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May 5, 2008

Elizabeth, Erin and I talked about the goals and objectives for
the preservation and conservation project under way for the
collection of portfolios and monographs contained within the
print and drawing collection at the museum. This collection has
been a long-standing low priority due to time and money
constraints. The curator and registrar would like to have a
better idea of what is included in the vault, have condition
assessments made, and have possible recommendations suggested
for future action. Erin has been interning at the museum since
last fall and has been working with this collection by
inventorying what is in the vault.

Objectives that were identified were to:


• Find out what is included in the collection
• Whether or not an item is recorded in the database (MIMSY)
• Perform conservation analysis of the items
• Recommend conservation work or re-housing if needed
• Suggest curatorial review.

One of the first items of the day was working with Erin learning
the records management system (MIMSY) used at the museum. MIMSY
is a relatively new database used to catalog and manage the
collections held at the museum. It is still new to the
registrars and they are currently limiting access for new record
creation because there was a collective agreement that
consistency and standards for new record creation needed to be
established and controlled on some basic level. Because of this
Erin has been keeping a list of problems or items that are not
currently found in the system.

We progressed by taking items from one shelf and taking a


detailed look at each item, then taking time to describe and
make notes in the database by populating and enriching existing
records. This entailed making note of location, condition, item
measurements, description, condition assessment and
recommendations in curatorial or staff notes. Gordon Gilkey
collected most of the materials in the collection. It is an
eclectic collection of artist portfolios, artist books and print
collections. Many of the items have accession numbers that are
from a pre-existing system. These numbers are “Gilkey numbers”
and these items as well as newer items in the collection have
been updated to the current accession numbering system.
As with libraries and archives, the museum is dealing with
previous systems of management. Previous to the web and online
database, the museum kept a catalog of 3 X 5 cards. With the
upgrade of systems, cataloging and data management has changed.
Similar to archives, the museum is also facing problems with
existing numbering/accessioning systems, lack of description and
sources for items, etc. The museum also has paper “document
files” kept in office metal cabinets housed in the registrar’s
office and these files contain specific information regarding
either history, deed of gift, conservation information, etc of
each item. These files came in handy while making decisions
regarding items and updating the records.

Problems or observations that I came across while working in the


collection today:
• Accessioning: numbering system is very different from
archives and libraries. The accession numbers are written
on the items with a pencil or on a separate tag then
inserted or placed with the individual item. The numbering
sometimes is not intuitive. Within a number of portfolios
or books, individual items (drawings, etchings, etc.) would
be numbered and have an individual record in the database
but there would not be a record for the book or portfolio.
For example there was a portfolio or collection of 100
woodcuts from Mexican Artist Jose Guadalupe Posada, but
there were only records for fourteen of the woodcuts. An
explanation for this was that these fourteen woodcut prints
were probably on exhibit at some point, so records were
created for these.
• Another question of accessioning practice was why within a
bound book each print was individually accessioned,
especially if the curator would not have the book unbound
in order to exhibit individual prints? A point was made
that perhaps someone had hoped to individually index these.
• There was a portfolio of 20 prints of the Oregon Territory
by Caption Warre; each had a record, but no title.
• Museum accessioning is different, one must keep in mind
that numbering and tracking of items is tracked by year of
accession.

Elizabeth let me borrow “The Care of Fine Books” by Jane


Greenfield.
I did a little research on Gordon Gilkey to find out more about
him as an artist and person. Gilkey was Dean of the College of
Liberal Arts at Oregon State University. He was printmaker-in-
residence at PNCA, taught art and art history, directed and
oversaw the Gilkey Center for Graphic Arts at the Portland Art
Museum and was Curator of Prints and Drawings. He played a
pivotal role during and after WWII in saving and returning art
stolen by the Nazis. His own work is in collections held by the
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Public Library, National
Museum of American Art, the Library of Congress, Philadelphia
Museum of Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, and others.

