Smithsonian Time-Based Media and Digital Art Website Redesign
Crystal Sanchez - Video and Digital Preservation Specialist, Smithsonian DAMS
The Smithsonian Time-Based Media and Digital Art Working Group (TBMA) developed a public website in 2013 to document the Working Group’s history and projects and to share unit case studies. Five years after the site was developed, the SI TBMA website has become a valuable resource for SI staff as well as the entire media art stewardship community. It is often referenced as a leading resource in time-based media art collections care.
In the last year, the TBMA Working Group members revisited site goals and began to pursue a redesign for the site that is more outward looking with its goal of sharing resources developed across SI over the past 5 years in a more comprehensive and clearer way. This poster will introduce the new site as a resource for media art conservation.
This website was developed with SI TBMA members in partnership with the Office of the Chief Information Officer and the Smithsonian National Collections Program. The new redesigned website is expected to be published in May 2020. si.edu/tbma
More than Sticks and Stones: Historic Cemetery Management Amidst Climate Change
Neela Wickremesinghe - Manager of Restoration and Preservation, Green-Wood Cemetery
Within a historic cemetery setting, clean up from damage caused by severe storm events has rapidly become a larger and larger portion of yearly maintenance. In 2019 alone 9 veteran trees were lost to storms less than 20 minutes in length. These, in addition to increasing droughts and rising temperature has also lead to immense strain on the veteran tree population of the cemetery which is home to one of the most diverse tree populations in New York City and the only level three accredited arboretum in Brooklyn. These storms create not only tree damage but often damage to historic monuments and buildings as well. .
As part of a larger digital documentation effort the cemetery has adopted a GIS system to map and track tree locations and vital information as well as locations and conservation issues within its over 300,000 monuments. This system is used when weather events occur to track work, document damage, and track work as it is done in real time. The system is also used to try to identify trees and monuments that may be in danger of damage before a storm comes through.
During this presentation Green-Wood staff will talk through collections management of both historic trees and monuments and how digital documentation tools can help overall collections management issues within a cultural landscape
Navigating the Labyrinth that led to The Original Mobile Games: A multi-institutional exercise in digital exhibition and conservation
Stephen Jacobs, Professor, The Rochester Institute of Technology, and Scholar-in-Residence, The Strong National Museum of Play
In March of 2017, the CEO and Vice-President of Exhibits at The Strong National Museum of Play and their Scholar-in-Residence, a Professor from RIT’s School of Interactive Games and Media and it’s MAGIC Center, decided to work with RIT students to prototype a collection of emulations of historic “Dexterity Games/Puzzles” from the museum's collections as an act of conservation, exhibition and outreach. The museum likes to look at its holdings as playable artifacts, with the majority accessible to the public at large and/or scholars in the field. That said, the over 100 of these types of games in their collections are too delicate to be made widely available to the visiting public.
That initial exercise in prototyping would lead the museum and university teams to go through numerous iterations of the project and eventualy bring a local educational game studio, Second Avenue Learning, Inc, into the parnership to produce a commercially distributable product. The final product is The Original Mobile Games on iOS and Android devices and the Nintendo Switch. It contains playable emulations and digital images of the original games in the collections. It also includes historical mini-essays on each game.
Often thought of as just “ball in maze” games, there were actually a wide range of types of playstyles incorporated in this genre. While they are an important pieces of games history, their range and impact is little known to either scholars in the field or the general public. The game that defined the genre, and "went viral," was Pigs in Clover and its popularity and a "Senatorial tournament," landed it in the popular press and political cartoons of the day. These types of games were themed around and/or commented on the events of their times; the Boer War, the debut of the Queen Mary, the Dionne Quintuplets and others. These handheld, "mobile" entertainments share similar play mechanics (tilting, tapping and shaking) to today's digital mobile games.
The Original Mobile Games has brought these virtual versions of objects from The Strong’s collections into the hands of thousands, and the digital press on the projects has received millions of media impressions. Twenty-four hours before this abstract was submitted an 18 minute YouTube playthrough of the Nintendo Switch version had received over 320,000 views. Amongst the hundreds of comments on the video were ones that discussed the writers new-found understanding of the foundational nature of the games, mentioned their nostalgia at having played them before, asked what the goals of the museum had been for creating the collection, and generally praised the institution for bringing these kinds of game to the attention of today’s avid gamers.
This talk will go in-depth into process of engagement and creation the curators, conservators and game developers engaged in to create the partnerships and the product. All parties learned a great deal about bringing their varied expertise in scholarship, content creation, IP and legal agreements and industry process to the project and this presentation will share those lessons learned.
