42nd Annual Meeting – Track A: Case Studies in Sustainable Collections Care, May 30, “Boxes Inside of Boxes: Preventative Conservation Practices by Robin P. Croskery Howard”

Robin P. Croskery Howard, Objects Conservator at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, focused on how custom housing, in concert with climate control, can be effective preventative conservation. Three case studies highlighting specific housing solutions for different collection materials were shown.
Case Study #1: The Long Road Home/Speck Collection
Some housings need to provide safety for travel and long term storage. The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki museum makes it a priority to repatriate any collection items that are not Seminole in origin. These items are returned untreated. The two housings used for this are either stacked layers of Volara cutouts, contoured to fit the object or ethafoam cavities lined with acid-free tissue.
Case Study #2: The Doll with the Broken Neck
The museum has a number of dolls made out of palmetto fibers. These fibers deteriorate over time and the limbs and necks of the dolls often detach. Any treatment would produce only temporary results as the doll continued to age and breakdown. Custom pillows and supports are used to support the dolls and relieve stress on their joints.
Case Study #3: Leaning Baskets
An oversized modern sweetgrass basket that had partially collapsed under its own weight was restored using an adaptive housing. The basket was put in a box with twill ties holding it in place. The ties were gradually tightened over several weeks to support and lift the basket and allow it to gently regain its shape over time. Other modern baskets are stored with ethafoam supports.
These were great, practical solutions for caring for objects by using housing to prevent or control damage. I realized while writing this post how much this session falls in line with Cordelia Rogerson’s “Fit for Purpose” talk. All of the items showcased here were cared for, but in a manner and level appropriate for long view of their “life” at the museum.

AIC’s 39th Annual Meeting – Research and Technical Studies Session, June 1, “Data-Driven Decisions: The Use of Environmental Monitoring, Technical Analysis and Resource-Sharing at English Heritage” by Caroline Roberts

Caroline Roberts, a graduate fellow at the Winterthur/UDel Program in Art Conservation, was lucky enough to spend a summer working at English Heritage with David Thickett, a pillar in the specialty of preventive conservation. Cary shared her involvement with various projects from her internship. For an overwhelming 400+ properties, Thickett’s work emphasizes practicality, resource-sharing, and sustainability. Decisions for environmental monitoring and analysis are data-driven, and thereby, case-by-case. This sensible method identifies and address problems when and where they occur, rather than applying and managing a systematic approach to many, many sites. Cary highlighted sophisticated and simple technology used, such as radio transmitters for remote data access, as well as iButton loggers in a micro-environment. I was impressed by the fine level of the problems being addressed in EH’s projects: they suggested that the institution has a handle on general preventive conservation management.