He attended Albany College (Lewis & Clark connection). He was


granted a scholarship by the Carnegie Corporation of New York
/American Institute of Architects. This enabled him during the
summers of 1930 and 1932 to work at the University of Oregon
with other artists where in 1933 he enrolled in the graduate
school. He received his MFA from the U of O in 1936. His thesis
was a volume of 30 etchings of the U of O Library. He was
commissioned by Charles Scribner & Sons to etch the World’s Fair
in New York City in 1938. His portfolio is housed at PAM. He was
also commissioned by NBC (National Broadcasting Company) to do a
series of portrait prints of NBC personalities.
He was also art faculty of Stephens College in Columbia,
Missouri.

Gilkey had collected an impressive collection of over 7,000


original prints over the years. Gilkey decided to donate his
collection to the Portland Art Museum for a few reasons. He
wanted the collection to stay in Oregon, because he was offered
the Curator position of Prints and Drawings at PAM. He continued
as a teacher of etching, and he maintained a printmaker-in-
residence studio where he could continue to do his own work.

According to Elizabeth he was a real mentor and advocate to his


students. He was always encouraging and accepting of budding
artists.

May 12, 2008

Elizabeth was taking down the “Dancer” exhibit. A fabric fan was
damaged but according to the condition report the fan had been
torn previously and was in poor condition upon arrival to the
museum. Elizabeth decided to fix it because there isn’t much of
a conservation lab where the fan originally came from. The fan
is encased in a glass front box and is attached by small metal
u-shaped wire encased in rude piping. By booking at the tear it
seemed to be that the pressure and the inflexibility of the wire
caused the damage and tearing of the fan. She repaired the tear
with wheat starch paste. Elizabeth wondered about using linen
thread to affix the fan back to its case. She considered this
option because of the flexibility and strength of linen thread.
We had a discussion about this because of the indication from
Elizabeth that linen is acidic and before using she decided to
wash the thread with soap. There is unbleached linen available
for conservation binding.

I decided to do some research on the acidity of linen thread. I


found a posting listed in the archives of the conservation
listserv hosted by palimpsest associated with Stanford
University.
“The problem with linen is that it is inherently acidic.”
Christopher McAfee
Conservation
Harold B. Lee Library
Brigham Young University

And in response to this posting:


“Linen, like cotton, in its natural state, is fundamentally neutral in pH
i.e. pH is 7.0 or slightly higher i.e. alkaline. Both fibres are
resistant to alkaline damage but are readily damaged by acidic pH
materials. Linen might test out to be acidic only if there are processing and
treatment residues in the fibres. Silk, as is most protein fibre, is
naturally acidic.” Orton T. Carberry

I’ve also read other places that linen thread reacts to acidic
material that is around it.

May 19, 2008

Erin and I decided to search MIMSY to pull items where notes on


conservation proposals had been made so that we could take a
look at these in order to do some immediate conservation work.
Elizabeth, Erin and I decided that a grading system needed to be
implemented in order to rank conservation priority. We came up
with a 0-3 system. 0 being no conservation work needed, 1 being
simple or aesthetic attention, 2 being more detailed attention
and conservation work needed, and 3 beyond repair or/and needs
curatorial review.

We came across some Gilkey prints that had been pressure taped
into the portfolio. A chemical solution will have to be applied
to remove the tape and residue from the tape properly. This will
need to be done in order to stabilize and prevent further damage
and deterioration of the paper/print. Over time pressure tape
will make the paper brittle and the section taped will fall off.
Another problem we came across was serious foxing of a series of
Italian etchings that were being damaged by the portfolio. The
etchings were bound in the portfolio similar to a scrapbook. The
etchings can be taken out and washed which would take care of
the foxing that was occurring.

A series of Mallek prints of woodblocks on tissue/Japanese paper


had been adhered to pages where the images were burning onto the
adjacent pages; it seems that they had been adhered with rubber
cement. Again, a chemical process will need to be used in order
to remove the adhesive. A resolution for putting these back into
the portfolio will be to use wheat starch paste and return the
prints back to where they were originally adhered in the album.
We also came across woodblocks by Robert Freimark. These are
very important. These were being housed in a manila envelope. We
removed and sent for matting.

A Käthe Kollwitz facsimile of a portfolio was evaluated and a


decision was made that it shouldn’t be in the vault and was
moved to the library. It was printed on acidic paper and adhered
to construction paper. It was decided to take the images off the
construction paper for preservation purposes. Another item we
questioned its inclusion in the collection was a volume of
prints that had originally been published in the Century
Magazine.

