AIC 2009 in LA: More Sessions

May 29, 2009

Wooden Artifact Group May 21, 2009

“Waterlogged Wood from the USS Monitor: A New Direction for Research and Collaboration.”

Susanne Grieve, Robert Blanchette, Todd Plaia, and Dave Emerson


Description of the treatment of an Civil War ironclad, sunk in 1862.  Collaboration between the US Navy and NOAA on the treatment.  Wooden components treated in 1990 are showing sulfur problems similar to those seen on the Swedish warship Vasa.  Some parts, like deck fragments, were conserved in the 1980’s and the records are poor.  Seem to have been treated with HCl to remove iron and then PEG 400.  Crystal growth with a pH of 2 and wood is structurally weak.  Untreated wood includes over 150 artifacts from the turret now kept in cold storage.  Wood ID, bacteria studies and sulfur analysis are ongoing.  Issues with toredo worms and most of the secondary cell walls of the wood are destroyed, leaving mostly primary walls.  Everything on the ship seems to be covered in iron corrosion products.  They are seeing wood lose more strength if the iron is chelated out.  Seems that there is about 4.2% sulfur by weight in the treated wood, and up to 2.5% in the untreated wood.  This is compared to 1.5% in the sediment and between 1-3% in the Vasa.  Iron is thought to be the catalyst for the sulfur turning into acid.  Ammonia gas for neutralization on the Vasa is apparently not working…wood continues to suffer again after a couple of months.  The folks treating the Monitor tried Bookkeeper, a magnesium-based product used to deacidify paper.  Again,t he wood eventually reverts back to its acidic state.  In the Q&A, someone suggested using calcium in order to promote the formation of gypsum, which is very soluble and could be washed out?  There was mention of using PEG 400, 1000, and 3350 on a wooden chest, but overall I was disappointed not to hear more details about the PEG treatments, especially the percentages and duration of impregnation.  I was also surprised that the understanding of the sulfur source and the mechanism of deterioration didn’t seem to be as advanced as some of the literature already published about the Vasa.  


Objects Session May 22, 2009

“Conservation at Kaman Kalehoyuk”

Alice Boccia Paterakis

I was interested in this talk because I took a class there in 1995.  It was taught by Glenn Wharton and J. Claire Dean.  My husband, conservator Scott Carrlee, worked there on and off from 1992-1997.  I don’t think we would recognize the place today.  The Japanese Institute for Anatolian Archaeology runs the site, and there are interesting tidbits I thought I’d include here.  They plan to re-establish student internships at the site.  In 2009 they hope to get a new fume hood and x-ray unit.  In 2010, they plan to have a 5-day workshop for archaeologists on spot testing (I think that’s Nancy Odegaard and Scott Carrlee.  Hey, maybe I’ll be going to Turkey next summer…)  In 2011, they plan a 2-day symposium.  Interesting research has been done there, but most of it is published in an obscure journal called “Anatolian Archaeological Studies.”  Examples of topics: cyclododecane for lifting of bone. Laramie Hickey Friedman’s work on alkaline sulfite treatment vs non-treatment for iron and then re-examining 8 years later and comparing the specimens on site to those treated and stored at Winterthur.  Seemed like the ones at Winterthur were stable and the ones at Kaman were not.  They used an RP system by Mitsubishi to seal the metals into bags in 2000.  They included silica gel, humidity card, oxygen scavenger, and an oxygen indicator.  The RH stayed below 10% for at least 8 years but the oxygen indicator (which may have been the “Ageless Eye”?) turned color, which seemed to indicate some infiltration of oxygen.  At the end of the talk, however, Jerry Shiner from Keepsafe Systems Inc (who sells this product) mentioned that the Ageless Eye has a shelf life of about 6 months if kept cold and can spontaneously change color.  The thinks the packages were probably OK, and recommends double-bagging to improve the system.  Folks in the room really got excited about that, I think.  Stavroula Golfomitsou was studying bronzes treated with corrosion inhibitors BTA, AMT, and PMT.  Some 220 objects total, both in water and in ethanol.  There was one combination that seemed to be head and shoulders above the rest, and I think if I understood right it was published in the 2007 metals conference in Amsterdam, p. 38-43 by Golfomitsou and Merkel.  As a resource, there are titles to 20 conservation field notes on a website  Hope I got that link right.  Alice Paterakis has these as PDFs that you can request.  


“Technology as a Tool for Archaeological Research and Artifact Conservation”

Gretchen Anderson and Giovanna Fregni

Discussion of 3-D imaging for enhanced study and less handling of fragile collections.  The Science Museum of Minnesota was using the Bodelin Proscope HR, the Leica Stereo Explorer, the Next Engine Desktop 3D Scanner, and CT scans provided by an outside vendor.  I really paid attention when I heard Giovanna used to be a jeweler, and is now working on her PhD.  I had never heard of a proscope before, and apparently the fancy ones are about $1000 while the basic ones are half that price.  They connect to a computer with a USB.  The 3-D imaging costs in the $3000 range, which I thought was unbelievably reasonable.  Measurements can be embedded right in the image.  Also great for getting accurate measurements on things that are really fragile to handle.  CT scan on a mummy was able to show the septum had been broken, suggesting the traditional method for removing the contents of the skull during the mummification process and therefore authenticate the mummy.  Q&A afterward was  focused on various replication techniques to replace old fashioned molding and casting.  Some 3-D scans (CAD programs?) can allow a replica to be computer milled out of plastic that is carved away.  Some are built up from something like an ink jet that spits plastic.  Texas A&M was mentioned as a place where lasers are shot into a tank of liquid resin and the points that the lasers intersect react with the resin to harden it, so you can build up your replica in this way and then just lift it out of the tank.  Carlton University apparently had only half an engine, made a replica of the other half with a 3D scanner, flipped it on the computer to make the missing half on a 30D printer, and sent it to a foundry to be cast.   


