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?


AIC 2009 in LA: As If You Were Here

May 21, 2009


 Hyatt Century Plaza on the Avenue of the Stars in Los Angeles.  Rumor at the conference (From President Martin Burke, actually) is that this building, built in 1966 and recently renovated, is among America’s top eleven most endangered places.  Really??







P5200001  Here you are at the registration desk, two floors below the main lobby.  Strangely, cell phones still work down here.







P5200003 Can you appreciate how cavernously huge this ballroom is?  It even has a sunken terrace area in the center, rather like a 1970’s conversation pit but without the shag rug.








Okay, so this is something you won’t miss…all this fabulous food for a bargain price of $25 !!  Seriously, my lunch contained a small container of potato salad, a bag of chips, a roast beef and brie sandwich, a packet of mayo, a packet of mustard, an apple and a cookie.  Twenty Five smackaroos!  No beverage, just a pitcher of water on the table.  Wow.    





P5200005  The most spacious vendor hall I have ever seen, with plenty of room for everyone, and coffee breaks stationed at each end.   So cavernous that those folks bent on bottlenecking the whole thing by standing in chattery groups are utterly thwarted.






P5200004 In the antechamber just behind the vendors was the poster hall…









And here you go, Richard McCoy…another good reason we need to keep the poster session.  Hands-on!  Can’t recapture that in a blog, I’m afraid.







P5200018 Typical room at the conference hotel.  Unfortunately, internet is not free(it costs about $10 a day, but you’re worth it) and there is no coffee maker in the room.  You can order a pot from room service for $9.00 or go to the Starbucks in the lobby.  The room does have a nice little balcony with chairs on it, though.  And the clock radio has a dock for the iPod I did not bring.  Lots of marble in the bathroom.





Photo 39


And here’s me, blogging away in the lobby…

AIC 2009 in LA: OSG Tips Session

May 21, 2009

No images, sorry.

The Faculte “Broadcast”: A New Multimedia Tool for Conservators

By Candis Griggs Hakim

Candice Griggs Hakim of Griggs conservation presented about the Faculte Broadcast, a free online multimedia presentation tool that was originally developed to be a kind of online Ebay for learning, so people could make classes to teach and students could pay for them online.  But it has found more of a market as a business communication and marketing tool.  It is in beta testing, but free for users like us (as opposed to corporations.)  You can upload files, videos, audio, powerpoints etc to make a seamless presentation they call a “broadcast.”  Someone else can then watch it on their computer via the web.  You can change it at any time.  Good for things like narrating treatment proposals to clients or presenting portfolios.  In her examples, I especially liked the way the presentation had her drawing red lines on the before and after photos with red lines during her narration, kind of John Madden style.  This cannot be downloaded or printed out, so it can’t be part of your documentation.  It all happens online.  It is user friendly and it’s quick to build short presentations, and they can be password protected.  No museums are using this yet, but Candice uses it in her private conservation business and loves it.  There’s an online tutorial.  Since you really can’t keep it or print it out, it seems like who cares if the technology sticks around or not?  Of course we would wish Mather Hakim success in this endeavor…I’m just saying that if this doesn’t survive you won’t have lost much because permanence isn’t what these are about anyway.

Archaeological Metals Storage at the Science Museum of Minnesota

by Gretchen Anderson


The Science Museum of Minnesota got a new building in 1999 and needed to move 1.75 million natural history items.  Among the items to move were a small collection of archaeological metals, perhaps 100-150 items.  These had been stored in metal cabinets with oak drawers in basement storage where RH in the winter got down to 15% and in the summer as high as 80%.  Some of the metals had cotton on polyurethane foam padding.   The driving force for dealing with this group of items was development of study storage drawer for public viewing back around 1989, if I understood the speaker correctly.  Drawers were lined with Marvelseal, Ethafoam cavities were cut for the artifacts, and packets of silica gel made from cotton stockinette were pinned into the drawers.  A humidity card was placed inside and a plexi top was screwed to the wood of the drawer.  After 5-6 years, the environment within stayed remarkably stable, with the silica gel only changed once.  However, it was a pain to get the artifacts in and out.  Also, the Marvelseal wasn’t the magic bullet, potassium permanganate monitoring indicated they still had offgassing.  Addition of activated charcoal might have helped, too.