So today we came across a number of different conservation, re-


housing, and even collection issues. It was interesting and
informative discussing both with Erin and Elizabeth the
possibilities and best approaches for individual items and how
so many other factors play into that depending upon what the
item is, how it fits into the collection, the value of it for
the museum, historical value, aesthetic value, etc.

June 9, 2008

Today we continued with the evaluation of conditions and making


repair and re-housing decisions.

A very interesting item that we worked with today was Gordon


Gilkey’s portfolio from the 1939 New York World’s Fair. He was
the official etcher for the fair. It consisted of 60 etchings.
The portfolio in which these are housed is not ideal. The paper
is acidic and is causing damage. The decision was made to rematt
each etching and place glassine between the prints and also
devise a way to replicate the existing portfolio but to use
archival quality, non-acidic materials. The original portfolio
will be retained because of the importance of it as originally
collected.
A series of Italian prints bound together had a number of issues
that needed to be addressed. Most prints showed signs of water
damage and they had been folded and bound together. It was
decided that a curatorial review would be in order to see if it
would be worth addressing these problems immediately or not.

Another item of interest was a Burmese Pali Text known as


Jataka. Erin and I did some research regarding the text and
added information to the document file.

A poem I liked included in one of the artists’ books we looked


at today:

The World is a hot penny


I found it in the gutter
It’s burning my hands but
I’m going to keep it
It’s red hot, but
I’m going to hold on to it.
Jerome Marquis

I sewed an artists book back together using what is commonly


known in bookbinding as a pamphlet stitch. It had originally
been stapled together but the staples were rusting and causing
damage to the pages and cover. We decided to remove the staples
and sew the book back together using linen thread.

June 16, 2008

I showed Erin how I make Mylar envelops and slipcovers for


items. We made slipcovers for four artist books as well as made
an envelope for a series of prints. One of the artist books for
which we made a protective cover was by the Northwest Book
Artist Tim Ely. I am familiar with his work and have seen other
items of his held at Multnomah County Central Library Special
Collections

Gordon Gilkey was an avid collector of student/artist prints. He


usually was not discriminatory as to what he collected. Rather
he was an encouraging mentor for students and other artists.
This is good but also means that the museum has inherited a
number of items that shouldn’t be, or under other circumstances,
would not be added to the collection. We came across a number of
letterpress/fine press “Christmas cards” that had been sent to
Gordon over a number of years by artists. It was decided that
these didn’t belong in the manuscript collection. They will be
matted and placed in with the print collection.

After performing preservation and condition analysis, Erin and I


continued cataloging items.

Notes on an article I recently read:

Conservation mounting at the V&A: an overview of techniques by Clair


Battisson, Chris Gingell, and Simon Fleury, In Art on paper mounting
and housing. (pp. 131-137). [V&A: Victoria & Albert Museum]

Mounting and Display: preservation mounting is important but it is


becoming more important as to how, as in what style, objects are
presented. Factors such as original use and function should be taken
into consideration. “Mounting and display methods have to be chosen
that are sympathetic to the object and respect its original purpose,
form and function while keeping methods simple and non-interventive”
(p.131).

Standard mounting methods: (p.132-133).


• Overthrow mount:
• Overthrow mount with lid:
• Deep mount:
• Secondary paper supports:
• Floats: (two methods)
• Tab:
• Loop:
• Inlays: (two types) are useful when the whole verso area contains
information that might need to be accessed
• Pared:
• Strip
• Hinging: a hinge attachment should hold the object securely in
place without causing any damage to the object, these are made
either of Japanese paper (if used directly on the object) or
gummed archival paper tape (if used for attaching a secondary
support into the mount).
• Standard decorative mounts:

June 23, 2008

At the beginning of the day Elizabeth showed Erin and me two


conservation problems. A woman had brought in a print by Roy
Lichtenstein. She had purchased it for $10 in 1967-1969 when she
was a college student. The artist signed the print as well as
penciled in the cost of $10. The woman had it appraised and is
apparently worth quite a bit of money though she did not
disclose the worth to Elizabeth. The problem with the print is
that it has been dry-mounted and will need to be taken off the
board. There is also a bright line going down the middle of the
print. With dry-mount, if dry enough, Elizabeth indicated that
she could easily peel away the print from the board. Most likely
though, she will have to use a chemical product to separate the
print. This will have to be tested carefully. There is also a
chance that this might not work at all. If so, then there is
nothing that can be done.

