SLAM Project 2015: Russian America Section

February 24, 2015

Here’s a snapshot of some of the conservation work ahead for the Russian America section of our upcoming new exhibits.  The Alaska State Library Archives and Museum (SLAM) project is in the construction phase, with opening of the new building planned for June 2016.  There are approximately 22 interpretive areas, around 90 exhibit cases, and roughly 2,500 objects. As I write this, we are beginning the ninth physical layout.

This important flag was thought to fly over Sitka during the transfer ceremony between the Russians and the Americans in 1867. ASM III-O-495

This important flag was thought to fly over Sitka during the transfer ceremony between the Russians and the Americans in 1867. ASM III-O-495

The wool of the flag sheds readily, and is rather delicate.

The wool of the flag sheds readily, and is rather delicate.

Records suggest the flag was stitched down to a support fabric of linen some time in the 1930s.  These stitches are not sufficient to allow the flag to be displayed at an incline as we would like, so some additional couching stitches will need to be added in many locations.

Records suggest the flag was stitched down to a support fabric of linen some time in the 1930s. These stitches are not sufficient to allow the flag to be displayed at an incline as we would like, so some additional couching stitches will need to be added in many locations.

This bust of William Seward by Chauncey Bradley Ives has long been in the entry to the Alaska State Library's Historical Collection, but will now help interpret Alaska's political history.  The stone is shockingly grimy.

This bust of William Seward by Chauncey Bradley Ives has long been in the entry to the Alaska State Library’s Historical Collection, but will now help interpret Alaska’s political history. The stone is shockingly grimy.

Many of the metals in the Russian America section have corrosion, polishing residues, failing lacquers, and other issues common to historic metals.  This samovar, ASM III-R-319, has a few of these issues on some components.

Many of the metals in the Russian America section have corrosion, polishing residues, failing lacquers, and other issues common to historic metals. This samovar, ASM III-R-319, has a few of these issues on some components.

This poor little Unangan (Aleut) kayaker has quite a few condition issues.  His lead hands are corroding, his visor has a broken off tip, the gutskin parka he is wearing has some old insect damage, and he is heavily soiled.  ASM II-F-272.

This poor little Unangan (Aleut) kayaker has quite a few condition issues. His lead hands are corroding, his visor has a broken off tip, the gutskin parka he is wearing has some old insect damage, and he is heavily soiled. ASM II-F-272.


SLAM Project 2015: Resilience Section

February 23, 2015

 

The Alaska State Library Archives and Museum (SLAM) project is in the construction phase, with opening of the new building planned for June 2016.  We are preparing collections for exhibit.  There are approximately 22 interpretive areas, around 90 exhibit cases, and roughly 2,500 objects. As I write this, we are beginning the ninth physical layout.  Here are some of the conservation tasks identified from the first layout and a glimpse of our process.  I hope to post regularly for each of these sections.  Stay tuned!

From L to R: exhibit designer Aaron Elmore, exhibits curator Jackie Manning and curator Steve Henrikson working together on the layout for the Resilience section of the new exhibits.

From L to R: exhibit designer Aaron Elmore, exhibits curator Jackie Manning and curator Steve Henrikson working together on the layout for the Resilience section of the new exhibits.

 

Jackie measures Kow.ee's police uniform while registrar Andrew Washburn holds it up.  Hardhats and loud vests are due to the collections storage and processing areas being in the middle of an active construction zone.  In order to access the site, we are required to wear protective gear.

Jackie measures Kow.ee’s police uniform (ASM III-O-416) while registrar Andrew Washburn holds it up. Hardhats and loud vests are due to the collections storage and processing areas being in the middle of an active construction zone. In order to access the site, we are required to wear protective gear.

This dress (bodice and skirt) was made and worn by Lily Yarkwaan.  Please note all spelling errors are mine!

This bodice (and skirt, not shown) was made and worn by Lily Yarkwaan. Please note all spelling errors are mine! ASM 2000-12-1

The dress has baleen stays inside, some of which are loose, as well as some wear and tear.  This will be stabilized before it is put on a mannequin.  Gearing up for making dozens of mannequins is starting now, too.

