Presenting at Icon2016 Birmingham

Last week, from the 15-17 June 2016, I attended the Icon Conference 2016, titled “Turn and Face the Change: Conservation in the 21st Century”. The conference took place at Aston University in Birmingham. The theme of the conference questioned whether conservation was keeping up with changing trends and what the future of the profession looks like.

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Here I am on the very rainy first day of the conference!
Natasa Krsmanovic and I presented during an Emerging Professionals session, giving a talk titled “Promoting Awareness and Understanding of Conservation through Social Media at the Corning Museum of Glass”. We wanted to show that social media can be a powerful tool for conservators, and the case study outlined in our presentation showed we had great success with it in just three months.

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Here I am on the very rainy first day of the conference!
The presentation went very well. It was rewarding to be able to contribute to the field by sharing our experience, and the audience seemed very receptive. We had so many great questions following our talk, including: How much time should conservators spend posting to social media? Are websites things of the past? and Which social media platforms are the best?

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Here I am on the very rainy first day of the conference!
One of my favourite aspects of the conference was the use of the hashtag that Icon created for the conference, #IconTF16. This was a great way to learn what was going on in other sessions. It was also a great way for social media based discussions to happen, allow us all to network in a new way. The hashtag ended up helping to prove Natasa and I’s point–that social media is powerful. In a recent email Icon sent out, they shared that more than 50 Tweets an hour were posted with the hashtag, and that #IconTF16 was at one point trending in the Top 100.

Overall the conference was a lot of fun. All of the talks I caught were great–they were moving, educational, and inspirational. You can read an overview put together by Icon here.

You can also catch up on the conference by reviewing our Twitter accounts: Natasa’s Twitter and Nicole’s Twitter.

A big thanks to the team at the Corning Museum of Glass’ Rakow Library and West Lake Conservators for all the encouragement and help. Thank you also to the Anna Plowden Trust for a CPD Grant.

Presenting a Poster in Paris

From 1-3 June, 2016, I attended the ICOM-CC Graphic Documents Working Group Interim Meeting, held at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Titled “Experience and Evidence”, the meeting provided an environment to share our experiences gained as conservators and discuss evidence gained through reflection of past experiences.

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La Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

At the meeting, Natasa Krsmanovic and I co-presented a poster titled “Preserving Stained Glass Cartoons at the Corning Museum of Glass: A Humidification Technique to Aid in the Batch Treatment of Archival Collections”. The poster discussed a humidification technique developed while treating the Whitefriars stained glass cartoons during our internship at the Corning Museum of Glass, in conjunction with West Lake Conservators.

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Natasa and I in front of our poster.

The meeting provided a forum to share our experience in treating oversized documents with other attendees. During the poster session, we spoke with fellow conservators from around the world. It was a great opportunity to network and share experiences. The conservators we spoke with were incredibly encouraging and helpful, which was appreciated, as both Natasa and I are emerging professionals.

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Just about to register for the meeting!

There were many great presentations at the meeting. A couple highlights include: “Portfolios for Le Brun’s Cartoons” by Valentine Dubard and Charlotte Kasprzak, “Research on the Transparency of Mending in Transmitted Light: Introduction of Nanocellulose in Paper Conservation” by Rémy Dreyfuss-Deseigne, and “Fifty Shades of Grey: Darkened Lead White in Graphic Art – Sources and Decay Mechanisms” by Birgit Vinther Hansen et al.

I left the meeting feeling like the experience was just the beginning of my career as a conservator in the UK. I feel inspired to continue contributing to the field—to continue presenting, and to publish.

It was also a great opportunity for Natasa and I to get together again, one year after starting our time in Corning. It allowed us to reflect on our experiences over many cups of coffee!

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Our courtyard, where many cups of coffee were consumed.

Natasa and I both took to Twitter during the Interim Meeting. Our tweets were liked and shared by many people, including the official ICOM-CC account and other conservators. Please catch up on the conferences by reviewing our personal twitter accounts; Natasa’s Twitter and Nicole’s Twitter.