“Connecting Materials Science and Engineering with Archaeological Conservation”

Paul Mardikian, Dr. Stephanie Crette, Dr. Michael Drews, Nestor Gonzales, Johanna Rivero, and Claire Tindal.

Discussion of the treatment approaches to the treatment of H.L. Hunley at the Clemson Conservation Center in South Carolina after its recovery in 2000.  Human remains were reburied in 2004, and Clemson University took over the project from the Navy in 2007.  The Clemson Conservation Center seems to be actually in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Clemson?  They seem to have a staff of 10 or 12 people.  Interesting research includes addressing the problem of chloride salts in the layer between the core iron and the surface corrosion (did he call that surface layer “Graphetization?”)   Subcritical fluids at a high temperature under pressure seem to do a lot to diffuse out the chlorides in that interface, where they can be up to 10%. Reduction of surface tension and improved solubility means the diffusion happens fast, like a matter of days.  There is a constant flow of solution (sodium hydroxide) and it is measured for chlorides on its way out of the 40L tank.  What level of chlorides?  They used to aim for under 10ppm, but now they can get below 0.5ppm in less than a week!  This is still in its infancy, however, very much still in the experimental stage with small items.  There was also talk of the importance of identifying corrosion products before treatment and after treatment in order to assess if stabilization is successful.


Supercritical CO2 is another approach used for certain problems such as waterlogged cork.  Water exerts violent forces on fragile cells when water evaporates because of its high surface tension.  Liquid CO2 has no surface tension, from what I heard at this talk, so if you replace water with a solvent and then that solvent with CO2, you can avoid the surface tension issue.  Methanol and liquid CO2 mix well at a certain temperature and pressure.      


Also mentioned 3D scanning for items in order to get really accurate readings to measure shrinkage.  Hard to use caliper accurately on small artifacts, and using pins is only practical for larger things like ships timbers.  


Paul Mardikian was an engaging speaker and at the end he kind of waxed poetic about the possibility of mass treatment for archaeological iron being a reality in the future.  He feared it might end up a mirage, but was really starting to have hope.  I also smiled when he described an upcoming deadline for abstracts if people want to present papers at the Metals Conference in Charleston, South Carolina in October 2010.  As he put it, if your abstract is good, there can be an extension beyond the June 1 deadline.  But if your abstract is not good, then the deadline is firm. 


AIC in 2009: Issues and Grist

May 29, 2009

Issues Session and Grist Thursday May 21, 2009


















Green Task Force Report

This 2-year initiative was born at last year’s issues meeting, and the final report will be given next year, at which point we’ll need to decide if the work is complete or it should be made a permanent committee.  Patricia Silence reported on the results of a Survey Monkey that went out in November 2008.  It had 24 questions.  Out of 3500 members, 548 people began the survey and 475 completed it.  75% of those were staff at institutions.  The largest group of responders were objects and book/paper people, primarily in the US and many from the midatlantic and northeast regions.  Many interesting statistics were reported, and the survey is probably worth looking at, although I could not find it on the AIC website.  The trend seemed to be that conservators are pretty willing to go green but their institutions lag behind in willingness or ability to implement green solutions.  Of publications, most folks liked the idea of electronic distribution of everything but the JAIC.  Book and paper folks, of course, had a higher tendency to want more stuff on paper.  There was also a lot of interest in proper disposal of hazardous materials when those materials still need to be used, although replacing them with greener substances was a priority for folks as well.  A website was given, but I have not been able to find it yet.


Emerging Conservation Professionals Network

Rachel Pennimann reporting

This new group focuses on those who are new: pre-program, apprentices, students, and recent graduates.  AIC website was given as  Among their activities, they are looking at a training program advisory group, posting internships and fellowships, and developing a formal mentor program to pair up emerging professionals with PA’s or Fellows.  


Discussion about Communications

1) Dissemination (print versus electronic)

2) Internal communications

3) Professional development opportunities.


I stood up and asked if the website is in a position to be hosting electronic-only publications, such as my work on the Alaskan mammal fur ID project.  Seems like AIC is moving in that direction.  I later got an email from AIC staff member Brett Rodgers, who deals with publications, and he suggests we might start by exploring Flickr.  Both he and Rachel Perkins Arensen separately suggested after the issues session that I work up the data on an animal or two and we take them for some test drives. Wikipedia is another thought. 


Rachael Perkins Arensen is our new e-editor.  She was the focus of a lot of tough questions and demands during the meeting and handled it with openness and grace that I don’t think I could have mustered.  I asked her if that means she is now AIC staff…like does she have benefits?  No.  Let me tell you a little bit about Rachael…she’s already got a private practice, a growing family, and the IPM Working Group.  And in addition, she is taking this e-editor position  on contract with the AIC.  A whole lot of work and not much money.  Rachael is obviously not doing this for the money.  I think she wants to see this 2.0 world work for us, and she believes in making it happen even if the path is not completely clear.  In short, BE NICE TO RACHAEL.  If they put the budget on the members section of the website, as I think they should, you ought to be able to see what she’s getting paid and then you would agree with me.  I just typed, “what THEY are paying her.”  Shouldn’t it be “what WE are paying her” instead?  I mean, if the info about AIC was up there more transparently I suspect we’d feel more ownership.