Another version involved a commercial plastic tote box with a layer of silica gel in the bottom, isolated from the objects by a raised platform made by a plastic grid (fluorescent light baffle) made of polystyrene.  (Ellen’s tangent: Cathy Hawks told me once that polystyrene is OK for storage as long as it isn’t scratched, but that the scratches can offgas peroxides?  Do I remember that right?  Another dilemma with blogging is to what degree do I follow up on these kinds of useful factoids before I put the posting out there??)  She put gasketing in the top and sealed the edge with 3M packing tape.  Again, fairly stable, but with the problem that you can’t see it or get to it easily.  


A third version involved modifying drawers in Delta Design cabinets.  Silicone caulk (ammonia-free) was used to seal all cracks and crevices, a silicone gasket was put on the top with acrylic adhesive, and a series of clever clamps held the plexi top to the drawer.  THOSE are the drawings that I hope Gretchen posts somewhere, since the refinement of those clamps apparently took some time and ingenuity and are key to the system being easy to get in and out of.  Clamps were only needed on the front and back and the drawer could still move easily on its runners.  This kind of drawer has also been used to contain study skins of birds that are contaminated with arsenic.  


Gretchen Anderson now is the new conservator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.


“Cleaning Feather Bonnets”

by Nancy Fonicello



Nancy has a private practice in ethnographic objects conservation called Ancient Artways Studio LLC in Montana, and let me say right off the bat I heard her speak twice today and declare MORE NANCY!  YEAH!  Willing to share, full of great info, exudes a confident no-nonsense appeal… this tip session of hers was the best thing at the conference thusfar.  


The project involved some 18 feather bonnets that had been in storage, mostly in private collections from what I understood, and  the white feathers were very dirty.  Some of the bonnets had been handed down in families where wood burning stoves and coal furnaces were used, and the town had a coal smelter nearby for many years.  Vacuuming did not help at all and was very violent on the feathers.  Display in the Charles M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana was the goal.  Nancy showed a diagram from “Indian Crafts and Lore” by Ben Hunt, 1954, who in addition to some good material info, described various dubious methods such as cleaning feathers with gasoline.  His diagram showed the large contour feathers and the small semiplume feathers that are the focus of the talk.  The semiplume feathers are called “fluffs” by the people who make and use the bonnets.   Another interesting bit: sometimes used in the structure of the older bonnets is a thin piece of membrane around the wrapping at the quill end that is pericardium, or heart tissue.  I’d never heard that before, but doesn’t it smack of something serious and meaningful that requires special caution?  Wow.  Heart tissue.  I will need to look that one up…too bad we don’t have bonnets like this in the collection at the Alaska State Museum…what a thrill to work on them!  But I digress…


Nancy has developed a method for cleaning the delicate semi-plume feathers in situ using gentle solvents and cotton compresses.  This method not only effectively removed the black sooty residue entirely, but returned the feather to its natural fluffy shape without damage or without affecting any dyes or coloring.  Posting treatment methods online in a public forum is a delicate issue, and one that will be coming up more and more in our profession with the new web 2.0 world.  Nancy and I spoke about this in person as well as in several emails.  I pondered over it for days.  It spurred me to chat with several colleagues at the conference, and I continue to think about all the ramifications.  Nancy is more than happy to share detailed information and methodology with conservation professionals if they contact her by email:  


This method apparently did not work so well with the larger contour feathers.  The mechanical action of the compress damages the structure of those feathers, and they are thicker.  Also, the sooty material did not seem to be attracted to the contour feathers as much as the fluffs.


ELLEN’S ASIDE: this treatment seems easy enough for anyone!  Doesn’t it?


1) Nancy brought a wealth of specialized expertise to the project that others on staff might not have and she has the ability to discuss materials identification and other factors from a perspective that can really enhance the informational value of an item

2) If the object is on loan from a private owner, they are likely to want treatment done by a professional

3) Treatments like this are great when all goes well.  It is when things go unexpectedly wrong that the expertise of a conservator really comes into play.  How about the adhesive on those little tassels at the top coming off with solvent?  Or if a dye did run and stained/ disfigured the contour feathers?  What if there were plastic elements (like certain kinds of beads) or repairs added later that were soluble in alcohol and began to dissolve or haze over?  It is terrifying to get in over your head when things go wrong.

