New Frontiers for the Conservation Lab

Bulletin 26 Spring 2007

Published as “Conservator’s Corner”

by Ellen Carrlee


Along with other renovations in the Alaska State Museum basement, the
conservation lab has had a makeover, with new flooring, new paint, and
new lab tables.  The spruced-up space will be used for treatments, the
conservation library, the conservator’s office area, textile
conservation supplies, study samples (fragments of ivory, skin, basketry
and other materials for developing treatments) and the binocular
microscope.  The new tables for treatments have chemical-resistant black
resin tops and are the kind typically used in college chemistry
classrooms.  The narrow former darkroom that served as the only
conservation lab space for many years can now be used more effectively
as the conservation chemical laboratory, with its deep sinks, fume hood,
and safety features such as a flammables storage cabinet and emergency
eyewash station.  Most conservation treatment supplies are stored there,
and certain wet treatments will still occur in that space.  First on the
docket will be a basketry conservation project to finish the treatment
of several waterlogged archaeological baskets from southeast Alaska.
Among the most important are two very old baskets that have already
received impregnation with polyethylene glycol (PEG) wax to replace the
excess water.  Water has such strong surface tension that simple
evaporation from old waterlogged wood and basketry materials causes
warping and severe damage.  While the PEG treatment was successful in
halting deterioration, these ancient baskets are still too fragile to be
exhibited.  A consolidation is needed, and research is underway to
determine the best approach.  Two graduate students in conservation will
be coming to assist in this project as well as treat other baskets in
the ASM and SJM collections.  Molly Gleeson will be coming from the
UCLA/Getty Museum art conservation program, and Samantha Springer will
be coming from the Winterthur/University of Delaware art conservation
program.  They will arrive in mid-June, spending several weeks in Juneau
working on the collection and learning about gathering and processing
spruce root and an introduction to weaving from Tlingit/Haida weaver
Janice Criswell.  Then they will travel to Sitka to work on the Sheldon
Jackson Museum collection and learn more about weaving from Tlingit
weaver Teri Rofkar until mid-August.  The interns will also share their
knowledge and treatment techniques with the weavers in what promises to
be an exciting and rewarding collaboration.  Successful treatments will
mean many important historical and archaeological baskets currently too
fragile to be exhibited will be able to be studied, appreciated, and
enjoyed by the public.


Conservation Lab BEFORE

Conservation Lab BEFORE


Conservation Lab AFTER

Conservation Lab AFTER


One Response to New Frontiers for the Conservation Lab

  1. Alice Hoveman says:

    Congratulations Ellen! The lab looks great!

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