courtois replied that indeed, that one is rolled on a core for storage.
  • Sarah Norris noted similar issues at the Texas State Archives, and noted that they have one extremely oversize map that is mounted with an extension with grommets at the top. Others are in standardized housing with a strip of corrugated board at the top, which allows for a monofilament to be strung through for hanging.
  • Courtois notes that this vertical, modular system allows the observer to get really close up in viewing the map, with little risk and much reward. The reward for all this hard work “is the engagement of the users – when you go to lengths to accommodate them, people really do value that effort.” In viewing candid shots from map society visits, and random visitors walking by encountering a map of size for perhaps the first time, this reviewer can only agree.