Tuesday August 18 was a very productive day. The “Angels” project for this year’s Western Association for Art Conservation conference (WAAC) continued at the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Juneau, Alaska. The three teams hit the ground running in the morning: brass, textiles, and paintings. The paintings folks wrapped up with their condition assessments and treatment recommendations for the large icon paintings, and volunteered to try their hand with the metals.
This table for memorial votive candles was a special challenge. Once Dave saw that the item was sheet brass over a wooden tabletop, the plan to soak it in hot water with a little surfactant to loosen the wax (as we had done with the disassembled candleabra) was “off the table” as an option. I hit four stores yesterday afternoon in search of a steam gun to combat the wax. No luck. Last night Dave told me, “I don’t think we can take on that little votive table, that’s a major project and we aren’t even done with one candleabra yet.” Caretaker James Johnson had been hearing complaints for weeks about the unsightly appearance, but had valiantly held out against pressure to polish it himself, “Wait till the conservators get here…” he’d been telling people. He knew full well how much work it is to polish these pieces, as he’d been the person doing it for years. But still, we didn’t want to disappoint him and leave it all waxy. When the paintings team announced they had wrapped up their work and were available to join the metals team, the well-caffeinated crew decided to go for it. The wax gave way with gentle heat from a hair dryer and much effort with teflon tools. Michael Penn came and took photos for the Juneau Empire newspaper. Layers of clear polyester Mylar film were stacked and pierced to make a nearly invisible barrier to catch the dripping wax. Once things get unsightly again, the top layer of Mylar could be removed for an improved appearance. Many of the screws holding the little candle cups were stripped, and I spent several hours driving around town gathering M4-25 .70 machine screws. Need metric machine screws? Automotive hardware stores are the best bet. When Carmen and Dave carried the polished artifact back into the church at the end of the day, we were giddy indeed.
In the meantime, Catalina Hernandez and Yoonji Lee were vacuuming historic liturgical banners from the church while Dana Senge was back in my lab with the sewing machine making Tyvek pillows and strapping mechanisms to store the two old and two newer liturgical banners. The intention was to put them in boxes, but the attached hanging rods and rigid painted surfaces (oil on leather adhered to textile) set requirements for the folded size, and there was a need to get them through doorways. They would either be stored up a twisty stairwell, or across the courtyard in another building, exposed to rain during transport. Several large sheets of corrugated plastic Coroplast had been procured, but not a single cut had been made by lunchtime. Amazingly, by the time the polished brass was being carried in to the church, the textile boxes had been completed and the old banners were safely in storage along with the box for the new banners, which were still on display in the church.
During all this activity, paper conservator Karen Zukor, who had intended to be at the church, was still up top her eyeballs with wet documents from the disaster at the Alaska State Archives. Karen joined us for a quick swig of iced tea at the Pizzaria Roma at lunchtime, then dashed back into the thick of things. In the afternoon, Hays Shoop and Camilla Van Vooren also headed down to help. In the evening, the whole gang converged on the Carrlee house for wine and cheese and a little “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” happy hour for Karen. What a way to celebrate your birthday…helping direct a disaster recovery!