4) Building a relationship with a local conservator is a beautiful thing.  If you develop a two-way street of trust that you grasp the standards and ethics of conservation and why things are done a certain way in the conservation profession, and the conservator in turn understands where your expertise rests as well as your constraints of time, budget, and resources…this can be really fruitful.  In these kinds of mutually beneficial professional relationships, conservators can call museum experts and ask questions about objects and resources you have at your fingertips, and you can call the conservator and chat things over, most significantly, “can I do this myself??”

5) Nancy knew to test the bonnets for pesticides, and some of the bonnets were contaminated with lead and arsenic.  Knowing how to deal with toxic issues is an important expertise…sometimes it is not only the object that needs to be protected from us, it is we who need to be protected from the object. For this project, and XRF was rented and half of the bonnets had alarmingly high levels of mercury.  Many were built on felt hat blanks, which is one possible source of the mercury.  Mercury was of course also widely used as a pesticide.  Nancy wore a Tyvek suit during treatment.


Q & A SESSION wow this was good!!!


Nancy hasn’t come up with a treatment for the contour feathers that she really likes.  However, both the contour feathers and white porcupine quills tend to naturally yellow with age, and often the contour feathers are not very white-looking when they are collected for constructing the bonnet in the first place.  While there was a visual discrepancy between the whiteness of the fluff and the relative dirtiness of other elements, this was considered visually acceptable by the people whose opinion really mattered…and it was obvious that no one from the culture would consider wearing a bonnet with filthy fluffs.  Having those remain dirty was not acceptable.  


Such an outpouring of opinions from the OSG about how to clean the contour feathers!  Oh it was lovely…how easily they can be cleaned probably varies a lot, but some folks have had success with:

* blotter behind the contour feather and putting ethanol on the feather with a dropper, then brushing along the barbs with repeated changes of blotter and reapplication of ethanol

* microfiber dust cloths

* blotter paper behind and thin wedges of soot sponge drawn along the barbs

* polyurethane cosmetic sponges

* polyvinyl alcohol sponges (those are the ones that are hard when dry and soft when wet and can be used with various solvents.  (Some brand names include BlitzFix and Kenebo?)

* Groom/ stick, (a poly isoprene natural rubber product) which is known to leave residues but those can be reduced greatly by using fresh Groom/stick and using it cold.  Look up the paper that Sara Moy did on these residues in the OSG postprints from a few years back if you want to know more about potential residues.  So sad not to see Sara at the conference this year…I interned with her at the Peabody Museum at Harvard with T. Rose Holdcraft year ago…

* The CCI mini vacuum was used to clean really fragile taxidermy eagle chicks at another institution.  CCI notes 18/2 tells how to make one, but Helen Alten may have more recent specs since the device has been tweaked since.  



Arlen Higenbotham would love to hear from anyone who has seen or worked with large panels of asian lacquered leather.


Shelley Reisman Paine would like to hear from people who are working with the issue of salts in limestone.


A list of books and journals about conservation is posted at the conference and YOU are asked to please help out if you have titles to donate to the new library at the NEW conservation training program in IRAQ.  Yes, Iraq.  I only have tidbits of the story, but apparently Terry Drayman Weisser and others at the Walters Gallery brought over a couple of Iraqi students a couple of years ago to work with them, and this has had incredibly fruitful results including the establishment of a school in Iraq…Jessie Johnson is the new director of that program.  If you can send your books to an address in Delaware, a bookplate with your name will be added and then it will be shipped over to Iraq.  How cool is that?  I don’t know if the list is online anywhere, I will amend this post after I find out more…I’m sure there will be calls out on discussion lists about it, so keep your eyes peeled.

AIC 2009 in LA: Vendors

May 20, 2009

PACIN = Packing, Art Handling & Crating Information Network

Photo 37  A professional interest committee of the American Association of Museums.  They will be holding what seems to be the first ever PREPARATOR’S CONFERENCE Aug 14-15, 2009 at the Sterling and Francine Clark Museum of Art in Williamstown, Mass.

