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Philadelphia Freedom!

My sister and I loved to sing Elton John around the house, and quoting his songs is a language we have developed when speaking to each other.  I had a chance to go to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and present about two treatments I performed on objects from their collection Halloween weekend.  The lecture was really popular with the rest of the staff and I was really happy to see so many people come to hear about our treatments.  I was presenting along with LeeAnn Barnes Gordon and Carrie Roberts.  The lectured was even mentioned in the Philadelphia Inquirer! I managed to work in an image of Frankenstein’s monster, in honor of the season.

I really enjoyed staying with my sister and being back on the East Coast, while I love Kansas City and the people in the Mid-west are fantastic, but the East is more like home to me (of course after Texas).  It was so great to see LeeAnn and Carrie, to catch up on our adventures, and just to have someone to talk to who is going through the same internship year at the same time gives me more perspective about my experiences.

What makes a conservator?  I think a certain amount of fearlessness must be part of the equation.  A conservator cannot be careless, but they have to be a little fearless about their skills, they can’t be afarid of asking for internships or jobs, writing papers, or putting themselves out in the public eye.

I thought about this on the plane ride home.  Then the steering in the plane failed, so the pilot steered the plane up again, waited for emergency vehicles to arrive, informed the flight attendants who directed us to curl up and brace ourselves for the landing, which meant they shouted “BRACE, BRACE, HEAD DOWN, STAY DOWN” while we curled up in our seats.  I walked away from the landing, shaken but not hurt.  I was once afraid of flying, but not anymore.

Perhaps I am ready to be a conservator.

Sagita, Rose, Carrie, LeeAnn at the Penn Museum

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The process and the product

http://www.flickr.com/photos/powerhouse_museum/2980051095/

Portrait of an articulated skeleton on a bentwood chair,
originally uploaded by Powerhouse Museum Collection.

Here’s a quick blog post to catch up about the project and the strange and wonderful places it has taken me.  I got a huge response from conservators internationally from the posting to the OSG-l and the consdist list.  Since no one is an island, speaking to these conservators has been very helpful for me to realize that There is a great deal of interest in sustainable practices among conservators and collections managers.  I have conducted phone interviews with numerous people, including Sarah Brophey, the co-author of The Green Museum.

One of the more interesting discoveries from these interviews is the sense of responsibility that museum professionals feel toward sustainability.  The sentiments from the  Getty interview with Tim Padfield, Ernest Conrad, and Franciza Toledo demonstrates two sides of the issue that I found really intriguing. Whether sustainability is a moral or a pratical decision.  To me it is both, if the purpose of conservation is to ensure that cultural heritage is preserved, then you should also be working to preserve the environment as well.

I sincerely thank everyone who has contacted me about this project, whether it was to offer data, allow me to interview you about your practices, and especially to those who wrote me quick notes of encouragement or pointed me to someone else who could be helpful.  I have been incredibly impressed by the interest and support I received.

So, where is this project going?  With a 5,000 word limit and I have realized I have so much information that it will have to be more focused.  I will focus on the Winterthur HVAC shut-down test case, and the information I have from other conservators will be summarized in a more general way.

I have already thought about a Phase II for the project, possibly next year or further in the future to study more about what can be done without systems to maintain the correct collection environment.  I hope I will be able to attend the IIC Roundtable at the AIC 2010 meeting in Milwaukee about Guidelines for the Museum Environment. It will be exciting to see the authors of some of the papers I have been reading.

HVAC
AIC 2010 meeting
IIC
energy conservation
preventive
WUDPAC
museum
environmental management
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Conservation of Materials and Resources

Smoke stacks (LOC)

Smoke stacks (LOC),
originally uploaded by The Library of Congress.

Inspired partially by Daniel Cull’s article about Conservationists, and my mother, who has been an active participant in sustainability (she began recycling in the 1970’s), I have decided to study environmental management and sustainability for my preventive conservation independent study. I am going to use my blog to offer conservators more information about my study, and to open a discussion about the project.