Wikis are coming soon to AIC…maybe even by the time you read this.  They will begin with specialty groups who already have catalogs.  The paper catalog comes out every 10 years, maybe with a wiki it still would, but with the wiki being constantly tweaked and the 10-year version being the “official” one that has been vetted.  The membership would like to see the directory online.  It is a really valuable part of what AIC provides.  What if some of it were online-only to allow the published version to be slimmer and cheaper to print and distribute?  What about charging extra if you want it in print?  For a while, there will probably be an opt-in/ opt out system for electronic distribution vs print.  The membership present at the issues discussion seemed OK with the amount of emails AIC sends out.  Some people (tee hee) seem to have put AIC on their spam list, however.  If things do go electronic-only, it is nice to get an email reminding us when it appears, although some people say they are less likely to read electronic publications.   Figures were given for how much printing the AIC News and JAIC costs, but I’m not sure it is appropriate to post those figures in a blog.  I’m still trying to figure out the boundaries of what I ought to put in the blog, and let me tell you I’ve spent a lot of time pondering that.  We’ll discuss those issues in a different posting.  A week after this session, there was considerable discussion on various internet dist lists about the idea of the newsletter or the directory going green.  It seemed to touch a nerve.  I suspect the most logical solution will involve a reduced number of directories being printed for those who want them and some sort of opt-out checkbox on the membership renewal.  I think there are three copies of the 2009 directory in my lab and at least one at home…perhaps that is being married to a conservator and also working at a place that is an institutional member?  Hmmm.     


I asked at the Issues Session if the AIC budget was on the internet and the answer came off sounding a little bit muddled.  The answer was that various leaders in AIC have access to that, there is an audit summary available to all members, and something in the annual report.  Wincingly, the budget was described as very confusing and hard to read, suggesting that the members would not be able to figure it out anyway.  I was told to go to the business meeting the next day to hear about the budget.  I was unable to attend, but maybe that’s for the best because the transition between treasurers and other factors meant that the budget was not available there, either.  Incoming president Meg Loew Craft told me afterward that she would personally make sure I got any of my questions answered regarding the budget.  She has always struck me as a very sharp and competent person, and I do believe she would answer questions for ANY member who asked.  I’m not the kind of person who would go over the budget with a fine-toothed comb, but there are folks in the membership who might, or is related to an accountant who might, and I feel better thinking there are those checks and balances in place.  And even more important, that idea of TRANSPARENCY.  Richard McCoy spoke at the Issues Session about pulling back the curtain, and deciding for himself if he could understand the budget.  We’ve seen what happens on Wall Street with financial organizations that get too creative with too little oversight.  We all know examples where things have gone wrong or been overlooked.  Transparency protects the integrity of the organization.  Since the organization exists at the pleasure of its members, it is only right that those members know how the resources of the AIC are allocated, and what those resources are.  If the documents are too confusing for the layperson, perhaps a little bit of additional interpretation can be done.  Also along the lines of transparency, there was interest in having the names of committee members and other leaders on the website, as well as head shots of staff and board members.   


More Suggestions from the Issues Session Attendees

  • What can AIC do to lead the way in showing how to navigate electronic vs print delivery of newsletters, directories and other online content and then provide support for the regional organizations to do so as well?
  • There is interest in AIC having some kind of PR handout for in person situations like conservation labs that have windows.  People like to walk away with written information when they see complex things in person (think of our own interest in those handouts in the poster section, for example!)  
  • I love it that someone in the Issues meeting asked me, “What’s a Luddite?”  I think most of the membership is willing to jump into the 2.0 world, they are just holding back a little bit in case it is just a flash in the pan.  Or to see what cream rises to the top.  People are reluctant to learn a new thing if it is wasted, but if it is useful people are curious.  In a room full of people, only about 5% raised their hands when asked if they Twitter.  
  • Suggestion that AIC could perhaps get a subscription to JSTOR as a membership benefit?  AIC would need to do a survey to see who would use it and how many collections within JSTOR we would need so a cost analysis could be done.
  • People who have to fly or travel a lot like the idea of conservation podcasts.  
  • Request for more levels of detail in our referral system to narrow down specialties
  • Request for more mentoring as an organization.  Association for Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) has an ongoing effort to match people up before the meeting, taking the relationship through the meeting, and hopefully beyond.
  • Could we maybe offer the conference workshops online in streaming video at a reduced rate?
  • In the OSG meeting I heard that specialty groups send out CDs full of pdfs not because they are technologically clueless, but because there are copyright issues surrounding the content that is different for posting on the internet than it is for distribution on a CD.
  • Request to allow associate members to be in directory, but the rationale against was that the written commitment by PAs and Fellows is the only mechanism we have to control or discipline the profession.  
  • The CIPP offered a reduced membership rate of $5 to all members of the EPCN.  Now that was really cool!

AIC 2009 in LA: Posters

May 24, 2009

P5200004There was a lot of talk this year about how we need to make poster content survive the conference.  The poster format itself would require a certain amount of technology to translate to the internet.  It might be easier to require posters to also be submitted in a web-friendly format, but posters are a lot of work as it is.  Still, the authors might appreciate a way for the their work to live on.  There were 37 posters this year. They were up for two days, and my attention was distracted by the coffee breaks, the vendors, and of course chatting with my colleagues.  I had to return to the poster area four times to gather notes for this blog, and my brain hurt each time…there is so much information packed in there so densely, it is simply not possible to blog about it very well.  I had intended to report anything of interest to ethnographic or archaeological conservators, but there was just no way I was going to pull that off.  Here are some of the titles I found interesting, and some of the content that I found thought-provoking.

The Role of Static Charge in Dirt Accumulation on Painted Surfaces

Jamie Abbott and Dr Gregory Dale Smith

Apparently, static is not a serious issue after all


University of Delaware Art Conservation Undergraduate Education 2.0

Vicki Cassman, Jae Gutierrez, and Debra Hess Norris

This was a good way to get the word out about changes to the program.  They no longer offer two concentrations (collections care and pre-program) but a single major called Material Culture Preservation.  An applied chemistry elective has also been added.  Stronger components of ethics and  practice have been added to the traditional three legged stool.  