The other conservation problem she is dealing with currently is


with a piece of contemporary art recently put up for exhibition.
It is “Mission Accomplished” by Hans Haacke. The conservation of
this piece brought up a conversation regarding the ethics of
conservation with the collaboration or conflict with the artist
and his/her intent for the piece. This particular piece has been
displayed by the museum previously. The print is an image of the
American flag printed with water-based ink. The flag is torn in
half. One half is displayed mounted in a frame on the wall while
the other half is displayed flat on the floor, exposed to foot
traffic. It was the intent of the artist for this half to be
walked on, soiled, etc. There are in fact shoe prints on this
half of the piece. Elizabeth was asked to come up with a way to
adhere the piece to the floor that would not damage it. She did,
but did not do any initial testing to see how her method would
interact chemically with the piece. She found this to be a
mistake. She had presumed that the printing method was oil based
and not water based. The adhesive had leeched through and
stained the front of the flag. Before showing this piece again
she needs to figure out how to reverse or cover up the leeched
areas. She expressed how horrified she was of what had happened
and couldn’t believe that she hadn’t tested the material, which
she always does. Here is where the ethics question comes into
play. The artist wouldn’t have cared about the leeching because
the point of the piece is to have it soiled. But to the
conservator it is a grave mistake that will take time to fix.
Again, this particular piece had been displayed at a number of
other museums and galleries. At one point a glass of red wine
had been spilt on it. A conservator removed the stain. Innately
conservators want to repair, mend, and save objects in
perpetuity. Contemporary artists (some) are creating works that
aren’t made to last, but are intended to be interacted with…such
as stained, soiled, touched, even ruined. Is it wrong for
conservators to step in and preserve something that is contrary
to the artist’s purpose for creation?

I read an article recently touching on this issue as well. I am


inserting my notes on it here:
Mounting and housing in a modern collection: Moderna Museet by Alison
Norton and Ellen Cronhom. In Art on paper mounting and housing. (pp.
89-95).

This article discusses the ethics of conservators versus artists and


the complications and troubles presented by modern/contemporary works
of art.
The idea and use of the frame have been challenged in the 20th century
and framing has become a conceptual part of an artwork. “Conservation
issues involved in working with oversize or temporary works, and with
poor quality, mixed and non-traditional materials, mean that the
flexibility and experimentation required from conservation staff can
be demanding and hard to reduce to a set of established practices”
(p.89). Artist and curators’ preferences for display of a piece of
work can challenge traditional conservation practices. Can
institutional or conservation policies be worked around these new
challenges? But needing to work around problems on a case-by-case
basis can be problematic for implementing long-term practices and
planning.
“Conservators and mounters are frequently involved in mounting
decisions, often in isolation” (p.89). Choice of color and how a piece
is framed can affect the viewer’s perception of the work.

Definitions:
Preservation framing: the provision of protection during storage,
transportation and display, against light, pollution, climatic
fluctuations, physical damage and natural ageing. Preservation framing
is the base onto which contextual and aesthetic considerations are
added, becoming fundamental in the public display of modern art
(p.89).

Many objects can lose their identity if mounted conventionally and


without sensitivity. Modern art implicitly discusses ‘what is art?’
and the distinction between form and formlessness. In 1906, Gertrude
Stein remarked of the presentation of art that: ‘pictures commenced to
want to leave their frames’ (quoted in Gill 2000) and the absence of a
frame is often appropriate for contemporary art. (p.91). Gill, T. (2000)
“Frames of reference: from object to subject’, Picture Framing Magazine
(May): 82-88.