Art Conservators are feeling the push to become more ‘green’. While their first concern is to provide a safe environment for collections, it is also important to work within a reasonable budget. If modifications can be made to an environmental management system that do not place objects in danger and will use fewer resources and require less funding then it is in the interest of conservators to be involved in such projects.

In the past few years there have been many conferences and discussions about the relationship between heritage management and environmental sustainability. The Getty’s: Climate change and preserving cultural heritage in the 21st Century is a good starting dialogue, focused mainly on the carbon footprint created by construction and how re-using buildings (here is where preservationists come in) can be what helps us to mitigate global warming.

The beginnings of my research found the 1978 book In Search of the Black Box by the Royal Ontario Museum. The book mentions the oil crisis of the 1970’s which led my research down a new path. If I could contact conservators and building managers who were working in the heritage sector during the 1970’s, I could ask them about how they cut back on their energy usage during the oil crisis of 1973 and the energy crisis of 1979.

Speaking to a building manager who was working during the energy rationing of the 1970’s, he said since they had to turn off systems at night, it meant during the day the systems were running constantly and this wasn’t saving any energy. This is great information because I am interested in finding out what has worked and what has failed. Discussing failures can be interesting and innovative in the same way as having success.

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Works Progress Administration and the Federal Art Project, general overview

 I was thinking about the WPA and the FAP lately with the global economic crisis.  I did a bit of research about the projects and they seem really successful, they gave artists jobs and created a lot of great art.

The WPA was begun by president Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 and the FAP (Federal Art Project) added as a division of it.  The FAP had two goals: first, to provide artworks for non-federal public buildings and, second, to provide jobs for unemployed artists who were receiving unemployment payments.
To qualify for work in the FAP, artists had to meet the professional standards as artists, through a committee review of their work. The committee consisted of established artists in the field. There was also a state WPA relief board that had to approve the artist’s appointment. After being selected to be on the project, artists were reviewed periodically and could be removed from a project if their financial status changed or if their work was unsatisfactory. When accepted to the project, artists were classified according to skill level, and they were paid between $25.00 and $35.00 a week, depending on their assigned skill level.

The FAP existed in forty-eight states. It maintained more than 100 community art centers which managed art programs for children and adults and held art exhibitions. In New York City there was a FAP Gallery that opened in 1936. Over the course of the FAP, there were 2,566 murals, 17,744 sculptures, 108,099 easel paintings and 240,000 prints produced.  The Federal Arts Project spawned a new awareness of and appreciation for American art. It ended in mid-1943, when the government turned its attention toward World War II. However, The Office of War Information subsumed the photography division of the WPA in 1942.

Steichen, Edward.  1955. The Family of Man.  New York. Museum of Modern Art

Wilkinson, Jerry.  “Democracy..A Challenge- the WPA Federal Art Project Poster” Public Voices:  Rewriting the History of  Public
Administration:  What if…? Symposiumandromeda.rutgers.edu/~ncpp/pv/issues/8-1%20Final.pdf

http://www.askart.com/AskART/interest/WPA_1.aspx?id=”http://newdeal.feri.org/library/h_1x_k.htm ” target=”_blank”>http://newdeal.feri.org/library/h_1x_k.htmwww.historycooperative.org/journals/ohq/109.2/munro.html align=”left”>www.wpamurals.com/history.html 

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Photo Album

Page 6 in albumen photo album

This is a photo album that was given to my father from an aunt. Most of the photos were taken in studios in Galveston, Texas or Marshall, Texas. They are mainly albumen photographs of various sizes from cabinet cards to these smaller sizes. I spine of the album has been lost and I have been contacting conservators at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas about different approaches to fixing the spine. I have documented the pages and I would like to remove the photographs so they can be cleaned and the pages can be reinforced. I am interested in the style of the album and trying to date it. It is a huge project but I would like to see if I can find out if the people in this album are my relatives and what their stories might be.

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