I chatted at this booth with Ashley McGrew, who handles, moves, and installs objects at the Getty, and he told me there’s scarcely a decent book on the subject either, and yet how important is this field in terms of consequences?  PACIN has a couple of publications, $15 each: “Technical Drawing Handbook of Packing and Crating Methods” and “Soft Packing Methods and Methodology for Packing and Transportation of Art and Artifacts”   There is a more expensive book coming out that will be a Museum Materials Sample Set with good-sized samples for getting your hands on them and feeling their properties.  Availability of that volume will coincide with the next AAM and coincide with a session on materials.  This book will the be first of several sets, with later ones including things like foam.  These will definitely be considerably more than $15.  Ashley really likes HDPE (high density polyethylene) as a packing material.  Clear Getty janitorial trashbags were apparently Oddy tested with good results, as manufacturers don’t tend to use plasticizers and slip agents in the manufacture of HDPE?  Nice schwag of carpenter’s pencils and stencil-rulers.


P5200007 Aprons, chenille weights with plastic pellets, leather weights with lead shot, ear buds, tape measures, water bottles, lab coats…I wonder if they will sell out their inventory of the handmade stuff…









P5200008  How about this?

Intercept Display Case Filtration System

Made by Xtend Packaging Inc and using corrosion intercept (polymer plastic impregnated with copper) technology it has a fan run by two D batteries to scrub the air and actively remove pollutants.  Filter has both corrosion intercept for inorganic pollutants as well as activated charcoal for inorganics.  Hollinger Metal Edge sells the units for $69.95 each and a pack of 3 filters for $23.55  They recommend changing the filter when you change the battery, about once every 3 months.  Really marketing this towards use in exhibit cases.

Currently, they have a product in research/development that will involve this RIBS media (reactive intercept barrier system) on top of a layer of activated charcoal attached to paper, which would allow scavenging of both organics and inorganics.  This paper could then be used to line storage boxes.  This has been in development for the past three years and they are hoping to bring it to market within the next year.  Such a box could offer 10 year protection.  They would also make sleeves, envelopes and other enclosures.  Soon they will also come out with garment bags.  

P5200009   Hmmmm….this could be handy.  








P5200011  Set of acrylic mount-making tools available from University Products








P5200012  Loved this display of little packets of good stuff from Talas








P5200013  Check out this cute little visor light that Talas sells!








P5200015 Coveted by anyone crafty who sees one in my lab.  Especially wonderful for removal of tape from places it does not belong.  But other odd uses too, like opening those maddening little plastic triangle photo mounting corners.  I bought one today, my only purchase of the day, for $19.25 and I will gift it to our exhibit designer at the Alaska State Museum…this will save mine from being stolen and also win me some brownie points with the exhibits department…clever clever Ellen.

AIC 2009 in LA: Getty Center Tour

May 19, 2009

Ethical question: when you go on a lab tour, how much can you responsibly blog about what you hear and see?  I mean, some of this involves people’s individual research, and you can’t jump the gun on them by blogging about it.   Not proper to show artworks, probably, especially since some of them don’t belong to the Getty.  And what can you write about the things you hear on the bus on the way there and back?  Probably best to be discreet.  Hardly anyone reads this, but that might not always be the case.


On the tour, I finally met Richard McCoy in person.  He was much as I’d suspected…smart, witty, and little snarky.  Hope there is more opportunity to chat with him at this conference, tho he seems to have a pretty full schedule.  We began in the objects lab, and I must say it seems the Getty is made of several separate collections and conservation entities and I never did quite get clear on the distinctions.  UCLA/ Getty conservation student Lauren Horelick might be meeting with me later in the week (I am trying to woo her to Alaska for part of her internship year…) and perhaps she can clarify it for me.  The collection serviced by the objects lab (sculpture and decorative arts) is apparently rather small and in pretty good condition, so instead of intense treatments, they focus on:

1. Technical examination, for example the recently published catalog of the baroque collection.

2. Exhibition.  Three mountmakers work with them to make sure things can handle the earthquake threat.  Indeed, all the objects for the upcoming exhibit of French bronzes were strapped down to handy surfaces throughout the lab.

3. Didactics.  Things they make up to illustrate various techniques and processes.  This seems like a huge amount of fun.

4. Outdoor sculptures.  Recent donation of 28 sculptures came with a stipulation that they must go on exhibit in a year.  Mostly, bronzes, some painted metals…a lot of work removing surface coatings.  For many, they re-applied a wax, both because the old wax had done a good job of maintaining the sculptures and also because they didn’t necessarily have the time to fully strip everything.  Some flaking painted surfaces had to be re-done…some in-house and others with consultation with the artists’ foundation and local fabricators.  