It is almost impossible to consistently follow artists’ preferred


mounting methods (p.93). Damage to contemporary works caused by
contemporary mounting is due to a number of factors: the financial and
time considerations of the artist; aesthetic and contextual
considerations relating to the look of a work or exhibition; lack of
liaison with galleries; lack of knowledge of and/or interest in
preservation issues; and alternative mounting techniques (p.93). The
Moderna Museet in Stockholm has the conservators liaison with artists
at the time of accession. Interviewing the artist and finding out the
exact materials used can carry conservation work carried out more
effectively. Kungliga Konsthögskolan (Royal University College of Fine
Arts) of Stockholm is setting up a materials database and archive for
its art students which, with Moderna Museet involvement, will include
a basic level of information on preservation issues (p. 94). As
student costs for materials are prohibitive but really the gap of cost
for good materials is closing in on the cheaper quality materials.
Levels of time and resources are factors that always come into play
regarding conservation issues.

The print collection at the Portland Art Museum consists of a


significant collection in German Expressionism. We handled a
portfolio of German expressionist lithographs from various
artists. The portfolio is causing damage to the lithographs. The
lithographs are showing signs of yellowing, foxing and are
soiled. To protect the prints we inserted glassine between those
that are still in the portfolio. Most of the prints have been
removed from the portfolio because they had been part of an
exhibit at some point. These had been matted and housed in
separate file drawers. Each print has its own accession number,
which aren’t successive. This made it time consuming for data
entry and updating of the records in the database. It is
interesting how, so contrary to archival practices, individual
items/objects are treated. It is no problem for a portfolio of
prints to be broken up and traced according to individual item.

I checked out a book about Expressionism to find out more about


the particular artists and influences since the museum does have
such a large collection and was an interest of Gilkey’s. The
museum houses a number of prints form artists such as Ernst
Kirchner and Erich Heckel. German expressionists were, according
to the author, graphically minded and tended to use three main
printing mediums: woodcut, etching or drypoint, and lithograph.
The Bridge (Künstlergemeinschaft Die Brücke) was a group of
artists that included the likes of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Karl
Schmidt-Rottluff, Emil Nolde, Franz Marc, Käthe Kollwitz, and
Erich Heckel and where the beginnings as expressionism as is
manifest today.

June 30, 2008

We worked with what it seemed all student portfolios today. We


handled portfolios printed by students from the University of
Oregon, Northwest Print Council, Pacific Northwest College of
Art, and Oregon College of Art and Craft. Worth noting for me
since I have meet Sandy, Sandy Tilcock was the artist who made
the portfolio for the Northwest Print Council portfolio of 1989.

I spent some time talking with Erin about books to read and
investigate regarding prints and printmaking. She suggested a
couple worth looking at and has turned out to be quite
resourceful. The books are The Complete Printmaker and How to
Identify Prints. Erin was accepted into the conservation program
in Buffalo NY. She has a background in printing and has been
very helpful and great to work with at the museum.

In How to Identify Prints the author proclaims from the


beginning that the book should not be read from cover to cover
as any other book, but is better served a reference and cross-
reference. It is divided into sections, the first dealing with
the various types of printed images; the second parts concerns
itself with how to identify prints, i.e. visual clues; and the
third section includes a vocabulary of terms, bibliography and a
glossary index. This resource is flexible in that it can be an
excellent reference for the complete novice or for an expert.
The writing and examples are very detailed and explanatory. The
content spans wide and covers all types of prints up to the
present day.

Printing is the transfer of ink from a prepared printing surface


(block, plate, or stone with the image) to a piece of paper or
other surface. Important to note is that there are only three
types of prints, ones that are printed above the surface
(relief), below the surface (intaglio), or on the surface
(planographic or surface). An example of planographic is
lithography. The printing surface can be flat but it is a matter
of the surface rejecting the ink or adhering it to the surface.
It is grease (receptive) versus water (repellant). Defining a
print as “that of an image formed in ink which has been
transferred (by pressure, the ’impression’) from a printing
surface (the block, plate or stone) (p.2). It is repeatable and
reversible. Manual versus process prints: process prints are
where the artist or craftsman responsible for preparing the
image had not worked upon the final printing surface manually
The book is dense with technical terms and examples and delves
into great detail regarding the distinction of process used
under the large umbrella of the three types of prints.

