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Collaborate, learn, and network with your colleagues both in person and online. Attend our annual meeting, the largest conference in North America for conservation professionals.

Posters 

  1. “Chemistry in Art” in Undergraduate Science Education: Emphasizing Critical Thinking, Ethics, and a Community of Scholars
    Patricia S. Hill, Professor of Chemistry, Millersville University of Pennsylvania; Deberah M. Simon, Whitman College; Erich S. Uffelman, Washington and Lee University; Amanda J. Norbutus, University of Delaware/Winterthur; Nathan W. Bower, The Colorado College; and Anthony F. Lagalante, Villanova University

    Since the mid-1990s, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has provided funding and support for faculty development workshops that help college and university faculty in the sciences and arts develop curricular materials linking chemistry and art. The impetus for curricula development comes from the desire to prepare a culturally and scientifically literate public, as well as provide both broad and deep foundations for the next generation of scientists.

    The current series of chemistry and art workshops are funded by an NSF dissemination project grant through The Center for Workshops in the Chemical Sciences (CWCS) at Georgia State University. Introductory and advanced Chemistry and Art workshops are offered each summer at various locations around the United States. Tuition, housing, and meals are provided at no cost to participants. A major goal of the CWCS project is to foster the development of communities of scholars around workshop themes. To date over 250 teaching faculty have participated in the CWCS Chemistry and Art workshops. Since 2008, each Chemistry and Art workshop has included conservators and conservation scientists actively involved in undergraduate and graduate education as well as chemistry, physics, biology, geology, art history, and fine art faculty. The Chemistry and Art workshops provide fertile ground to enhance knowledge, share expertise, and develop research collaborations to influence the next generation of scientists, conservators, and conservation scientists.

    Many workshop participants have initiated courses at their home institutions that link chemistry and art for both non-science and science majors. These courses provide unique opportunities to engage students in science who might not otherwise study it, show that the study of art and cultural heritage is significantly enriched by scientific knowledge, and illustrate how physics and chemistry involving light, optics, color, materials, reactivity, etc., are central to understanding the life of art and cultural objects from the moment of their creation. In addition to course development, undergraduates and science faculty have been involved with local museums and historical societies resulting in collaborative research projects.

    To ensure the success of such collaborations, the CWCS Chemistry and Art workshop facilitators have deliberately and systematically included ethical issues involved in the care, conservation, and study of works of art and cultural materials as part of the workshop curriculum. This gives participants methods for developing their students’ critical thinking through laboratory experiences and/or classroom discussions; diverse cultural materials and objects are extensively discussed and are examined when such examination does not threaten the object. This poster will provide an overview of the CWCS introductory and advanced Chemistry and Art workshops, highlight how facilitators include ethics in the curriculum, and describe examples of successful courses and research collaborations that have been developed as a result of workshop attendance.

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  2. Side Effects of Sucrose: Retreating a Civil War Era Torpedo Keg
    Laura Schnitzer and Nicole Wittig

    The conservation of wooden objects from an underwater environment can present unique challenges to conservators, even after treatment. In 2009, a previously waterlogged Civil War era torpedo keg was brought to the East Carolina University (ECU) Maritime Studies Conservation Lab for treatment. Underwater torpedoes were used extensively during the Civil War for coastal defense. Keg-style torpedoes proved especially effective. They were constructed from wooden barrels or recycled beer kegs and fitted with conical reinforcing pieces secured over the barrel heads. Metal fuses containing combustible chemicals were mounted in the staves and the barrels were filled with powder. The torpedoes were then weighted and set adrift in waterways. Collision with a passing ship would cause the fuse to ignite the powder and explode.

    The torpedo keg presented in this case study was found in 1996 in a riverbank outside of Savannah, Georgia. Shortly thereafter, it was brought to the ECU Maritime Conservation Lab for initial treatment. The waterlogged wooden components were treated with sucrose but the copper alloy fuses were left untreated. After conservation was completed, the torpedo was transported back to Georgia and displayed at the Savannah History Museum. Over time, the fuses developed a black patina. The torpedo keg was eventually brought back to ECU so the blackened fuses could be cleaned, but conservators noticed other more problematic issues for the artifact. In the 12 years since initial treatment, the staves had developed slight mold growth and a hard white concretion had formed on the conical reinforcing pieces. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy analysis of the concretion indicates that it could be an unstable product of the initial sucrose treatment. Sucrose has long been a popular bulking agent for waterlogged wood because it is cheap, nontoxic, and is generally considered reversible. The results of this analysis were not only important in determining how to retreat this particular artifact, but they could potentially predict problems for other sucrose treated objects as well.