The dress has baleen stays inside, some of which are loose, as well as some wear and tear. This will be stabilized before it is put on a mannequin. Gearing up for making dozens of mannequins is starting now, too.

This Russian Orthodox lamp has wax residues (which we'd like to keep) and polishing residues (which we'd like to remove).

This Russian Orthodox lampada has wax residues (which we’d like to keep) and old polishing residues (which we’d like to remove). Polishing residues are disfiguring and can cause corrosion stress cracking in the metal. ASM 2001-10-12

Several of our Russian Orthodox icons had loose and flaking paint, expertly stabilized on site during a visit by paintings conservator Gwen Manthey.

Several of our Russian Orthodox icons had loose and flaking paint, expertly stabilized on site during a visit by paintings conservator Gwen Manthey.

This is an important 1872 painting of a fur seal rookery on St Paul Island in the Bering Sea by Henry W. Elliott.  Paper conservator Karen Zukor was here last month assessing the paper items designated for exhibit and gave us a condition report and cost estimate for treatment.

This is an important 1872 painting of a fur seal rookery on St Paul Island in the Bering Sea by Henry W. Elliott. Paper conservator Karen Zukor was here last month assessing the paper items designated for exhibit and gave us a condition report and cost estimate for treatment of this artwork. ASM 2005-41-1


Top 10 Projects: 2014

November 18, 2014

 

Eagle pedicure QP card

Eagle pedicure QP card

2013 was packed!  This is the most delayed I’ve ever posted a Top Ten list yet…yikes!  Most of this work is completed, but some of it is still in stream.  Our eagle beaks and feet have not quite all been treated, but thanks to our custom QP card we now know the proper color range.  These eagles, the snack food store, the dump, and dozens of live bald eagles are all within a small radius of space here in Juneau…coincidence?

1. EDENSHAW ARGILLITE SAFE

Lid of Edenshaw Compote SJ II-B-11

Lid of Edenshaw Compote SJ II-B-11

Bottom section of Edenshaw Compote SJ I-B-11

Bottom section of Edenshaw Compote SJ I-B-11

Several important pieces of argillite carving by Charles Edenshaw safely returned to Alaska from a loan to the Vancouver Art Gallery for their fabulous exhibition on the Haida master artist.  I’d love to write this up more in-depth soon…from a conservator’s point of view, argillite is unpredictable, fragile, and complicated to repair.  Allowing these large heavy pieces to travel made me nervous, and even more so when my favorite solution wouldn’t fit the budget.  As a compromise, the VAG sent Dwight Koss and Rory Gylander to pack and help courier the pieces.  They did a splendid job, the artworks were made more accessible to the source community via exhibition and catalog, and back again safe and sound.

2. PACKING COLLECTIONS FOR THE MUSEUM MOVE

storage supports bread racks

Many months of packing!  Check the index for my other blog posts about artifact storage solutions…

3. MOVING THE MUSEUM

Moving the 2-D art collection

Moving the 2-D art collection

How did we do it?  If you were at the Western Association for Art Conservation (WAAC) conference in San Francisco this year, you got to see the PowerPoint.  In a nutshell, Scott Carrlee wrote an IMLS Museums for America grant to bring dozens of museum professionals from across Alaska to come help us pack and move as a hands-on training and networking opportunity.  Win-win for everyone.  We had a six-week window to move about 40,000 objects, and utilized the Incident Command System to coordinate the effort.  The collections were moved into the new vault (in the midst of a construction zone) through a tunnel built of shipping containers.  One of the final objects to move was a 35-foot walrus skin boat.  You can see photos and read the story in the Juneau Empire: Airborne Umiak Sails Over Museum.

4.  WHEN YOU SEE GIANT HOLES RIPPED IN YOUR MUSEUM…

Example of Neo-Classical Brutalism, 1967-2014

Example of Neo-Classical Brutalism, 1967-2014

…you can breathe a bittersweet sigh of relief knowing all the collections were removed just a few short weeks ago.  This image shows the old building coming down at the same time the new one is being erected.  To the left of the image is the storage vault, already completed with the artifacts securely inside.  Goodbye old building, we will miss you!