July 7, 2008

Nothing too eventful happened today. We looked at a series of


silk paintings by Jin Nong. I was very excited about a small 20-
volume set of Japanese Fairy Tales from the late 19th century.
More information about them can be found here. These were
woodblock printed on Japanese paper and bound in Japanese style.
B.H. Chamberlain printed the books. The books were probably 3X5
and a nice custom-made box contained the volumes. Here is an
example. They are such sweet little things.

July 14, 2008

We took some time this morning to assess and wrap up the first
part of the project that we have been working on. Erin indicated
that she would assemble her notes for Noelle.

We also had an in depth discussion regarding how important it is


to know the collection development and accession history of the
institution, the nature of the collection, and key players that
were involved in creating or building that collection and others
who could possibly be involved. It is difficult to de-accession
material once you have it. This is very similar with Archives
and Special Collections.

We came across a Milton Avery portfolio. (My friend David loves


Milton Avery)

I have been reading Conservation Treatment Methodology by


Barbara Appelbaum. In it she suggests that the non-material side
of conservation work really relies upon social sciences to
discuss individual attachment to objects. She defends her
argument by taking into consideration that 1) objects mean
different things to different people (culture, individual
personality, social class, personal connection), 2) objects have
institutional meaning based upon the mission and programs of a
particular institution, and 3)”custodial” meanings that objects
hold (the custodians being society or community at large)

Conservation methodology consists of eight distinct steps:


• Characterize the object,
• Reconstruct a history of the object,
• Determine the ideal state for the object,
• Decide on a realistic goal of treatment,
• Choose the treatment methods and materials,
• Prepare pre-treatment documentation,
• Carry out the treatment,
• And prepare final documentation.
The strength in the methodology is the protocols for
incorporating non-material issues in treatment decision-making

It could be argued that a single methodology would impose


uniformity but the author argues contrary. She argues that a
systematic methodology provides a way to look at each object
individually and gives one the ability to articulate and execute
the most appropriate conservation treatment for that object with
all factors being take in for consideration.

There are two main goals for conservation treatment:


• Preservation
• Interpretation
The purpose of conservation treatment is to maximize an object’s
utility. “The immediate improvement in an objects state
(interpretation) that results from treatment and the span of
time over which such improvements will last (preservation)
maximize usability and longevity” (p.xxvi-introduction)

It is important to recognize the dual nature of objects and one


must take into consideration the material and non-material
information in decision making.

July 21, 2008

Erin and I finished up the inventory and typed up suggestions


and summarized the status of what had been done and gave an idea
of where to go from here. We had a discussion regarding
monographs versus portfolios and really how these are
distinguished and defined in particular to the collection at the
museum. There was discussion of removing items that were
considered to be more monographs/books to the reading room
instead of taking up valuable space in the vault. We had a
discussion of what may possibly be separated from the
collection, as it currently exists.

One book I have been looking through that has been


extraordinarily interesting has been A History of the
Restoration and Conservation of Works of Art by Allesandro Conti
and translated by Helen Glanville. This book contains a rich
source of history though it is quite specific to Italian
conservation history over the centuries. The examples are
excellent. Described as being a hermeneutics (interpretation of
Scripture or literary texts) of conservation. The translator
points out that art has been made analogous to music (harmony),
in that a work is more than pieces that make up the whole and
she also makes a good analogy of art in terms of subjectivity
and relativity just as light is made of waves and particles,
light is both depending on what the viewer is looking for or
wants to see, enhancing the idea of perception and the duality
of light.
The chapters go into great detail regarding the three levels of
restoration techniques and show specific examples and
illustrations for analysis. The author takes a look at the
history of the alteration and survival of works of art over time
and attempts to “1) make us critically aware of how knowledge
and response to the art of the past are framed by the
interventions, physical and intellectual, of previous
generations and 2) demonstrate that the survival or afterlife of
paintings and sculpture, and sometimes their destruction, is a
vital constituent of a wider cultural history” (p. vii).
It traces the history of preservation, alteration and adaptation
of art from the Middle Ages to the end of the 19th century.
Motives for conserving, repainting, emending, reframing,
adapting or repositioning works of art are due to circumstances
that we may not have considered such as religious, political,
aesthetic or commercial reasons. And these can change from
period to period.
“History of art is shaped by a pattern of interleaving, of
revisiting, of obstinate survivals, unexpected marriages and
metamorphosis” (p. vii).

