The case of the hydrating hydra: Examination and treatment of a Blaschka glass invertebrate model

N. Astrid R. van Giffen


Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka were a father and son team of master glassworkers active in and around Dresden in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They made realistic and accurate models of hundreds of invertebrate species that they sold to schools and museums all over the world. In preparation for an exhibition about the Blaschkas at The Corning Museum of Glass, the museum’s conservation team carefully examined, cleaned, and, in some cases, reconstructed about 75 of these delicate and unique models.
Although the models are primarily made of glass, other materials—such as metal wires, shells, paper, glues, resins, and paints were also used. Time and fluctuating environments have caused the structurally fragile models to suffer from deterioration of many of the components, including the glass. The extremely thin glass and the sensitive surfaces of the models necessitated the development of innovative new treatments for minimally invasive cleaning, stabilization, and reconstruction.
The microscopic and UV examination of one model provided interesting information about the deterioration and fabrication of Blaschka models. Treatment of this model included surface consolidation, dry brush and solvent cleaning, reassembly, and loss compensation with cast Paraloid B-72 film.

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2017 | Chicago | Volume 24