5. COME FOR THE RUSTY IRON, STAY FOR THE EAGLE PEDICURE…

The amazing Lisa Imamura

The amazing Lisa Imamura

…and Lisa Imamura gets into conservation grad school at Queen’s!  With a Master’s degree in geology already in her back pocket, Lisa decided she’d prefer a career in conservation to a PhD in geology and began volunteering in the conservation department at the Alaska State Museum scrubbing rusty dirty wet shipwreck material.  That was back in late 2012.  She wore more hats in several areas of the museum (some of them even paid!) and she was a core member of the museum move team.  A total dynamo.  Towards the end, we let her work on picking garish paint off eagle feet.  She’s gonna be embarrassed I posted this, but Lisa take heart!  I chose a picture with a cute outfit and not your shipwreck-scrubbing gear!

6. COME FOR THE WATERLOGGED SILK WALLPAPER, GWEN…

29Aug2014 Gwen wallpaper

Gwen Manthey solves the wet silk wallpaper problem

…STAY FOR THE POLAR BEAR TONGUE!

Gwen Manthey takes on the polar bear tongue

Gwen Manthey takes on the polar bear tongue

What would you do, intrepid objects conservator, with two bolts of stinky, hundred-year-old shipwrecked silk wall covering with a painted floral design that just wanted to rub off on your fingers??  Lose sleep for many nights?  Check!  Write to conservation listserves and colleagues?  Check!  Wish it were someone else’s nightmare?  Double check.  Did I mention our building was about to be torn down??  Thankfully, the Alaska State Office of History and Archaeology helped us out with some funding to bring paintings conservator Gwen Manthey, who totally solved the problem.  Plus she volunteered some time to help us out with a few other issues, like knocking back a garishly pink polar bear tongue.  You can bet I want to bring her back for install time…

7.  TOM MCCLINTOCK WON’T LET YOU DOWN

26Aug2014 Tom eagle 3

Tom McClintock wedged between an eagle and a vintage snow machine

UCLA/ Getty graduate conservation student Tom McClintock took on a pile of motley tasks in his six weeks at the Alaska State Museum this summer, including eagles, basketry hats, shipwrecked carpenter’s polka dot pajamas, and moving many artifacts ranging from fine art to a large fishing boat.  In this challenging transition time, Tom’s skills, flexibility, and roll-with-it attitude were the perfect fit.  He even did dogsitting, bread baking and blueberry jam making for my boss’s boss’s boss.  How’s that for making the conservation department look good??  Thanks Tom!

8. FRAN RITCHIE LOVES CRITTERS

Aaron Elmore, Fran Ritchie, and Jackie Manning free a polar bear from a 1970s era exhibit mount

Aaron Elmore, Fran Ritchie, and Jackie Manning free a polar bear from a 1970s era exhibit mount

Conservator Fran Ritchie returned to Alaska this summer as part of a Rasmuson Foundation grant to help several institutions with taxidermy issues.  (Check her work on a leatherback turtle in Cordova!) It was Fran who determined the treatment protocol for our seven eagles, advised on numerous specimens, and assisted with liberating several creatures from hideous old mounts.  Why all the interest in natural history, you ask?

9. WONDERWALL!

Antlers for acquisition delivered to the museum in the Carrlee's trusty Ford Transit Connect.

Antlers for acquisition delivered to the museum in the Carrlee’s trusty Ford Transit Connect.

One of the exhibits designed for the new museum is the Wonderwall, a giant glass arch over one of the gallery entrances that will amaze visitors with an array of spectacular specimens from the collection.  Of course, this section of the museum is a special favorite of mine…

10. ARTIST INTENT

Conservator Scott Carrlee replaces an element from David Mollett's "Collection Cabinet" (ASM 2005-29-1) after consultation with the artist in 2006.

Conservator Scott Carrlee replaces an element from David Mollett’s “Collection Cabinet” (ASM 2005-29-1) after consultation with the artist in 2006.