In-painting refers to the technique the restorer uses by


confining her brush to the losses in the original paint layers,
rather than repainting or over-painting

Goya – spoke of the “historical unrepeatability of the artist’s


touch, which means that even the original artist could not
replace a touch on his own painting, because that instant in
time has passed and material and the mind that moved it are one
and cannot be separated” (p. xix).

3 basic levels/approaches:
Restoration as conservation: absent or an archaeological
approach replacing of a part that has been lost or damaged =
compromises historical authenticity, a sum of its parts any of
which can be replaced if missing, looks at art in its historical
and documentary authenticity

Aesthetic restoration: invisible retouching and reconstruction


through analogy looks to present the image in its entirety
(wholeness), and to reintegrate and reconstruct losses so that
these are not discernible to the naked eye

Visible restoration: in harmony with the original, yet


distinguishable, involves the careful imitation of original
paint in color and texture. Invisibly in-painting a loss in a
paint film is, from an optical point of view, a tautological
exercise, which does take into account the mechanism of
perception. The mind’s eye will automatically compensate for
losses, bridge the gap and read the image as whole, just as the
ear will do in music, because both painting and music are
organized wholes. Imitative, invisible re-touching imposes on
the work of art the viewpoint of one observer only (the
restorer), thus precluding the observer form being able to
superimpose or replace this with his/her own interpretation. To
put in a wider context, choices are made on behalf of the
individual, and ready-made solutions are provided for ease of
consumption, rather than trusting or encouraging each to provide
his or her own interpretation. A decision is made on behalf of
the observer

Unity is essential in the arts and sciences, but still lack a


common language. The restorer must have access to the sources:
material and documentary, objectivity of science and
subjectivity of art, understanding of the behavior of particles
and charges in physics in relation to each other and to
particular conditions, not just their intrinsic nature

Einstein: …”creating a new theory is not like destroying an old


barn and erecting a skyscraper in its place. It is rather like
climbing a mountain, gaining new and wider views, discovering
unexpected connections between our starting-point and its rich
environment. But the point from which we started out still
exists and can be seen, although it appears smaller and forms a
tiny part of our broad view gained by the mastery of the
obstacles on our adventurous way up”

Einstein: “Let us just speak of what would be seen by observers


in different frames of reference. No one ‘observer’ is more
‘right’ than another…no one human view is truer than any other.
All are relative…”

Re-painting has caused problems with difficulties in dating


pieces of work
Autograph repainting?

July 28, 2008

Elizabeth and I met to discuss what to do next. Elizabeth


brought a book about exhibitions for me to take a look at. The
title of the book is Conservation and Exhibition by Nathan
Stolow. Most of what is covered in the book deals quite a bit
with and is similar in many ways to information I have learned
in my Preservation class this Summer and other course work and
reading I have done in preservation. The handling of fine art
works on paper is similar to handling maps, rare books, and
manuscripts, etc.

Information I thought worthy of noting from the book:

Insects that cause deterioration to collections:


• Wood borers (Anobium) bore into wood objects, causing weakening
of structure, sometimes into bookbindings
• Dermestid beetles:
Carpet beetles (Anthrenus) hair, wool, feathers,
entomological collections, protein minerals
Hide beetles (Dermestes Vulpinus) leather, natural history
specimens, and birds’ skins
• Cockroaches (Blatta orientalis) damages wool, leather, paper,
books
• Termites (Isopteran) irreparable loss or damage to wooden
objects, furniture, books, paper and celluloid materials
• Case-bearing clothes moth (Tinea pellionella) destroys woolen
fabrics, hair, fur, feathers, and bird skins
• Book lice (Liposcellis) surface damage to paper, leather,
watercolors, gelatinous materials, (photographic film and plates)
• Silverfish (Lepismatidae) surface and interior damage to paper,
books, documents, photographic plates and herbarium specimens

The book also covers conservation principles, handling, packing,


shipping, controlled environments and storage. It is specific to
museum objects but also covers:

Fine art works on paper: watercolors, pastels, drawings, engravings,


etchings, lithographs, oil paintings on paper supports,

And

Archival collections: manuscripts, rare books, prints, posters,


ephemera, maps, documents, and various forms of photographs, ciné
film, and audio.

