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  • Performing a preventive conservation assessment at the Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg


Preventive Conservation

Preventive conservation is an important segment of our Master's- level first-year curriculum. Fourteen full days, scheduled in one or two week segments throughout the year are taught by our faculty and/or guest lecturers.

The following topics are addressed: environmental conditions and management; light; building systems; packing, shipping, exhibition and storage strategies; integrated pest management and housekeeping; emergency preparedness, mitigation and response; surveys and assessments; monitoring, reporting and communication.

Students may also pursue an additional concentration in preventive conservation during their second year of study. This is achieved through an independent research project, participation in Winterthur’s Preventive Conservation Team, seminars and field trips, and a summer work project that is, in part, focused on preventive conservation and collections care.

Joelle Wickens supervises this area of the curriculum. 

Previous Preventive Independent Research Projects (Spring 2009 to present)

Spring 2014

Brogdon-Grantham, Shannon and Michelle Sullivan. Preventive guidelines for paper-based and photographic archives at Longwood Gardens(Supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens and Joan Irving)

The Archives of Longwood Gardens consists primarily of paper-based objects such as books, manuscripts, documents, and photographic materials. In addition to these materials, the Archives encompasses all non-plant collections within the institution including textiles, furniture, and three-dimensional objects. Systematically, the institution would like to implement a long-term preventive conservation plan for its collections. During Spring 2014, two second-year graduate fellows specializing in the conservation of paper-based and photographic materials worked with staff at the Archives to develop preventive conservation guidelines for rehousing three specific collections. The students also provided a preliminary assessment of environmental data collected in Archives’ storage areas and offered guidelines to improve data collection practice and interpretation.

Throughout the course of this project, the students worked primarily with the following Longwood staff: David Sleasman, Library and Information Services Coordinator; Judy Stevenson, Archivist; and Sandy Reber, Archivist. From the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC), Professors Joelle Wickens and Joan Irving served as primary advisors to this project. Prior to the start of the Spring semester, the students met with David, Judy, and Joan to conduct a preliminary review of the Archives’ storage spaces, current environmental monitoring practice and to identify specific collections for which rehousing protocols would be designed. The students, Archives staff, and WUDPAC faculty jointly selected three collections of institutional significance that are at risk of deterioration or damage in their current storage housing and occupy a large volume within the Archives. The three collections selected were paper organ rolls; large-format architectural drawings and blueprints; and color slides. Rehousing recommendations took into account the way in which the collections are accessed by staff and made an effort to minimize the footprint increase while providing solutions that would better serve the collections. With the focus of the recommendations being the protection of collection materials from physical damage and dust accumulation; and minimizing the impact of fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity in non-climate-controlled storage areas.

To develop recommendations for each collection, assessments were conducted through a series of site visits. The site visits were scheduled with Archives’ staff at the beginning of the spring semester and occurred once a month, each focusing on one collection. During these visits, the students met with the archivist(s) for an overview of one collection followed by independent examination to document the state of the collection through written notes and digital photographs. After thorough examination to assess the condition and current storage, the students interviewed Archives’ staff to gain additional information about the current and future use of a given collection studied; limitations or restrictions in rehousing; digitization; and other relevant concerns relating to the collection. As possible, the students also met with volunteers working on the designated collections and reviewed existing documentation and reports (e.g. Preservation Needs Assessment prepared by the Center for the Conservation of Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia, PA).

The initial goals of the environmental monitoring component of the project were to utilize the environmental data analysis software eClimate Notebook to analyze extant data collected by the Archives’ staff and make recommendations for storage of materials based on these data readings. The extant data was collected using HOBO data loggers, which were placed in the various Archives storage areas. However, it quickly became apparent that none of the storage sites had been monitored for a sufficient period of time (12 months) to make such recommendations possible and that logger placement was not consistent, with individual loggers frequently used to monitor multiple sites. These realizations necessitated a shift in focus and instead the students developed recommendations for improving data collection practice. However, to offer the Archives’ an idea of the interpretation possible with an adequate data set, the students used eClimate Notebook to analyze environmental data collected from the Archives’ storage vault and demonstrated the application of the Image Permanence Institute’s preservation metrics in modifying storage environment conditions.