Emerging Conservation Professionals Network: Emerging Conservators Using Emerging Technologies

Sherry DeFreece Emery, Laura Brill, and Anne M. Simon

Another example of using a poster to get the word out.  The group is aimed at students and conservators who have been practicing less than 5 years (although elsewhere I’ve heard the number was seven years?)  They look to use old and new technologies as well as a mentoring system.


A Cut Above: The Crayola Cutter as Conservation Tool

Lisa Conte, Lisa Nelson, Katherine Sanderson, and Eliza Spaulding

The Crayola Cutter is a toy, employing a pulsating electric stylus or needle to cut paper by perforating it.  The method was compared to tearing along a wet line and using a scalpel.  Can’t use it on a light table, and it can’t be on a hard surface…needs something like Volara behind it.  The original version was blue and yellow, and the newer one in purple and orange pulsates faster.  


African Beaded Objects: Characterizing Conservation Issues and Testing and Developing Cleaning Treatments

Maria Fusco, Stephen P. Mellor, and Robert J. Speakman

Study on this looks to be just getting underway, with the poster concentrating more on the findings of what kind of degradation they are seeing in which cultural groups.  They looked at 344 beaded objects and saw bead problems with 17% of them.  They chose 24 objects as the study set.  They are now trying to correlate chemical patterns to physical patterns they are seeing.  Saw a lot more deterioration on glass beads from Cameroonian cultures and the Ndebele from South Africa, but don’t have the data yet to begin explaining that.  Noted that on the Ndebele beads, more deterioration was seen on white, pink, and translucent beads than on other colors.  I’m really looking forward to seeing where this goes next.

The Role of the Exhibitions Conservator in Touring Exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Laura Lipcsei

Super-dense with great lists of things to think of on a timeline when doing traveling exhibits.  Obviously, a lot of experience went into this one, and there were lots of areas indicated in bold where Laura could be contacted to provide copies of the documents and checklists they have developed.   

A Technical Analysis of Hopi Katchina Dolls at the Arizona State Museum

Meghan McFarlane

Using XRF, FTIR, Raman and Colorimetry.  Brighter whites and colors used after the 1930’s.  Largest change in pigments happened in the 1920’s and 30’s around the same time as the “action” style period begins.  Matte paint means less binder and the FTIR wasn’t sensitive enough to pick it up.


The Sampling of Archaeological Metals for Lead Isotope Analysis Using Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid-A “Minimally Destructive” Alternative

Vanessa Muros, Joseph Lehner, and Alma Bardho


Application of UV/VINR Digital Photography and Composite False-Color Imaging in Field Archaeological Conservation Investigations

Cuong Nguyen, Ioanna Kakoulli, Maria Cecilia Lozada

Looking more closely at surface soiling, bacterial deposits, burns and other features of human remains with non-invasive technology.

A Comparative Investigation of Lined Linen as a Book Covering Material

Dr. Melissa Tedone

I wasn’t so interested in this poster for its content but for the terrific hands-on samples that really took maximum advantage of the poster as a communication medium.  This would win my award for best poster.




















Aquazol as a Heat-Set Adhesive for Textile Conservation Treatments

Katherine Lechuga

Especially looking at taking advantage of the different properties of various molecular weights of Aquazol in treating shattered silk.  Seems like there was some success here, although a caveat that high humidity situations could prmote staining.  This poster would have been kicked up a notch with some hands-on attachments like the linen one?  The materials to do that might not have been available, though…


The Investigation of Cyclododecane’s Effect on Carbon-14 Dating of Archaeological Materials

Christine M. Pohl, Greg Hodgins, Robert J. Speakman, an Harriet F. Beaubien

Laboratory-grade cyclododecane seems to be OK!  Seems like the cleaning protocols to remove contaminants before typical Carbon-14 testing work fine for this too.


Fishing for an Alternative to the Traditional Source of Isinglass: Preliminary Investigations

Eileen Sullivan, James Hamm, and Dr. Aaron Shugar

As typical isinglass gets harder to come by, they are looking for alternatives.  Farm raised California white sturgeon might be a good replacement.  They describe the whole process of manufacture they followed, and testing viscosity, pH, solubility, gellation, colorimetry and FTIR.  Looks promising, but the chatter around the poster was, “Who is going to make this stuff?”


Mediating Community Relations through Art Conservation

Katelyn Uehling

Dealing with the University of Delaware and the community to conserve a mosaic monument to honor an Africa American community in Newark.


Technical Investigation of Shea Butter-Containing Forawa Vessels from Ghana

Sebastian K.T.S. Warmlander (sorry about the missing umlauts), David A. Scott, Vanessa Muros, Ellen Pearlstein, Alek Dooley, and Kym F. Faull

Investigated organo-metallic complexes between residual shea butter and copper or zinc ions of the vessels.


Remove it or Lose it!  Removal of the Forward and Aft Ballast Tank Pumps and Strategic PLanning for the Long-Term Preservation of the H.L. Hunley Submarine.

Chris Watters, Vincent Blouin, Typhaine Brocard, Paul Mardikian, Johanna Rivera, and Phillipe de Vivies

A scary maneuver had to be performed to get these parts out of the sub in order to treat them, since they were composite and needed to be taken apart.  But the team could not know for certain the exact way to disassemble them and how integral they were to the structural stability of the vessel.  Poster described how they dealt with those risks to successfully remove these parts.


One more thing…posters that included head shots or action shots where I could identify the authors were especially nice.  And double especially nice if they are at the conference and I wanted to chat with them.