The proper care and handling of works on paper places emphasis on very
careful and clean manipulation, isolation from dust, humidity and
temperature control, and minimizing exposure to light.

Watercolors, prints and drawings should be matted by a hinge type


method using rag board as a mount or support, which is neutral or
slightly alkaline pH. Work must be free to react dimensionally with
humidity variations and have minimal contact with framing and support
material. Exhibition of rare books and manuscripts are condition of
bindings, stability of individual pages and openings required for
exhibition should be paid special attention. Extended exhibition of
opened books will distort and break spine.

Other notes:

Cellulosic fungi, i.e. Cellulosic digesters, are common soil fungi


that recycle plant material by digesting it; paper artwork and mounts
are their natural hosts for feeding and growing. (Kowalik 1980;
Florian 2002). Microorganisms can also be present within paper itself.
For example, fungi responsible for a type of foxing are generally
present in paper, although they may only produce staining under
certain conditions such as high humidity, possibly in conjunction with
the presence of transition metals iron and copper (Daniels 1988;
Bertalan 1994; Florian 1996). Kosek & Jacobs (2005)(p.29).
Given sufficient levels of moisture and temperature (most mould
species require humidity over 65% RH) confined microenvironments will
foster microbiological activity (p.33). Good quality materials will
also have a narrower range of nutrients on which microorganisms can
feed (p.33).

Elizabeth briefly mentioned two pre-Columbian figures gifted to


the museum in 1971-1972. These had recently been date tested and
were determined fake. I asked her about this. What action does
the museum take now that they know these pieces are fake? She
indicated that, well they stay in the collection and are noted
appropriately.

For my final project at the museum, I brought in an object that


needed conservation attention. Doug Erickson, with whom I work
at Lewis & Clark, had a cigar box that was especially made for
the Lewis & Clark bicentennial in 1905. Elizabeth told me that
she would help me perform conservation work on it. First thing
she had me do though was to write my own examination report for
the box. The report should include a detailed description of the
object (what is it, materials, what is wrong with it, etc.)
After the examination a proposal will be written that will
articulate the goal(s) for conservation treatment and a proposed
treatment to repair the structure. When we are finished with the
conservation work, then we will write a treatment report, which
will be a detailed description of what we did and what materials
were used for repair.

I worked on putting the report together.

These reports are part of the Code of Ethics.

August 4, 2008
Elizabeth and I began fixing the box today. I took pictures of
the structure in its pre-conserved state. We discussed options
for repair and what materials we should use. After that I spent
the day working on gluing the broken lid together and then
adhering it back to the box. I also glued the split pieces and
reattached the broken paper to the box.

Conservators have a broader responsibility than just conserving


items. Cultural heritage must be taken into account. The object
should be conserved as much to its authenticity as possible.
Ethics and standards come into play and conservators should act
and work according to these. Detailed records should be kept of
all work and “original” information should be kept on file for
future reference. From Bookbinding & Conservation by Hand: A
Working Guide by L.S. Young.

August 25, 2008

Elizabeth and I finished up work on the box. We discussed what


we had done and decided that certain materials would have been
better served for certain repairs. We decided that we should
have used a smooth Tyvek and that we should have stained/tinted
the Tyvek to blend in better with the box. Or we could have
pasted a layer of thin Japanese tissue paper over the Tyvek. Our
solution of using watercolors and colored pencil to cover up the
Tyvek worked okay for our purposes, but we decided that we would
definitely have done it differently. This is one reason for
keeping a report…so that for future projects one can refer to
past decisions and to recommended alterations to what had been
done in the past. When attempting to cover the Tyvek, Elizabeth
first used PVA; this wasn’t really working, so she used”filler”
called Flügger. It is an acrylic fill material. Elizabeth added
it to the watercolor also to help tint it. One of the objectives
of conservation work is to isolate the problem so it is
reversible.

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