Seeing Red: Towards an improved protocol for the identification of madder- and cochineal-based pigments by Fiber Optics Reflectance Spectroscopy (FORS)
Beatriz Fonseca - University of Copenhagen
Fiber optics reflectance spectroscopy (FORS) is commonly used to non-invasively identify madder- and cochineal-based pigments on works of art, but the significant shifts sometimes observed in the position of their diagnostic absorption features can hinder correct interpretation of the spectra. To better understand these shifts, and improve the ability to confidently identify these pigments, a systematic study was carried out to evaluate the effects of different pigment recipes and laking substrates on reflectance spectra. Sixteen different madder- and cochineal-based pigments were synthesized using historical recipes and painted in four different binding media (gum Arabic, linseed oil, beeswax, and egg yolk). The results of the study showed that, in contrast to the absorption features typically used for identification, features in the first derivative transformation of the FORS spectra provided a more robust means of primary identification. In addition, once it has been identified as cochineal, the absorption features in the spectra of cochineal-based pigments could be correlated to the recipe employed, providing a possible means for inferring the method of manufacture and laking substrate from a non-invasive analysis. The results of this study were used to create a decision tree for the identification of madder and cochineal pigments based solely on FORS. The presentation will walk the audience through the decision tree using several different case studies, while discussing the strengths and limitations of the method.
The Effect of Various Aqueous Bathing Solutions on the Calcium Content of Paper
Lindsey Zachman - Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation
Careful tailoring of aqueous solutions for paper bathing has long been part of paper conservation. Previous research (Bogaard and Whitmore 2001; Hanson 1939) has revealed that calcium content within paper promotes better aging qualities (e.g. retention of strength and reduced yellowing with age), thus calcium has been used to enrich bathing solutions. However, the comparison of different bathing solutions and their quantifiable effect on the calcium content of paper has rarely been discussed. Therefore, answers were sought to the following questions: In aqueous paper bathing procedures, how much is the inherent calcium content of the paper affected? Does the use of chelators remove calcium from the paper? When paper is bathed with calcium-enriched water, is calcium successfully incorporated into the paper substrate?
A series of baths was designed to emulate common bathing, cleaning, and rinsing solutions. Atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS) was used to quantify the calcium content of historical paper with inherent calcium content. Calcium content was measured before treatment, after one round of bathing (including chelators, DI water, pH adjusted water, and calcium-enriched water), and after a second round of rinse-bathing with a variety of calcium-enriched solutions.
The AAS results after the first round of bathing revealed that all of the solutions reduced the inherent calcium content significantly, including the calcium-enriched solution. Depending on which chelator is used and their respective pH and conductivity, additional calcium was also extracted. The second round of bathing revealed that the calcium-enriched solutions were unequal in terms of reintroduction of calcium back into the paper. Some of the paper samples were left with much less than their original inherent calcium content, while other solutions restored the content and imparted a calcium reserve.
Based on the results of this preliminary study, it appears that some of the common assumptions of aqueous treatment may warrant closer scrutiny. This study found that bathing solutions leached calcium out of paper, and the calcium-enriched solutions did not always reintroduce enough calcium back into the paper to return the content to its original level. Future studies could examine alternate methods of re-introducing calcium to paper and methods of adjusting chelators to spare calcium content. Ultimately, further study on a larger scale is necessary to fully understand the effect bathing solutions have on the calcium content of paper.
Bogaard, John, and Paul M. Whitmore. 2001. “Effects of Dilute Calcium Washing Treatments on Paper.” Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 40 (2): 105-123.
Hanson, Fred S. 1939. “Resistance of Paper to Natural Aging.” The Paper Industry and Paper World 20: 1157-1163.
A Sticky Situation: Conservation of Historic Waterlogged Rubber
Laurie King - The Mariners' Museum and Park
Rubber is a relatively modern material which gained popularity in the 19th century with the development of vulcanized rubber. As museums expand their modern collections, rubber is finding a more common place in conservation labs, as is the study of rubber deterioration. The Mariners’ Museum and Park is the repository for the gun turret, engine, and condenser of USS Monitor, a 19th century iron-clad ship which sank in 1862. The steam engine and condenser used rubber and textile composite gaskets to secure valve connections. These gaskets are now part of Monitor’s waterlogged archaeological collection and are undergoing conservation. This poster will illustrate the cleaning, drying and storage processes that have been standardized for waterlogged rubber from USS Monitor.