AIC 2009 in LA: Museum Visits

May 24, 2009

After touring the Villa student labs on Friday, Lauren Horelick took me to the Fowler Museum at UCLA, which I had wanted to see for years.  Really, I wanted a time machine to go back and see the Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou show curated by Donald Consentino back some 10 years ago, but oh well.  “Icons of the Desert” show had some really terrific artworks of that dotted style done by the traditional Aboriginal cultures of Australia. 


The gift shop was terrific.  I didn’t buy anything at the Getty or LACMA, but at the Fowler I could not stop piling things on the counter. 







Surprisingly lightweight box with a nice feel to the hinge mechanism when you open and close it…balance and proportion are so nice on this little stained glass ring box with a mirrored interior bottom.  $5.95


















Here is a sweet little whistle my toddler will love: 95 cents!
















Cunning little skeleton earrings made of sterling silver.  The solid bodies have a decent weight to them so they will not become easily tangled when the jointed arms and legs move.  These little guys were $47. 

















Adorable bride and groom glass…Mexican I am guessing.  Really terrific little pieces, and a shocking $7.50 each!  A cool, arty wedding gift for our friends Mike and Aurah and I’m only a little embarrassed by what a killer bargain it is.  













LACMA has that new Broad Museum of Contemporary Art, which has that terrific Jeff Koons big blue balloon dog made of high chromium stainless steel with transparent color coating.  Going through the Warhols and Rauscenbergs and Twomblys I had a hard time just enjoying the art because of the anxiety I felt as a conservator thinking about what a pain in the ass a lot of those surfaces are to preserve.   But once I got cozy with the Richard Serra sculptures, particularly “Sequence” from 2006, I came back around to enjoying the art again.  This huge steel structure looks like it is maybe made of Cor-Ten steel (?) rusted out to somewhat resemble wood veneer.  It is sort of a maze-like Mobius strip with no straight lines anywhere and you walk slowly, winding your way through curves with the walls leaning in swooping curves.   These curves and lines and surfaces make it hard not to stagger a bit and feel dizzy.  There is a certain amount of visual trickery going on, but it is not a clean intellectual kind of trickery like M.C. Escher, but more of a visceral thing.  I immediately felt like it would be a great space to sneak into and get married quick, before you were maybe told the museum did not allow it.  After a bit, I began to imagine what it might be like to have this experience outdoors, with grass underfoot and sky above, like at Storm King, and the idea gave me pangs of longing and sadness and I had to move on.




The other great experience I had at LACMA was the Japanese Pavillion.  Not for the Japanese painting, which I don’t pretend to understand or appreciate, but for the marvellous interior space that has been created there…curves and layers and shadows in blue greys.  Walls like shoji screens!  



















Lucite (?) railings everywhere that made one vaguely think of bamboo in the ratios and fastenings.  


































Adorable little stools that can be moved to contemplate.  














Ability to adjust the light level and yet mostly keep the light off the artwork.  

















The netsuke room was marvellous, too.  















This was the item at the LACMA gift shop that I did not buy.  I was hoping just having an image of it would be good enough.  I hope this doesn’t haunt me as the “cool thing that got away.”  This amazingly intricate and evocative little Japanese-designed cardboard dog comes as a flat kit and must be punched out and fitted together.  









I was able to meet with David Harvey in the LACMA plaza for a beer and a chat, and was especially keen to discuss issues of ethics and etiquette and hash over some of the discussions from the AIC sessions.

AIC 2009 in LA: My Villa Lab Tour

May 24, 2009

I say “my” because I got my own private tour from UCLA/Getty student Lauren Horelick on Friday.  Lauren will be doing an internship with me from September to December at the Alaska State Museum.  I’m actually hoping she will come early, in August, and participate in WAAC.  Maybe even give a paper, if we’re lucky.  The students are still finishing up their coursework, so I felt really honored that Lauren would take the time to tour me around (and chauffer me to the Fowler as well!)  



Students have several different areas to do reading and writing, and several more to do treatment / experimental work.  The library at the Getty Villa is not a full-fledged exhaustive conservation library, but students are able to request books from the Getty Center and there is one delivery of books per day.  The recent job cuts included their beloved reference librarian.  It didn’t seem like students often went to Getty Center to do research.  Occasionally they went to UCLA to use certain analytical equipment like the XRD.  















For those designing labs, the issue of whether one nozzle can be turned on at a time is an important factor.
















I LOVED this crazy little cord that ran around the entire perimeter of the lab.  At first I thought that it was some goofy retrofit, and I am so glad I asked.  I meant to make a snarky joke about design oversights, but it turns out to be a water sensor.  I’m smitten, this would be so fantastic at my institution.  

















Like many of the other training programs, they are required to do a traditional wall painting.  But they are also required to do treatments on them like paint consolidation and grout injection.  Pretty cool.  















Can anyone tell me why the sink handles are waaaay down here?


















This cool little RH chamber was very appealing, but is that because it has such pleasing design?  Note the traditional style salt shaker that seems to complement the little chamber in its cuteness…
















Lauren’s mock-up pacquets congo for the real ones that she is studying




















Have you seen these slide holders before?  They remind me of the wine list at a nice restaurant.  Lauren says they are nice for slides that you have not mounted in a permanent medium.












Margarita Hill!  Christened as such by the first graduating glass from the program, the tradition is apparently being continued.  Reminded me of the times in grad school at the NYU program where we would sit in Central Park, staring back at 78th street, sipping coffee and panicking about how much work we had to do…
















AIC 2009 in LA: OSG Talks May 20th

May 22, 2009

“Blow It Off: Moving Beyond Compressed Air with Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Snow”

L.H. (Hugh) Shockey

One of the great things about coming to AIC is putting a name to a face and somehow I didn’t expect this guy to have a beard and ponytail and look like he could have just been working on his hot rod.  When one of his slides identified his initial “L” as standing for Lucian I was tremendously amused, as just last week I watched a movie marathon with the three “Underworld” movies about vampires at war with werewolves, and guess who is the charismatic king of the werewolves?  Lucian.  OK OK on to meaningful content.  