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  3. The Study and Treatment of Two Crocodile Mummies at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology
    Allison Lewis, Jane Williams, Beth Szuhay, Rebecca Fahrig, Richard Dodd, Richard Evershed, and Lucy Cramp

    In preparation for exhibition in “The Conservator’s Art: Preserving Egypt’s Past” at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, conservators studied and treated two large Egyptian crocodile mummies from the Greco-Roman period. Conservators collaborated with specialists in various fields to study the mummies, employing multiple investigative techniques to better understand the materials and technology used to mummify the crocodiles. Treatment and study of the mummies has provided information about ancient Egyptian animal mummification practices and allowed the museum to share two fascinating objects with the public.

    The mummies, which were purchased in Egypt around the turn of the 20th century, required fairly extensive stabilization measures prior to transportation for computed tomography (CT) scanning and installation in the exhibit. One mummy, whose linen wrappings were removed prior to acquisition by the museum, required consolidation of the organic mummy balm coating the crocodile remains and reattachment of a number of juvenile crocodiles massed on an adult’s back. The other mummy, whose elaborate decorations included a painted mask and patterned linen wrappings, required repair of many broken plant fibers and textile elements which were then encased within modern textile overlays to secure them.

    During treatment of the two mummies, samples of mummy balm, plant fibers, ground, and pigments were removed for analysis. These materials were characterized using gas-chromatography/mass spectrometry, microscopy, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy and x-ray fluorescence. Once the mummies had been treated and were stable enough to travel, they were transported to radiological facilities at Stanford University where they were CT scanned. Through these enquiries, conservators and colleagues characterized the components of the mummy balm, identified different types of plants used in the manufacture of the mummies, characterized ground and pigment found on painted surfaces, and obtained detailed images of the mummies’ interiors.

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  4. George Washington’s Chinese Export Porcelain: Using XRF Analyses to Distinguish between an Original and a Fake
    Lauren F. Sturdy, Danielle S. Bowman, Ronald W. Fuchs II, and Erich S. Uffelman, Department of Chemistry, Washington and Lee University

    George Washington’s Chinese export porcelain dinner service is one of the most important made for the American market. Produced in 1785, each of the 302 pieces was decorated with an allegorical figure of Fame holding the badge of the Society of the Cincinnati, a group founded in 1783 as a veterans’ organization for American Revolutionary War officers. Approximately half of the service is known to survive. Because of its historical importance and high monetary value, a number of fake versions of the pieces in the Cincinnati service have been made with the intent to deceive curators, collectors, and scholars. Visual analysis can often differentiate the genuine from the spurious, but it would be useful to have other evidence to use in authenticating pieces from this service.

    Washington and Lee University owns nine pieces of the genuine Cincinnati service, as well as one fake plate. The fake is actually a genuine 18th century Chinese porcelain plate, but the figure of Fame and the Cincinnati badge was added during the 20th century. We have determined that x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) analysis can be a useful tool in distinguishing between original decoration and later additions.

    This study was initiated by analyzing the green areas of Fame’s dress and the pink sash on both the genuine and fake plates using a Bruker Tracer III-SD portable XRF. Preliminary results show that the pink sashes have similar elemental compositions, while the green dresses have different compositions. The genuine contains copper as the green colorant, while the fake contains zinc and chromium. Copper has historically been used to create green, while chromium was not known to have been used on ceramics until the early nineteenth century. This difference in composition distinguishes the plates and identifies the forgery as such.

    These findings helped to reinforce the provenance of the plates and led to further study, which will be reported in this poster. A more thorough understanding of the differences between the genuine and fake pieces decorated with the Society of the Cincinnati badge will help other institutions and collectors to better distinguish between authentic pieces and forgeries.

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  5. Understanding the Changing Market Value of a Conservator: Trends, Challenges, and Occupational Sustainability
    Matt Cushman, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Paintings Conservation, Worcester Art Museum

    The past 20 years, marked by economic growth and recession, natural and man-made disasters, and rapid advancement in technology, have seen increases in salaries for conservators. However, closer examination of salary data suggests that growth has lagged with respect to economic indicators such as rates of inflation, median household income, and cost of living increases. While compensation surveys are useful tools to describe a snapshot of the job market at a given time, their infrequency renders them insufficient when it comes to describing these long-term changes in the market. One approach to building a coherent history is to cull data from the thousands of job postings placed in the last two decades.