A final report outlining specific recommendations, examples of environmental data interpretation, sources for rehousing materials, and bibliographic references was produced. At the conclusion of the project, the students and Professor Joelle Wickens met with the archivists to review the final report section by section, make final recommendations, and answer any remaining questions on the part of the Archives of Longwood Gardens.

Brown, Emily. Visitor impact: risks to a medical history collection(Supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens)

The Mutter Museum is a medical history collection housed within The College of Physicians on 22nd Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is open daily to the public, excluding major holidays, hosts special evening events for the College and the Museum, and rents the space for public use. Care and display standards of the collection have improved steadily in recent years, however limited staff and resources restricts the amount of time and funding devoted to preventive conservation issues. Over the last five years it has been observed by members of staff the increasing popularity of the museum resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of off-the-street visitors from approximately 60,000 to 138,000 people a year. This observation has called into question the impact of such a large number of visitors to the objects on display.

The goal of this research project is to investigate the current impact of visitors to objects on display in gallery spaces of the Mutter Museum. On-site observations were conducted in three site visits between February 28 and April 28, 2014, which included interviewing staff members, observing visitor interaction with the collection and circulation through the gallery spaces, a brief survey of the objects and material types on exhibit, noting locations of environmental monitoring equipment, and type and placement of lighting fixtures. Data collection and analysis included dust collection using the sticky sampler method developed by the National Trust, analysis of temperature and relative humidity data from pre-existing Hobo data loggers, collection of visible and ultraviolet light with T&D data loggers, and data analysis with the aid of

Findings of the study indicate the most significant risk to the objects on exhibit in gallery spaces due to visitor circulation and activity are vibrations, while a secondary risk is dust deposition. Visitors do not appear to have a significant effect on relative humidity, temperature, and light, however data analysis indicates that while the environmental control systems are doing a fair job regulating the environment for the long-term care of the objects, improvements can be made to optimize systems currently in place for improved control of fluctuations in relative humidity. Overall the Mutter Museum would benefit enormously from the implementation of a systematic and practical vibration and environmental monitoring program for all five exhibition galleries. Recommendations include streamlining the current monitoring system with the redistribution of Hobo data loggers to exclude redundant data collection, and monitor vibrations in areas of high and low visible and perceived vibrations. Such a program would provide a unique opportunity to learn more about the influences of vibrations and environmental conditions on a medical history collection.

McCauley, Kelly. From handheld devices to gloved hands: the development of apps to aid in the performance of preventive conservation(Supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens)

The Heritage Health Index showed that limited trained staff and resources are often responsible for handling collections both large in materials as well as numbers throughout the United States. The situation can be even more exacerbated in places where there are few museum training programs, and limited connections to professional networks and supplies. Aside from the broad requirements of the work needing to be accurate and efficient regardless of location, specific needs for preventive conservation resources can be identified primarily within the framework of monitoring and mitigating the 10 Agents of Deterioration. Where the framework was limiting the scope of preventive tasks, those needs outside of it, most notably documentation and communication, were also identified. Additional context of the significance of each area was provided by a survey conducted by the Collections Care Network that reported how time was spent on various activities.

Concurrent to this framework development, research was performed into the technological capabilities illustrated by existing apps by completing an app design course and by learning about those apps utilized by other professions and areas of interest. This revealed that mobile technology is widely available and utilized to get information. It has reached a high level of sophistication, with multiple features of both the hardware and software to be potentially exploited: touchscreen access, the ability to handle multiple types of content, a high megapixel camera, communication systems, GPS and motion sensing features. Apps are designed at relatively low cost by individuals to use these features to provide an interface to access information in easier, innovative ways.

Even though this describes desirable characteristics in a resource, the cultural heritage sector chronically under-utilizes this technology. A literature review showed that there are now numerous examples of apps for museums, designed for both public and staff users. However, they often do not exploit the technological features of mobile technology but rather serve as a different format for the same type of data, or one concept is used in cookie-cutter fashion across numerous institutions. Conservation-specific uses are even more limited, and focus by and large on Photoshop-like documentation projects.