He’s working at the Lunder Center at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, and exploring the potential benefits of CO2 snow, which is producing particles on the micrometer scale, not the millimeter size.  Kind of like dry ice blasting, but on a much smaller, finer scale.  Setting up the equipment is in the $3000 range, and requires at minimum a snow generation nozzle and a source of compressed CO2 gas or liquid.  The geometry of the nozzle is pretty specific and requires a specialty vendor.  He was referring to a “Venturi” nozzle, but I don’t know what that means.  His equipment is more elaborate with more ways to make the delivery more controlled and efficient.  How does it work?  Primarily, Hugh describes it as a “momentum transfer surface cleaning technique” sort of like billiard balls knocking dirt off the surface.   Other forces at work might include secondary effects of liquid CO2 briefly touching the surface, breaking weak van der waals forces, and so-called “freeze fracture” although you’re never getting below the freezing point of water so Hugh takes issue with that term.  The lowest temp he ever got to was 46.6 degrees F.  Hugh described a 3 micron layer of turbulent air over the particulate soiling material of an artifact that seems (if I understand correctly) to interfere with just blasting off the particles with air, and that including these tiny tiny “snow” particles allows something with a bit of mass to penetrate through that turbulent layer and knock off the soiling.  You’ll need to work systematically from the inside out or one side to another in order to push that loosened material away and not just redeposit it.  

When is this useful? Not completely clear yet, it seems like Hugh is exploring that.  He says the objects needs to be a hard surface that can momentarily take a drop in surface temperature and a little bit of depression.  Your soiling has to be particulate in nature or a low molecular weight hydrocarbon, like perhaps fingerprint oil.  Hugh says this technique is not so good for friable surfaces, rough surfaces, bound materials like paint, or oily grime.  There’s a learning curve, and you need to control condensation.  He showed us before and after images of a bound steel spring and a paper pinbox he had cleaned, as well as a great video of a Robert Morris plastic sculpture (molded cellulose acetate butyrate) with an unidentified but disfiguring surface haze.  Yvonne Shashoua helped him with identification of the plastic (she wrote that great conservation of plastics book, didn’t she?)  

In the Q&A section, Hugh mentioned that the disfiguring haze might have been migrating plasticizer and there is a theory that if you remove too much plasticizer from a surface it actually can encourage more migration of plasticizers in the object?  Did I understand that right?  Gosh, plastics are scary, especially these arty ones with the pristine surfaces.  In one area, there was a kind of reverse haze pattern kind of like honeycomb from where bubble wrap had been in contact with the surface, which weirdly seemed to suggest the bubbles of the bubble wrap had absorbed the exudate??  Apparently, if you touch the stream it would be cold and dimple your finger but not injure you.  His system is gas-fed, not liquid-fed and it sounded like he way saying the liquid-fed systems produce larger sharper crystals of snow.  Question about what you might be inhaling during treatment, and Hugh uses clean room pads on the far side of the object to capture particulates.  The technology is used for cleaning silicone wafers and lenses for high-end optics.  Also, Hugh says that the compressed gas is a byproduct of some other industrial manufacturing process, so it is kind of a green thing, too.

“Examination of an Egyptian Corn Mummy”

Meg Loew Craft, Walters Art Museum

The artifact belongs to a private collector and was loaned for an exhibit in 2004 related the Kunstkammer or “Chamber of Wonders” which seemed rather like the Victorian notion of curiosity corners or cabinets.  (I think it might be the same thing?) It came from a 1996 estate sale where the deceased had been to Egypt in the 1960’s and apparently acquired it.  Fewer than 100 exist today, although there was apparently some looting in the late 1940’s that led some 400 corn mummies to come onto the market, most of which are no longer in known collections. Museum collections in Houston and Berlin also have corn mummies.  Meg reports only 5 necropolis sites have produced them.  This one is thought to be Late Period, 685-520BC and the term “corn” does not literally mean corn, but more like some “little hard thing”, usually grain of some sort.  They range in date from 2nd half of the 8th century BC to Greco-Roman times, maybe 35-50cm tall, and associated with Osiris and therefore rebirth and fertility of crops.  Meg’s materials analysis in this one indicate sycamore fig wood, carbon black pigment, Egyptian Blue pigment, yellow ochre pigment, gold gilding, beeswax, soil, seeds, linen, and traces of some original coating that defied identification but Meg thinks might have been a combo of oils, resins, gums, and maybe bitumen.  Malachite was used to make the wax mask green in some areas.  The mask was mold made and has fiber inclusions for support.  Little canopic figures were found inside also, apparently made of soil with a thin coating of wax.  These were seen with CT scanning, which incidentally also allows you to see the tree ring pattern pretty clearly.  Dendrochronology might be possible, if only there were a reference database of this kind to compare it to.

“Disrobing: Research and Preventive Conservation of Painted Hide Robes at the Ethnological Museum, National Museums Berlin, Germany.”