I would like to send a special thanks to the team at the Corning Museum of Glass’ Rakow Library and West Lake Conservators for all the encouragement and help. I would also like to thank ICOM UK for awarding me a Travel Bursary to assist with costs of attending the meeting.

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Blobs of Glass? Or, the Most Amazing Conservation Weights!

One of the first things my co-intern, Natasa Krsmanovic , and I noticed on our first day at Corning was the amazing glass weights in the lab. There was trouble sourcing these for the project, but luckily we are working at a glass museum! Eric Meek, the manager of the hot glass programs at the museum, was asked to create some for us.

Some of the glass weights custom made for the project.
Some of the glass weights custom made for the project.

These weights are phenomenal for a few reasons. One, glass is an inert material, so you do not have to worry about coatings, off-gassing, and so forth. Second, the glass has a nice weight to it–the weights are heavy enough to hold an object in place but not so heavy as to damage the object. Third, they are transparent, allowing you to see the object below. Finally, the edges of the weights are round, preventing any punctures to the object.

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A row of glass weights lined up.

We have used them to help with a variety of treatments in the lab. During photo  documentation, we have placed them at the edges to help the rolled objects lay flat. Because they are transparent, no information on the object is lost. They are also helpful when unrolling a roll, making handling easier. When aligning tears they are very useful because you can see when you have properly aligned the object.

Using the weights to hold an object in place during surface cleaning.
Using the weights to hold an object in place during surface cleaning.
Using the weights to help align a dis-attached fragment.
Using the weights to help align a dis-attached fragment.

We were lucky enough to get the opportunity to try our hand at making these weights. As it turns out, years of experience as a glass artist really helps! Eric made it look so easy, but we found the blowpipe to be very heavy, which made it difficult to distribute the glass on the table.

Natasa watches as Eric flameworks a glass weight.
Natasa watches as Eric flameworks a glass weight.
Nicole gets ready to place the molten glass on the table.
Nicole gets ready to place the molten glass on the table.

One of the elements of the glass weights we wanted to see if we could adjust was the ridged bottoms. These occur because of the rapid cooling when the glass hits the metal table. To try and reduce the ridges, Eric suggested flameworking the bottom. While this worked, this also caused the weight to have a yellow tint to it. Eric did suggest a few other ways of manipulating glass to give a smooth base while retaining the curved edges we liked so much.

Eric's elegant weights on the bottom, our less elegant attempt at the top.
Eric’s elegant weights on the bottom, our less elegant attempt at the top.

We really enjoyed working with these weights over the summer, and were so happy to have the opportunity to make our own!

This blog post was co-written by Natasa Krsmanovic.

Natasa is a Queen’s University graduate student studying Art Conservation. She is currently completing a summer internship at the Corning Museum of Glass as her final degree requirement, and will be graduating in the fall. She has enjoyed her time working on the Whitefriars collection and will sorely miss her partner-in-crime Nicole Monjeau! (Natasa is a great friend and a great conservator, and I can only hope to work with her again someday! – Nicole.)

Whitefriars Updates

My internship at the Corning Museum of Glass is flying by! There are just 4 weeks left, and my co-intern Natasa Krsmanovic and I are in the midst of thinking about how we’re going to wrap everything up. I thought this would be a good time to briefly touch on some of the things we have come across and treatments we have done.

One of my favorite things about unrolling a new roll and inspecting each document inside is finding doodles, notes, and other surprises.

A doodle and tea stain on a Whitefriars canvas.
A doodle and tea stain on a Whitefriars canvas.
A piece of newspaper found in a large silver gelatin print (made of smaller photo paper pieced together).
A piece of newspaper found in a large silver gelatin print (made of smaller photo paper pieced together).

Whilst we are moving very quickly through treatments due to the sheer size of the collection, we do get the opportunity to do some mending on the objects with the most vulnerable tears. One such object was torn into two pieces, and it was very fun to repair such a large tear.

The object in two pieces.
The object in two pieces.
Long tear repair done to re-adhere the torn side.
Long tear repair done to re-adhere the torn side.

We are now getting to the stage where we will be treating some of the very large objects.