    By combining data from published compensation surveys and data mined from the Conservation DistList archives, this presentation will summarize ongoing efforts to identify trends in compensation and the frequency and geography of job openings, as well as external economic factors that influence market value. Included in this discussion will be an analysis of how these economic trends impact greater challenges to the continued development of the field in the foreseeable future: funding, diversity, accessibility, globalization, and occupational sustainability. The results of a survey relating job market conditions to happiness and professional satisfaction will be presented as well.

    The proposed presentation aims to open a dialogue about economics within the field, with the dialogue continuing in the form of a website dedicated to analysis related to occupational sustainability in the field of conservation.

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  6. “It is a Tree of Life:” Traditional Hebrew Scribal Arts and Modern Conservation Practices
    Demetrios Vital, Sofer Sta"m, MA candidate, Jewish Art and Visual Culture, Jewish Theological Seminary

    Jewish communal and religious institutions typically maintain a collection of manuscripts that include the following sacred documents and articles: Torahscrolls, the Hebrew text of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible; megillot, smaller scrolls each comprising one of five other biblical books; tefillin, two small leather boxes worn while praying, which contain biblical texts on parchment housed in special leather containers; and mezuzot, biblical texts written on parchment within containers that are affixed to doorposts. A sofer (pl.sofrim) is a scribe specially trained to produce these objects according to ritual specifications. Sofrim have historically been orthodox men, as mandated by Jewish ritual law. The active and varied community of sofrim create these documents according to centuries-old traditions, yet sofrim have incorporated modern materials and techniques in their work in certain contexts.

    While sofrim have been intentionally conservative in their methods, the Hebrew scribal arts have and are still reacting to rabbinic decisions which allow or disbar scribes from using modern materials and practices. This study is timely, as sofrut (the “scribal arts”) has garnered unprecedented notoriety in recent years in large part because of modern scribes who serve non-traditional Jewish communities. For example, since the 1990s, a handful of sofrim have been working in egalitarian Jewish communities rather than exclusively among orthodox synagogues. In 2007, a female scribe became the first woman in history to complete a Torah scroll. Then in 2009, the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco commissioned a soferet (female scribe) to write her first Torah in a public setting as an exhibition on sofrut. These changing traditions have repercussions that will affect the treatment of sacred scrolls in both secular and religious contexts, such as: what conservation and curatorial decisions will have to be made in secular institutions? Should religious institutions incorporate practices that enhance preservation but have no ritual basis? This presentation will explain the traditional methods of scribal manuscript restoration; compare scribal restoration traditions with modern conservation practices; and suggest ways sofrut can benefit from the field of conservation while still honoring traditional requirements. The goal of this study is to improve the working techniques of practicing sofrim, guide Jewish institutions in caring for their scrolls, and inform conservators charged with maintaining scrolls outside of the context of the synagogue. As a Sofer and a student engaged in pre-program preparation for conservation training; I will provide examples from my and my colleague’s careers that elucidate the similarities and differences between conservation and scribal restoration.


  7. The Manicule or “Little Hand” Found in the Collections of the National Archives
    Jana Dambrogio and Susan Page, Senior Conservators, National Archives and Records Administration

    Understanding who bound early American records contributes to the scholarship of United States history. Documenting the physical evidence found in late 18th century and early 19th century legislative journals begins the attribution process of hand bound volumes in NARA’s holdings. The physical evidence particularly the tooling decoration on the covers may identify which binder finished the binding based on the unique features of the tool marks and the decorative patterns. Using techniques developed by Hannah French and the late Willman Spawn to categorize and assign attributions to NARA’s surviving hand bound originals, the journals appear to be by binders associated with our founding fathers: printer and binder Robert Aitken, Thomas Jefferson’s last binder, Frederick Mayo, and Stephen Potts, who was Benjamin Franklin’s binder.

    NARA’s book conservators are documenting while preserving significant historic evidence on our surviving early bound records. Current techniques used to repair both the text blocks and covers in order to retain the integrity of the original binding structure as artifact will be shown. Ethical considerations will be explored to weigh the loss of historical evidence that some treatment approaches may cause. Digital scanning methods to capture tooling details will be presented. At NARA, book conservators and digital imaging specialists collaborate to create transparent overlays of tooling patterns in place of traditional rubbing methods. The scans and overlays help build a database of cover images for comparison of tooling marks as the bindings come into the laboratory for treatment.