What this project suggests though is that many of the needs can be met through the development of apps that use existing technological capabilities, applied to the service of preventive conservation in new ways. Ideas for each of the 10 Agents of Deterioration and the additional categories are suggested, along with examples of current apps that illustrate the technology that would be required. These are meant to serve as suggestions in an on-going discussion, rather than to be taken as comprehensive, and the project concluded with a look at how future development could be done. Previous app development projects from the cultural heritage sector, often with collaborators, have used a variety of approaches, from hosting hackathons to posting open-source data. It is therefore believed that useful and innovative apps based on existing technology can be made in a cost-effective manner to address needs in the performance of preventive conservation tasks.

Curran, Claire. Facilities report and recommendations for preservation of a small contemporary art institution(Supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens)

The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (DCCA) is a non-collecting art museum dedicated to the advancement, growth, and understanding of contemporary arts in Delaware. Currently, many of their exhibits consist of works created or installed by artists; the museum has expressed a desire to exhibit works from other contemporary collections, requiring the need of a General Facilities Report, a document required by most loaning institutions. As a result the project has been organized around the completion and review of a General Facilities Report for the DCCA. To further assist the DCCA in their efforts to obtain loans, research into the most significant sections of General Facilities Report and the expected standards was conducted through discussion with registrars from four different institutions. Based on this research, a review of the General Facilities Report completed for the DCCA was conducted to isolate areas where standards highlighted by registrars from these four institutions were not being met. Once these areas were isolated, recommendations were made as to how these standards could be met. Short and long-term goals are listed, which is intended to help the DCCA know what areas of the facilities to focus on and what can potentially help them in better securing loans from other institutions in the future.

Through the process of completing a General Facilities Report and isolating the most significant sections within the report through discussion with other registrars, it is clear that although all sections within the report communicate important information, only a few of the sections are areas of focus for registrars when approving a loan. These tended to be security, climate control, fire suppression, handling and packing, and insurance. Some of the chief concerns were centered on the presence of a 24-hour guard, although an electronic alarm system is an appropriate substitute in some cases. It is important to check galleries/objects frequently and have a photographic record. There must be some form of climate control and monitoring the temperature and RH was imperative. Fire suppression needs to be in place that is checked regularly. It is imperative that an emergency plan be in place if the HVAC system fails, in the event of fire, or any type of natural disaster. For handling and packing, the main concern was that it not be done by interns or volunteers. The requesting institution must also have an insurance policy. Of the chief concerns mentioned, the most pertinent to the DCCA were environmental control, security, and having an emergency plan.

The project consists of a completed General Facilities Report, a summary of the facilities at the DCCA, isolation of areas that are most important to focus on for receiving loans, and recommendations on how to meet those goals. The project also includes an annotated reading list and the initial project proposal.

Fall 2012

Von Stein, Courtney. An environmental evaluation of Winterthur’s China Trade Room as it pertains to the long-term care of its Asian lacquer collection(Co-supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens and Dr. Stephanie Auffret)

Asian lacquer (and the substrates to which it is applied) is extremely sensitive to fluctuations in relative humidity and temperature. In addition, lacquerware is incredibly light-sensitive; polymeric breakdown, cracking, and dulling of the surface are permanent and irreversible effects of light exposure. Therefore, long-term preservation of this material is largely dependent on environmental control. The research presented here focuses on an assessment of the environment in Winterthur’s China Trade Room (CTR), a room on the third floor of the museum that is the permanent home for several of the museum’s Asian lacquered objects. Relative humidity, temperature, and light data were collected via the use of two different data loggers. To supplement the logger data, an IR thermal imaging camera was used to evaluate the space and consultations were held with various museum professionals and Asian lacquer experts. High light levels and rapid fluctuations in relative humidity were identified as risks to the collection that is housed in CTR. Short-term and mid-term goals for the mitigation of these risks are presented. Data and recommendations presented in this report are meant to provide support for an IMLS grant application that seeks to provide interventive conservation treatment for several of Winterthur’s Asian lacquered objects.

Fall 2011

Pack, Crista. A fungus among us: mold growth in museum environments(Supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens)

Mold spores are everywhere. It may sound dramatic, but there is no escaping them and there is no way to prevent them from coming into contact with collections. However, there are methods for managing the environment in order to prevent growth from starting and thriving on collections items.

A few Native American long weapons in the Alaska State Museum (ASM) closed storage cabinets were recently discovered to have an unusual fluffy white substance on their surfaces. This substance had the appearance and characteristics of mold. These objects were comprised of wood, bone, ivory, leather and feathers; and the white substance was found on each type of material.