 Here is the impressive ceiling of the lab, built for maximum flexibility and  apparently working pretty well.


Next door, the marvellous Arlen Higenbotham described various issues with Asian lacquer and marquetry which he might describe at this conference and I will try to report on that later…gosh he’s bright and has such an ease about him.  Public speaking comes so easily to him…I remember hearing him at the ANAGPIG conference when we were in grad school and it was like some ringer was there as an interloper …he was so relaxed and sounded so expert.  Ever wonder if certain conservators just sprung from the head of Athena or something??  That’s Arlen.  No photos of Arlen’s lab because he’s IN all the photos and I was too novice to ask permission.  Doh!  I’ll catch on to this blog thing yet…













And the prize for the coolest tables goes to the paintings lab!!  Look at those beauties.  Paintings has 4 conservators plus one full-time frame restorer.  They have a September-to-September intern, and then they host 2-3 guest conservators for several months at a time.  Apparently, these folks bring paintings from their own collections to work on.  Some paintings are treated at the Getty for free, with the stipulation that they are then able to be exhibited there for 6 months or so.  This is in keeping with the J. Paul Getty Trust goals of philanthopy and service to the field of conservation.  


  The exterior wall forms a zig zag, with each little triangular nook an individual workspace.  This serves to both provide individual workspaces but maintain a unity and openness to the space.  The purpose was to be able to capture north-facing light, and each space has great natural light.  







  Walking through the framer’s space, I saw this appealing little still-life.  Do you think they left it like that on purpose, knowing it looked like a composition?  What is the story with that adorable little table?









 The Getty Conservation Institute was littered with expensive fancy equipment, but I present for your entertainment a rack of personalized lab coats.  They have a staff of six, roughly divided among the specialties.  X-ray, XRD, XRD, CT scans, and so on.   Fabulous stuff we won’t see in Alaska for the next 50 years, I’m sure.









  This is the lab space I was most intrigued with.  If I understand correctly, this is the conservation studio for the Getty Research Institute, and there are approximately 6 staff here, serving a collection of mainly bound volumes and works of art on paper, and some architectural models, but the conservators here are book, paper, and objects specialists.  This lab had a good feel to it, and the staff seemed to have a particularly good vibe.  By this, I mean certain staff members seemed very geekily enthusiastic about their work and genuinely seemed to like each other.





 Nice storage systems on the walls, I think they were called “The Uni-strut System?”  And check out those bins below…they are on a diagonal slant so you can fit larger boards in them.  So nice!  The avocado-green board shear is apparently the most prized instrument in the lab, seeing the most use and devotion from staff.  They also had a matching avocado green book press, but other 70’s kitchen colors were absent.  Sorry, no Harvest Gold.






  Here is a nice stainless steel washing sink, along with a system for light bleaching of paper, although they rarely use that feature (Hydrofarm Horticultural Products 1000 watt metal halide M47 type lamp suitable for damp locations, 120V 9.0 amps)  The sink has these lovely “leaves” that have interlocking pegs like a nice dining room table, allowing it to be used as a dry flat workspace as well.  They have a couple of nice floor stand binocular microscopes, but one has a lot of vibration in it, perhaps because it has such a long arm. They have a ultrasonic polyester encapsulation system made by Dukane, 120V.  Smaller than some I have seen, but I bet it is perfectly adequate.  


I asked about the impact of recent national economic turmoil on the Getty, and was told that of the 2,500 people employed, there have been perhaps 100 layoffs with another 100 people whose contracts will not be renewed.  This is after 50 layoffs last year.  Thankfully, there were a couple of people in the GCI lab who were moving on for other reasons, and those postions were simply not filled.  I have heard that the Getty endowment lost some 40% of it value in the economic crisis.  Hard times all over I guess.  


 The little exhibit pavillions at the Getty Center are surprisingly intimate.  One had these appealing book stands for illuminated manuscripts.  They seem to be made of thick plexi with highly polished edges, using additional loose  oval or rounded-parallelogram shapes to support the textblock.  The backs of the mounts seem to be painted a dark color and the effect is really quite unobtrusive.  Except, of course, if you have my sickness and the mount-making perversely becomes more fascinating than the artifact.