    In the past, using tooling to identify who made a binding was considered impossible. A notion existed that most blank books sold at an 18th century American stationer’s shop were mass-produced and possibly imported. Research by Willman Spawn and Hannah French disproved these ideas. Book conservators now understand that stationer’s bindings that have previously been considered lacking in historic proof now yield meaningful evidence that links them to known binders. Physical attributes may help assign provenance. Therefore preserving original stationer’s bindings on early American volumes is an important consideration for book conservators, archivists, librarians, historians, and scholars.

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  8. The Use of Common-Ion-Effect Buffers and Anoxic Accelerated Aging to Determine the Chemical Mechanisms of Paper Degradation
    John Baty

    Traditionally, conservation researchers performing accelerated aging studies have allowed the paper pH to drop gradually as acidic species emerge within the paper. In practice, this means that researchers are conducting accelerated aging studies over a pH range. In the case of papers containing alkaline reserves, these alkaline species do not buffer the pH in a rigorous sense, but merely hold the pH at a specific point during aging according to their dissociation constants (Ka). Furthermore, this effect ceases when the alkaline species are exhausted—if they ever are—as reactants. Aging paper at a number of specific and constant pH levels, however, is important not just to study the well-known Brønsted-acid-catalyzed cellulose hydrolysis ( “acid hydrolysis”), but also to study the effective ranges of other catalysts for hydrolysis and oxidation, since these catalyses are pH dependent.

    Similarly, although conservation researchers have performed oxygen-free accelerated aging to study the efficacy of anoxic storage and display environments, they have not used anoxic accelerated aging to disentangle the oxidative from the hydrolytic mechanisms of paper degradation. Measuring the rates of degradation mechanisms separately is important in determining the prevailing mode of degradation for a particular paper formulation. Furthermore, determining the rates of degradation mechanisms acting separately can elucidate how they “fit together” in, for example, the spiraling degradation of oxidation working in tandem with hydrolysis.

    Heritage Science for Conservation, a part of the Department of Conservation and Preservation at The Sheridan Libraries, The Johns Hopkins University, has developed two new approaches to accelerated aging studies of paper that address the limitations noted above. First, we have employed common-ion-effect buffers, which hold the paper pH constant for the duration of the aging experiment. Second, we have employed oxygen-free, but not moisture-free, aging environments to control for oxidative mechanisms of degradation.

    Known or suspected catalysts for the hydrolytic degradation of paper that we are studying include the aluminum(III), magnesium(II), and iron(II) cations, which may be present from gelatin or rosin-alum sizing, aqueous and non-aqueous deacidification treatments, and iron gall ink, respectively. Known or suspected catalysts for the oxidative degradation of paper are the aluminum(III), iron(II), and copper(II) cations—copper being present in some pigments and inks.

    By studying primary mechanisms of paper degradation, we aim to provide new information that is useful for the following objectives: (1) to enable more fully informed choices of conservation materials and treatment techniques, (2) to assist in the development of specifications for producing permanent, durable papers, and (3) to assess the efficacy of accelerated aging to predict the permanence of paper.

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  9. Conservation of a Safavid Persian Carpet Fragment: Two Different Approaches to Treatment in 1980 and 2010
    Kisook Suh, Metropolitan Museum of Art

    This project offered an opportunity to review some of the principles of conservation and search for solutions within the changes in ideas and practices of conservation during the last 30 years.

    The aim of the project was to conserve a carpet fragment in a way that would be both aesthetically acceptable and physically stable for display. The challenge was working with previous treatment performed in 1980 as well as old repairs that existed at the time of the carpet’s acquisition.

    The carpet had been repaired extensively before acquisition, and those repairs not only diminished the artistic impression of the carpet but also caused physical distortion of its original structure. The previous treatment in 1980 involved a reweaving technique for missing areas after removing repairs of insertions. The conservation treatment was not completed.

    When the project was revisited in 2010, conservation treatment with little intervention was searched for: realigning; stabilizing weak or damaged areas; and preserving repairs of insertions.

    Both treatments in 1980 and 2010 improved the aesthetic quality and physical stability of the carpet. One of current practice is focusing on finding less intrusive solutions while preserving the condition of a carpet as it is, in this case, acknowledging the historical value of old repairs.

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