While a tremendous amount of our time is directed at the new building, we are thinking ahead as well.  I co-presented a paper about artist intent with Sheldon Jackson Museum curator Jackie Fernandez at the Museums Alaska conference in Seward AK this fall.  Many Alaskan museums have been actively collecting contemporary artwork, thanks the generosity of the Rasmuson Foundation Art Acquisition Initiative.  Jackie interfaces quite a bit with artists who do residencies at the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka, and she also helps select contemporary Alaskan art to add to the collection.  As part of the Alaska State Museums, that collection falls under our conservation duties.  We are thinking of ways to proactively collect artist intent information about preservation and exhibition of these works.  Since Alaskan museums often collect works from the same artist, it would be great to have a mechanism to share this information.


Artifact Storage: Tips and Tricks

December 16, 2013

Some random images of tricks and tips for artifact storage, courtesy of the Alaska State Museum…

Our supplies board helps interns and volunteers recognize various materials and how much they cost per square foot.

Our supplies board helps interns and volunteers recognize various materials and how much they cost per square foot.

Tubular bags with a bag sealer

Tubular bags with a bag sealer

Nice glue gun, well worth the money.

Nice glue gun, well worth the money.

Tyvek and polyester batting make nice sausages for padding.

Tyvek and polyester batting make nice sausages for padding.

Bag sealer can customize the size of your sausages or make pillows.

Bag sealer can customize the size of your sausages or make pillows.

A hole punch can go through E Flute corrugated blueboard for a tidy hole.

A hole punch can go through E Flute corrugated blueboard for a tidy hole.

A fancier drill-style hole punch can put a hole further from the edge.

A fancier drill-style hole punch can put a hole further from the edge.

For packing, blue tape with a tab on the end is nice.  Ready to pull off a plastic board (Coroplast) even nicer.  Weighted down by a board so you can use it one-handed!

For packing, blue tape with a tab on the end is nice. Ready to pull off a plastic board (Coroplast) even nicer. Weighted down by a board so you can use it one-handed!

Tyvek shroud over a garment rack, made on a sewing machine.

Tyvek shroud over a garment rack, made on a sewing machine.


Artifact Storage: Bag, Pad, Interleave Solutions

December 16, 2013

BAG SOLUTIONS

Images below help illustrate some artifact storage ideas.  A bag is an archival plastic enclosure with or without a ziplock.  Tubular bags are made with a bag sealer.

PROS:

  • Faster than a box, tray or pallet
  • Long term dust or water protection
  • Allows handling without gloves
  • Prevents objects from snagging or abrading each other
  • Catches loose fragments that might fall off and keeps them associated with object
  • Allows density of objects if done well

CONS:

  • No custom support
  • Does not prevent objects knocking each other
  • Objects can be damaged if it is hard to get them out of the bag again

TIPS:

Great for small items

Include a slip of paper inside bag with object number or write it on bag

Include a sheet of blueboard the full size of bag as a support for the object

INTERLEAVING SOLUTIONS

Interleaving is when you wrap or place material (like thin foam, Tyvek, or tissue) between objects to protect them from each other.

PROS:

  • Prevents snagging, abrading, and staining
  • Some limited protection from knocking
  • Allows object density, even some overlapping
  • Allows stacking of thin flat items like flat textiles

CONS:

  • Less protection than other solutions
  • Harder to see the objects
  • Does not provide support for lifting
  • Objects might get squished too tightly
  • Does not keep detached fragments associated with object

TIPS:

See also: box solutions, pallet solutions, tray solutions, and tips n’ tricks.

Cavity pack with Tyvek interleaving.

Cavity pack with Tyvek interleaving.

Volara (polyethylene) foam collars prevent abrasion and knocking.

Volara (polyethylene) foam collars prevent abrasion and knocking.

Custom holes in foam sheet to prevent shifting and knocking.

Custom holes in foam sheet to prevent shifting and knocking.

Textiles stuffed out and folds softened with tissue padding.

Textiles stuffed out and folds softened with tissue padding.

Big fat padded hangers for hanging garments.

Big fat padded hangers for hanging garments.

Tyvek in between skin boots to prevent abrasion.

Tyvek in between skin boots to prevent abrasion.

Delicate shells sit on a pad of polyester batting covered with tissue.

Delicate shells sit on a pad of polyester batting covered with tissue.

Little coin holders with Mylar windows are good for very small items, like individual beads.

Little coin holders with Mylar windows are good for very small items, like individual beads.