P5190096  The Japanese lacquer exhibit did not allow photos, but I offer a quote from the label text: “…integrated approach to the conservation of lacquer objects that respects both modern Western conservation ethics, which emphasize minimal intervention and the reversibility of treatments, and traditional Japanese conservation values, which seek to preserve the cultural continuity of objects by employing materials and technologies similar to those used at the time of manufacture.”  Hmmm, interesting.  This used to be the way conservation was practiced here as well.  Does it  perhaps make a difference if your personal cultural heritage is an unbroken line between yourself as the conservator and the original artist?

Radical Ideas or New Directions for AIC?

May 11, 2009

Thanks, Ellen, for letting me write a guest post on your blog.  The amount of conservation information you’re sharing here is impressive; I really can’t think of anyone who is putting as much treatment and research information out as you.  It’s as if you’re running your own conservation publication for the state of Alaska!

Also, I think it’s fascinating that you and I can be connected in a meaningful way without having met in person or chatted on the phone.  After all, you’re way up there in Alaska, and I’m here in Indianapolis.  To make this point visual, my friend, Tascha, in the IMA Photography department, made the image below.

Richard's Indianapolis Blog Cruise Stops in Alaska

Richard's Corn-Fed Blog Cruise Stops in Alaska

In recognition of the upcoming AIC Annual Meeting being held in Los Angeles that is dubbed “Conservation 2.0 — New Directions,” I thought it would be a good idea to put out some thoughts on “New Directions.”  Following this post, on Wednesday Ellen will be posting over at my home blog at the IMA and then on Friday Daniel Cull will posting at The Dan Cull Weblog.  We’ve all agreed to address potential “New Directions” for AIC.

Of course, to me, it makes total sense that I publish this post here in Alaska.  In many ways I think it is projects like Ellen’s blog that are beginning to change the landscape within the conservation profession and point to new directions.  I’m not just talking about starting a blog and telling people what you do, but it’s the capacity for anyone in the world to use a very powerful printing press basically for free.  The ability to share information about art conservation is changing dramatically.

Read the rest of this entry »

Buffered Tissue

March 19, 2009

Q: Should I use buffered tissue?

A:  Considerable dialog has gone on within the
museum community about the use of buffered tissues versus non-buffered
tissues.  The pH of all papers drops over time as they deteriorate, even
acid-free papers.  “Acid-free” simply means that when it was
manufactured, the paper had a neutral pH.  Buffered tissues contain a
compound (usually calcium carbonate) meant to neutralize acids that form
in paper during natural aging.  Buffering makes the tissue last longer.
It does not stabilize nearby acidic materials.  This is partly due to
the fact that the amount of “alkaline reserve” is rather small (2-3%)
and does not migrate.  The products of acid degradation do migrate
however, so the tissue does act as a barrier to protect nearby surfaces
from that acid migration.  Theoretically, buffered tissues should not be
used with artifacts made of proteins (animal parts like feathers and
fur, or things made from animals like silk and wool) because those
artifacts prefer a slightly acidic environment.  Alkalinity also is
known to affect some pigments and dyes, and therefore buffered paper is
not recommended with color photographs or pigmented surfaces.
Practically speaking, however, unless the tissue is wet and touching the
surface of the object for an extended time, it is questionable if those
effects are taking place.  Furthermore, tissue is quite thin and the
amount of buffering rather small.  At the Alaska State Museum, we don’t
use buffered tissue at all.  We find it is difficult to keep it separate
from the non-buffered, as they look almost identical.  Buffered tissue
does cost a little more, too.  Simple acid-free tissue paper is so
beneficial for padding, interleaving, and protecting surfaces that we
don’t worry much about the small added risks or benefits that may be
associated with buffered tissues.  Not long ago, we had a conversation
with Dr. Naoko Sonoda of the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka,
Japan.  She was showing us her collections storage, where acid-free
tissue wrapped or padded nearly everything.  We told her about various
modern products we use in the U.S., and she told me that while they are
very interested in those products, deep down they feel very comforted by
the presence of tissue because they have been using it to preserve their
heritage for centuries.  A product tried and true over hundreds of
years.  It is hard to argue with that.