By Anne Turner Gunnison, Helene Tello, Peter Bolz, and Nancy Fonicello

Nancy presented this talk because the original presenter was not able to be there, and it was great to have another opportunity to hear her speak (see the tips posting too for her feather cleaning info.)  Seven rare and early bison robes in the collection of the Ethnological Museum in Berlin were collected in the 1830’s by Prince Maximillian zu Wied on his travels along the Upper Missouri River.  The robes were getting re-housed, which allowed an opportunity for study.  One robe that was Piegan (Blackfoot) was investigated in-depth using HPLC and FTIR.  It has both painted pigment figural illustrations as well as dyed porcupine quill embroidery.  Red colorant showed high levels of mercury, suggesting perhaps vermillion, but in actuality the robe has mercury present as a pesticide in frighteningly high amounts. Bill Holm thought the brown material might be from the root or rhisome of the horsetail. I was most interested to hear this, as I have recently been told that some of the material commonly identified as maidenhair fern stem on Tlingit basketry in Alaska might actually be root of horsetail in some instances, but we all expect to see maidenhair fern stem so no one questions it.  Now here is another mention of horsetail root!  Nancy is a quillwork expert, and she tells us that not much is published on dye techniques.  She experimented with dying quills with fox moss or dock root for the yellow, and bloodroot for the orange-red.  If I understand correctly, she gathered and processed these materials herself for a visual comparison.  From her slide, the fox moss (with Nancy later told me is probably  the same as the wolf moss I am familiar with here in Alaska)  and bloodroot sure made comparable colors to those seen on the robe.  However, HPLC samples indicated those might not be the dyes used.  The idea of a plant called bedstraw was  suggested as something that makes a madder-like dye.  In the Q&A, someone asked if Nancy thought the analysis could have been flawed.  In her experience, fox moss is the only dye material that makes that color yellow.  HPLC vs Nancy, I’d place smart money on Nancy.  The other interesting thing was that not only was mercury present in ridiculously high amounts, but there were suspicious white crystals on the hair side and a shiny residue was left on the gloves when the object was handled.  Suspected DDT was also confirmed by analysis.  Quite the toxic robe.

“It Takes Guts”

By Kelly McHugh, Kim Cullen Cobb, Michele Austin-Dennhy, and Landis Smith.  

Landis presented the entire paper, as Kelly McHugh could not be there to present the second half.  The first  half of the presentation was by Landis Smith, about the methodology she  designed for the overall project.  The second half was read from script written with Kelly’s humor, as she was the intended presenter, but in a way it was a whole different kind of hilarious to hear Landis deliver Kelly’s jokes.

The Anchorage Conservation Project is making the Smithsonian’s holdings more accessible to folks in Alaska through a new wing on the Anchorage Museum working with the National Museum of Natural History’s Arctic Studies Center there.  Accessibility is really key, so objects can be requested for closer study and exhibits are designed with mounts to allow easy removal from cases.  About 400 artifacts will be loaned from the NMNH and another 200 from the National Museum of the American Indian and the loan periods are up to 12 years.    For each object, they are compiling a mountain of data and records for study as well.  Many of the artifacts were collected by Edward Nelson, who spoke Yup’ik and whose Yup’ik name translates to “man who collects good-for-nothing things.”  Lots of consultants, too…both Native (like skin-sewing experts Chuna McIntyre, Frances Usugan, and Estelle Oozevasenk) and non-Native (like NMNH curator of Arctic Collections Igor Krupnik and the vertebrate zoology folks at NMNH as well as skin artist Fran Reed.)

At this point in the talk, there was a SCREAM from the table behind me and some loud thumps, followed by total commotion among perhaps 6 people.  I thought an ambulance would need to be called and someone would have to jump forth to begin CPR, but it turned out to be simply an EXTREMELY large cockroach.  Steven Pickman heroically captured the creature in a glass and removed it from the room to great applause and cheers.  (This later gave me an excuse to chat with Steven, but that is a tangent I’ll get to in another posting.)  Perhaps the cockroach mistook the session for an IPM working group discussion and was spying??

Estelle was the source for extensive information about preparation of gut, and a workshop was done on gut preparation to better understand that material, since identification of the exact animal and the exact organ is difficult and there is only one major conservation reference for this material: Hickman’s “Innerskins/Outerskins.”  Linda Lin at the UCLA/Getty program has been investigating gut ID, and so has Amy Tjiong at the NYU program.  Both of them contacted me last year, struggling with this ID issue.  Of course, I, too, have material in my lab that I would like to identify.  Even at this talk and its Q&A period, there was tantalizing and sometimes conflicting information about the nature of gutskin.  For example, there is the so-called “summer gut” and “winter gut” issue.  Extended exposure of the inflated gut to cold causes a change in its appearance and properties: summer gut is translucent and water beads on its surface for several hours before penetrating, while the white “winter gut” is much more absorbent and has a silky opaque white appearance.  Helen Alten had heard that wetting winter gut can cause it to revert back into summer gut, although the Smithsonian folks didn’t find that to be the case.  Someone said Julia Fenn, who was not present, apparently suggested once that this “winter gut” is related to freeze drying, and was related to the surface tension of water and how it moves (or does not move) the collagen fibers and causes an air gap…I will need to look into that further.  I am most interested in where this is going and who is willing to take this further, as I would like to get involved.

AIC 2009 in LA: What 2.0 Mary’s Using

May 21, 2009

Since the theme of the conference relates to 2.0, maybe this is a good time for an intro.  I’m a neophyte to all this, but sometimes when you know too much it is hard to start at the beginning so while I am still just learning about all this maybe it is a good time to describe to others. 

Mary Striegel of the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT) had a nice chat with me yesterday (May 20) about  so-called social media or 2.0 technologies.  So I thought it might make a nice platform for an intro to this kind of stuff for folks like me who are barely familiar with this stuff.  18 months ago, the NCPTT’s executive director mandated that staff needed to become familiar with social media.  So Mary jumped right in…as best as I can tell, here’s some of what is out there.