These drawers dividers made of blotter paper are then slipped through slots in a sheet of polyethylene foam and...

These drawers dividers made of blotter paper are then slipped through slots in a sheet of polyethylene foam and…

...make good storage for halibut hooks.

…make good storage for halibut hooks.

Snowshoes are bagged in pairs with foam padding between them.

Snowshoes are bagged in pairs with foam padding between them.

Close up of the padding between snowshoes with cotton twill tape ties.

Close up of the padding between snowshoes with cotton twill tape ties.

A bag with a pallet inside supports the object, as well as catches any loose beads that might fall of this octopus bag.

A bag with a pallet inside supports the object, as well as catches any loose beads that might fall of this octopus bag.

Jointed jewelry likes to have a pallet inside a bag too.

Jointed jewelry likes to have a pallet inside a bag too.

These ivory necklaces store well tied down to pallets inside tubular bags.

These ivory necklaces store well tied down to pallets inside tubular bags.

Some items come on their own backing board.  Foam collars help prevent knocking.

Some items come on their own backing board. Foam collars help prevent knocking.

Love redundant numbers!  Just in case...

Love redundant numbers! Just in case…

Careful use of a handheld bag sealer allows 3-D bags to protect taxidermy specimens.

Careful use of a handheld bag sealer allows 3-D bags to protect taxidermy specimens.

A pallet supports the arctic tern, and a 3-D custom bag is made for it.

A pallet supports the arctic tern, and a 3-D custom bag is made for it.


Artifact Storage: Pallet Solutions

December 16, 2013

PALLET SOLUTIONS

Images below help illustrate some artifact storage ideas.  A pallet is a flat sheet of stiff archival board like blueboard or Coroplast that is the foundation for securing an object.  It has no sides, unlike a box or tray.

PROS:

  • Faster than a box or tray
  • Gives each object its own space (esp. for protruding parts)
  • Gives a foundation to attach bumpers
  • Easy to use and access tie-downs
  • Good visibility
  • Allows density of objects if done well

CONS:

  • No protection from the sides, nearby items can slide onto the pallet, too
  • Not as good as a tray or box for bracing
  • Not as fast as a bag or collar
  • Harder to lift/grasp than a box or tray
  • Poorly chosen board may bend in a way that damages object
  • No long term dust or water protection
  • Does not catch possible fragments

TIPS:

Good for low, flat items

Good for long items

Use to support items inside a bag

Heavier items might need two layers of board with corrugation at 90 degrees

Write the number on the pallet in at least two locations

Include the outline of the object on the pallet for aid in orienting later

Use with bumpers to provide support

Cushion when needed

Easy to use with tie-downs, either make notches in sides or holes with a hole punch

See also: box solutions, tray solutions, bag/pad/interleave solutions, and tips n’ tricks.

You can double up thickness with corrugation in opposite directions for strength.

You can double up thickness with corrugation in opposite directions for strength.

Pallet with padded foam bumpers.

Pallet with padded foam bumpers.

Pallet with padded foam bumpers.

Pallet with padded foam bumpers.

Pallet has a tray below to hold the lid  that no longer fits the basket.

Pallet has a tray below to hold the lid that no longer fits the basket.\

Pallet with bumpers and tie downs for ivory.

Pallet with bumpers and tie downs for ivory.

We paired the curved ivory to save room in drawers.  Two was plenty heavy, though.

We paired the curved ivory to save room in drawers. Two was plenty heavy, though.

Here's one on a foam pallet with tie downs.

Here’s one on a foam pallet with tie downs.

Bumpers to prevent moving and pallet cut down to save space in drawer.

Bumpers to prevent moving and pallet cut down to save space in drawer.

Spoon pallet with bumpers and tie down.

Spoon pallet with bumpers and tie down.

Multiple spoons could go together to save space.

Multiple spoons could go together to save space.

Trimmed down pallets save room in the drawer.

Trimmed down pallets save room in the drawer.

Rattles with custom foam and Tyvek supports.

Rattles with custom foam and Tyvek supports.

Side view of a custom rattle support.

Side view of a custom rattle support.

Custom support for metal vessel.

Custom support for metal vessel.