The poster expands on previous experimentation and research concerning the treatment of waterlogged rubber undertaken at The Museum. Practical methods to prevent object distortion during both desalination and drying will be discussed. Mechanical and chemical methods of removing corrosion as dictated by the needs of the object will be examined. The development of an air-drying method will be specifically detailed, focusing on practicality and minimizing object distortion. The method uses materials that are commonly found in most conservation labs, and thus can be easily applied to other waterlogged rubber objects for treatment.
Tablet Techniques for Digital Documentation
Brianna Warren - The Menil Collection
Digital documentation with an iPad and the PDF Expert application makes it possible to work expediently with increased accuracy when creating condition reports for artworks. Hundreds of iPad reports have been completed in the paper conservation studio since this system was introduced to the Menil Collection conservation department in 2016. Following up on Katrina Rush’s 2018 presentation to AIC’s Collection Care Network, examples will show how these tools have the flexibility to easily adapt for purposes such as high volume acquisitions, documenting large-scale works, and other project specific needs. The ability to insert detailed photographic images directly into a report while working in storage or a gallery setting make working with a digital tablet extremely efficient. The incredible portability and ease of adoption adds to the appeal of documentation with this method. Techniques demonstrated in this poster are easy to implement and can be readily adopted into new or existing digital documentation toolkits with this or other tablet and PDF editing systems.
Using Quick Emulation (QEMU) for Software-based Art Conservation
Dylan Lorenz – Media archivist, Jenny Holzer Studio, and electronic media conservator in private practice
Emulations provide an excellent method of preserving attributes of a software-based artwork for both exhibition and conservation. The inclusion of Tatsuo Miyajima’s software-based installation, Floating Time (Marine Blue) (2000) in the exhibition The Light Show at the Denver Art Museum in 2019, served as an excellent opportunity to research emulation possibilities of the artwork’s original computing environment. After many attempts with various software applications, the open source, command-line software QEMU created an emulated version with the highest fidelity to the original artwork.
This poster illustrates the process at the Denver Art Museum from working with the components acquired in 2003 to the emulated version of Floating Time. Part of that process was the digital preservation of the original exhibition computer’s hard drive, which, once saved to the museum’s digital repository, was used to build a virtual hard drive for the emulation. The process of creating an accurate emulated version of the artwork also informed the process of building the computers used to exhibit Floating Time (Marine Blue) in 2019 through 2020.
“Respectfully Dedicated to My Friends Messrs. Bradley & Rulofson": Photographically Illustrated Sheet Music and Connections Between Photography Studios and Sheet Music Publishers in the 1860s and 1870s
Jessamy Gloor - The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens
Printmaking history and photographic history are usually treated independently, but this poster will examine their connections through the lens of one specific era of photo-illustrated sheet music production. The title quotation is from an 1877 edition of W. Stuckenholz's "The 'Elite' Race Galop," lithographed in four colors with an albumen photo of the composer directly adhered to the cover, credited in lithographic printing to "Bradley & Rulofson, Photo, S. F."
The Huntington Library holds several thousand pieces of 19th and 20th century American sheet music, all slated for digitization, including one box labeled simply “Photography: Photos Attached.” This box contains about 50 printed pieces of sheet music, each with a paper photograph directly adhered to the cover, and all dating between the early 1860s and the early 1880s. Although some technology did exist in this era to print photographs as part of the cover illustrations, several music publishers seem to have found the combination of albumen photograph and lithographed cover a satisfactory way to meet the appetite for both celebrity portraiture and sheet music. Customers could purchase the same sheet music with a choice of celebrity portraits, or sometimes purchase the plain sheet music more cheaply.
San Francisco is the best represented city in The Huntington's collection, but examples were created in many other American towns and cities from Jersey City Heights to Leavenworth, Kansas. San Francisco's leading music publishers Matthias Gray and Sherman & Hyde produced sheet music illustrated with photographs from San Francisco’s leading photography studios, especially Bradley & Rulofson, well-known for publishing Eadweard Muybridge’s views of Yosemite Valley, and their competitors Thomas Houseworth & Co. All these businesses were located within a few city blocks of each other, and it can be hypothesized that this lavish sheet music was mutually beneficial, driving business to both the photography studios and the music stores, as well as generating publicity for the performers and composers.
This poster surveys this type of sheet music from collections around the United States, illuminating connections between printers and photography studios in this era, and discussing the most common condition problems of these hybrid objects. The poster will be illustrated with examples from The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Garden’s collections.