4 meter long silver gelatin print.
4 meter long silver gelatin print.

I am looking forward to treating these large documents and am excited to see what challenges they will bring during our final month at the Rakow Library.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

New Internship at the Corning Museum of Glass

I am pleased to announce that I have just begun a new internship at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York. The work takes place at the Rakow Library, and is in partnership with West Lake Conservators.

The internship involves treating the Whitefriars Collection, a collection of stained glass cartoons (a preparatory drawing for stained glass windows), which was gifted to the Rakow Library by the Museum of London in 2008. You can read more about the collection in this blog post by the Corning Museum of Glass.

Surface cleaning a Whitefriars cartoon.
Surface cleaning a Whitefriars cartoon.

Conservation work is being carried out on large-scale paper, silver gelatin photographs, tracing paper, and waxed linen canvas.  Treatments are aimed at preparing the collection for digitization, and include surface cleaning, humidification, flattening, and tear mending.

Documenting a silver gelatin photograph.
Documenting a silver gelatin photograph.

I will be spending the summer in Corning working on this collection and am very much looking forward to seeing what we uncover.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Unsticking Blocked Photographs

One of my first tasks at ISU was to try and unblock a stack of seven photographs, which at some point in the past had gotten wet and consequently stuck together. The photographs are silver gelatin prints, made in the mid-to-late 1980s. The top photograph showed silver mirroring. This photo, as well as the visible edges of the lower photographs, also showed oxidative damage, evident in the discoloration.

The stack of blocked photographs prior to treatment.
The stack of blocked photographs prior to treatment.

It was unknown whether this treatment would be successful, so at the very least, the goal was to try and retain the top photograph. Prior to carrying out in-depth research, it was thought that full submersion in water or PhotoFlo would be required. However, upon more thorough research, I decided to first try using local humidification.

Locally humidifying the photographs.
Locally humidifying the photographs.

This was done by dampening a small piece of blotter with DI water. Beginning with the verso of the bottom-most photograph, the damp blotter was placed at an edge, with a piece of Mylar and a small weight on top. The blotter remained in position for roughly 30 minutes, allowing it to soften the emulsion. The humidified area was then very carefully pulled away using a Teflon spatula and/or fingers, and a piece of photograph-safe paper was laid down before the next section was humidified, to prevent any re-adhering.

Separating a photograph following humidification.
Separating a photograph following humidification.

This method proved successful, and all seven prints were separated. Using a system of humidifying locally allowed me to have far more control than humidifying the entire print–and certainly more control than immersion!

The main downside was that the act of mechanically peeling apart the humidified prints caused the emulsions to be very fragile. Because of this, I decided against housing them in Mylar sleeves, and instead sandwiched each print between photo-safe paper. All prints were then stored in four-flap portfolio.

One of the photographs after un-blocking. Areas of lifted and sensitive emulsion can be seen.
One of the photographs after un-blocking. Areas of lifted and sensitive emulsion can be seen.

Repairing Lantern Slides

I have recently repaired and housed a couple lantern slides, which I can now take with me as a “physical portfolio” on interviews. I thought I would briefly outline some of the steps taken to do so. Many of these techniques I learned on a Conservation of Photographs course, which I highly recommend taking!

The first step undertaken is to repair any broken glass. The edges of the broken glass are cleaned first, and then the glass is repaired using an adhesive like Hxtal or Paraloid B72. Once dried, excess adhesive is cleaned off with a solvent.

Applying Hxtal to a sample object.
Applying Hxtal to a sample object.

The next step is to rebind the edges of the lantern slides with a photo-safe paper. This is adhered using methyl cellulose.

Rebinding the edges of a sample object.
Rebinding the edges of a sample object.

Finally, the lantern slide should be rehoused. I have used four-flap folders made of either photograph-safe paper or archival board and I have also made a sink mount.

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A four flap folder with a repaired lantern slide.
A sink mount with a repaired lantern slide.
A sink mount with a repaired lantern slide.

Have you carried out any other treatment methods on lantern slides? If so, let me know in the comments!