FACEBOOK (a proprietary name) this is kind of like your own little personal little home page that only people who also have one can see, and you have to give individuals permission to see it.  There are limited things you can put there, like photos, and there is a private section for messages only you can read, and then a more public area called a “wall” where everyone else can see your comments and conversations.  There is a section for photos, which are often people’s families or images of them partying.  Anyone who has permission to view your page is called a “friend” although in reality this does not correlate to the same definition in the real world.  Accidently “friending” everyone in your email contact list and accidentally posting a snide comment on someone’s wall instead of sending them a private message are two common errors often made by middle-aged beginners. Lot of other applications and games are available, but not everyone uses them.  Once you set up a free account, you ought to go in and determine the level of privacy you want, since the default is to let everyone see your whole life.  This is generally a social thing more than a professional thing, but inevitably colleagues frequently end up being your “friends” also.  I’ve been Facebooking for less than a year.  The first few weeks it was kind of like crack cocaine and I could not put it down, but now it has levelled off to about an hour per week.  In general, only individuals can make a page and groups, causes and pets must use different aspects of Facebook instead.  Best part of FB: childhood friend Jennifer Smith found me…and how would I have ever found her with a name like that?

MYSPACE Another proprietary name, very similar to Facebook, I guess, but more aimed towards presenting your personality to the world.  When you go to someone’s MySpace page, they can have music play when you open the page.  Generally, it seems teenagers use this while college kids were the bigger focus of Facebook.

NING (again a proprietary name)  I have not tried this, but Mary tells me this is very much like Facebook, but more professional.

LINKEDIN is kind of like an online telephone directory, which can include your resume and other professional info.  Mary uses it like her phone book away from home.  It does other things apparently like emails and groups and so on but according to Mary the real value is the contacts list you build up.  To find someone, that person also has to have a LinkedIn account.  Their account also tells you who THEY are connected to, which is quite illuminating.  

WEBLOG aka BLOG is at its most basic an online diary.  Many are hosted by sites that have templates you can just fill in and use for free.  Blogger and WordPress are two such services.  I went this route and like it a lot.  Posts are ordered  with the most-recent first unless you change it on purpose.  You can divide things up into categories and do other things to make it a bit more like a webpage.  Best part: each posting can have comments from whoever reads it.  But you can edit them if you need to.  Of course, there are more complex ways to blog and services that can be paid for with more features, too.

TWITTER is a proprietary name for the most common kind of “microblogging.”  It is like blogging in that it has diary-like posts, but it is micro in that you are limited to 140 characters.  That has something to do with the limitations of text messaging on cell phones.  I have myself only had a cell phone for a year because it took me a long time to feel that the pros outweighed the cons of having one.  I am in the same process with Twitter right now.  A lot of the comments seem really inane and silly, without much content.  But there have been a few things building up in the “pros” column for me.  Right this minute, Twitter would be a great way to locate Richard McCoy at the conference in order to dish about the latest talks.  Mary uses it a lot when she is away from the office but needs to communicate day-today stuff with her colleagues.  Some folks like Nancie Ravenel use it to track treatments for an interested audience.  When you enter one of these short messages, it is called a “tweet.”  You get to decide whose “tweets” you want to subscribe to and they come to you as a feed.  On Mary’s iPhone, something called Twinkle connects her to Twitter.  NCPTT can use it to have something of a casual public persona and announce things like workshops. Here is a quote I liked from an online discussion about Museum 3.0 where Angelina Russo says, 

“Until Twitter, I found conferences a little confronting – all those people I should know yet not comfortable with introducing myself.  Now I can almost make out the Museum 3.0 members at conferences and I try to introduce myself to them.  Also, I can follow conversations on Twitter so I have something to connect with them about from the onset….”

What is Museum 3.0?  I don’t know yet…but I joined up and when I did they asked not only for my email address and website, but ALSO for my Twitter, blog, wiki, Flickr and YouTube addresses!!

WIKI is kind of a way for lots of people to contribute to a single place and build upon the all-of-us-are-smarter-than-any-of us kind of thing. Wikipedia is the best example.  But they can also be made so only limited folks can contribute, or even limit the people who can see it.  I’m not sure the parameters of wikis, but AIC is going heavily in that direction with specialty groups who have catalogs.

FLICKR is a place to post photographs on the internet.  The NCPTT put images there that are in the public domain, so anyone can go get them and use them in a talk, for example.  It is also a good way to share large numbers of images with others electronically without having to email a bulky attachment.  Kind of like an FTP dropsite, if you have ever used one of those.  I dump it somewhere on the web where you can then go get it.

GOOGLE DOCS is a similar thing to Flickr that Mary uses except it is for documents instead of photographs.  You can password protect it, and its a great way to be able to access your documents from the road.  Me, I am still in love with those little flashdrives aka thumb-drives that look like a pack of gum and plug into the side of your computer like a teeny tiny hard drive.  Those have replaced Zip disks which kind of replaced floppy disks…which I can still remember were actually floppy when I was a kid.  Hee hee!

YOUTUBE is like Flickr and Google Docs but for videos.  Gosh, am I ridiculously oversimplifying?  

SLIDESHARE I had never heard of before Mary but she says it is this great thing on the web where you can park your powerpoint presentation.  It can either be public or invite-only.

GO TO MEETING I had never heard of this before Mary, either.  This allows you to remotely present your powerpoint from computer to computer with a web connection.  First 30 days are free, so Mary will soon try this out, and then it is $49 per month.  In order to make it a webinar or have Q&A, you need a microphone and a camera.  Hmmm, I wonder if my computer’s camera and microphone are adequate?  I bet they are, I bet that is the whole point.  

SKYPE  I have Lauren Horelick to thank for this, we did all our interviewing for an upcoming internship together via Skype and I really liked it.  It is essentially a free phone call over the internet, and if your computer has the little camera thingy on it Skype works like Captain Kirk talking to the Klingons on the large screen.  A face-to-face phone call on your computer screen!  Oh, and I am certainly not suggesting Lauren is a Klingon. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course and for those of you who are more technologically sophisticated than I, it is laughable, but you have to start somewhere, right?  How about you stop laughing and write some comments buster!!!  What are you using?