Supports for icons.  Ones with delicate edges get a tray with a "pallet lift"

Supports for icons. Ones with delicate edges get a tray with a “pallet lift”

Pallet lift for an icon with delicate edges.

Pallet lift for an icon with delicate edges.

Pallet inside a bag for a glass bead necklace.  Backer rod, Volara foam and tie downs prevent knocking.

Pallet inside a bag for a glass bead necklace. Backer rod, Volara foam and tie downs prevent knocking.

Backer rod on blueboard prevents salad implements from moving.

Backer rod on blueboard prevents salad implements from moving.

Backer rod is helpful for making dance fan supports.

Backer rod is helpful for making dance fan supports.

Pallets with bumpers are good for masks.

Pallets with bumpers are good for masks.

Loose appendages for masks can be stored separately on the same pallet.

Loose appendages for masks can be stored separately on the same pallet.

Pallets create a no-fly zone for each mask in the drawer.

Pallets create a no-fly zone for each mask in the drawer.

Pallets with dividers and tie downs store long weapons and arrows efficiently.

Pallets with dividers and tie downs store long weapons and arrows efficiently.

A bit of tubular bag over the feathers helps prevent snagging.

A bit of tubular bag over the feathers helps prevent snagging.

Top of pillar curves away on these bumpers for ease of seating.

Top of pillar curves away on these bumpers for ease of seating.

Several model snowshoes together on a pallet.

Several model snowshoes together on a pallet.

For efficient space use, a drawer insert is created, with outlines and numbers written right on the blueboard.

For efficient space use, a drawer insert is created, with outlines and numbers written right on the blueboard.

Russian lampadas are hard to store, but here's a couple of ideas.

Russian lampadas are hard to store, but here’s a couple of ideas.

For really delicate items, a sink mat might work.  This one has a clear Mylar lid.

For really delicate items, a sink mat might work. This one has a clear Mylar lid.

These anchor stones are padded and bumpered using wooden pallets with handholds and a "foot" underneath.

These anchor stones are padded and bumpered using wooden pallets with handholds and a “foot” underneath.


Artifact Storage: Tray Solutions

December 16, 2013

TRAY SOLUTIONS

Images below help illustrate some artifact storage ideas.  A tray is a kind of box with low sides.  If the sides are high enough to protect the full object, we often call it a box.  If there are no sides at all, we call it a pallet.

PROS:

  • Faster than a full box
  • Prevents objects from touching
  • Gives each object its own space
  • Side-by-side trays and boxes brace each other in the drawer
  • Easier to pick up than pallets
  • Better visibility than a box
  • Allows density of objects if done well
  • Catches possible fragments

CONS:

  • Does not provide full height protection of a box
  • Not as fast as bag, pallet, or collar
  • Harder to access and use tie-downs than a pallet
  • No long term dust or water protection

TIPS:

Use with bumpers to provide support

Cushion when needed

Use with sub-dividers (board or paper accordion for example)

Write the number on the tray in at least two locations

Include the outline of the object on the tray for aid in orienting later

Use with items too heavy for a pallet

Chose a tray over a pallet if the consequences of touching are high

See also: box solutions, pallet solutions, bag/pad/interleave solutions, and tips n’ tricks.

Trays allow dense storage while preventing objects from touching.

Trays allow dense storage while preventing objects from touching.

Basket trays include bumpers to prevent baskets from flipping out.

Basket trays include bumpers to prevent baskets from flipping out.

Trays with bumpers work well for smaller baskets and give an easy place to lift at the corner.

Trays with bumpers work well for smaller baskets and give an easy place to lift at the corner.

Pre-made boxes can be used as trays, sub-divided with paper to hold smaller items.

Pre-made boxes can be used as trays, sub-divided with paper to hold smaller items.

Blotter paper is a nice material for subdividing trays.

Blotter paper is a nice material for subdividing trays.

Accordion-folded paper is a quick divider in a tray.

Accordion-folded paper is a quick divider in a tray.

Trays with dividers are great for dense storage.

Trays with dividers are great for dense storage.

This book has a piece of Tyvek to help lift it out of the tray.

This book has a piece of Tyvek to help lift it out of the tray.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 115 other followers