Mold was not initially a suspect on any of these objects, as the collections storage at ASM is kept close to the desired ranges of 50% RH (± 5%) and 70° F (± 3° F). Therefore, the finding of mold on ASM objects was perplexing, considering that the guidelines given to museums indicate that mold should not grow at the humidity conditions maintained by the ASM. The white substance appeared at some point while the objects were in ASM storage, as they were noted to be in good condition (without any kind of white substance on them) when they came into the collection six years ago. Additionally confusing was the fact that the weapons are stored with other items that do not show any white, fluffy growth.

This raised questions as to why these items were being affected. First and foremost was to definitively identify the white substances on the ASM objects as mold and not a similar looking efflorescence or bloom. If confirmed to be mold, then what factors contributed to its growth? Essentially, the focus of this research was to determine if mold growth is dependent primarily on RH levels, or if other factors such as mold species, temperature, air flow, and substrate may contribute to its development. To answer this, a more thorough investigation of mold was conducted. This study of mold aims to answer questions regarding the physiology of mold, differences between mold species, and to determine if all species can be prevented with current guidelines for environmental control.

The research was carried out through a literature review and experimental procedures. Literary resources were sought out that were directly aimed at collections care, as well as those that thoroughly explained the physiology and characteristics of fungi. Experiments pertaining to the identification of mold were carried out at the Winterthur and University of Delaware research labs in Wilmington and Newark, Delaware, respectively.

The anticipation is that the answers to these questions may encourage people to reconsider their environmental parameters and recognize unique situations that may not fit within normal guidelines.

Schuetz, Emily. Investigation into preferential insect damage of an 18th c. quilt(Supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens)

Many collections worldwide contain objects composed of materials that are at risk from damage by pests; keratinacious objects in particular, such as woolen textiles, quillwork, tortoiseshell, and horn wares, are vulnerable to certain types of insects such as carpet beetles and clothes moths. There are a wide variety of factors which influence the locations of insect damage on a given object, including color: in a 2010 research project, Steven O'Banion documented the existence of preferential insect damage, finding a correlation between the color of parts of quillwork objects and their likelihood of their being damaged by pests. More literature research and scientific analysis of objects displaying preferential insect damage could provide more information about what makes certain parts of objects preferable to others. In turn, this information could influence the risk assessment of and guide the monitoring plans for vulnerable museum objects everywhere by suggesting where preferential insect damage is most likely to occur.

In 2010, a wholecloth quilt in the Winterthur Museum's collection was discovered to be infested with case-making clothes moths and varied carpet beetles. Because the damage indicated a clear preference for a specific colored part of the object, it presented a good opportunity to investigate why the blue stripes were more attractive to the pests than the rest of the object. XRF and GC-MS analysis was performed on fiber samples taken from the quilt in order to identify the dyes and mordants present, and provide clues as to why the preferential damage occurred. The GC-MS analysis of the blue samples, the preferentially eaten areas, confirmed that the blue areas are dyed with indigo or woad, an unmordanted vat dye. The XRF analysis detected copper in the green yarn samples, the samples from the preferentially not-eaten parts of the quilt, which is significant. It indicates that copper was the mordant used for the yellow dye in the green thread and fabric. Copper is a well-known biocide, and its toxicity to many types of insects and marine life is becoming increasingly well documented. It was already known that the pests in question, case-making clothes moths and varied carpet beetles, prefer dark and undisturbed areas for feeding, and that they prefer greasier food to cleaner food, which contributed to the location of the damage on the underside of the quilt, as it was comparatively dark, undisturbed, and was more likely to contain residual soils from use. It now seems possible, however, that these pests particularly prefer indigo-dyed wool to other colors of wool because it is unmordanted, contains nitrogen, and because the alkaline vat dyeing process makes the wool fibers a little easier to eat. This knowledge can better inform collections care, and make integrated pest management more efficient. A schedule for monitoring based on dye-related risk could be developed to make the best use of staff time and resources.

Torok, Elena. Independent study in preventive conservation: determining storage solutions for two 1950s-era aviator suits in the Hagley Museum collection(Supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens)

In 1947, Chuck Yeager became the first pilot in history to fly faster than the speed of sound. This historic flight was enabled by a number of technological advancements in the previous decade that had allowed aircrafts to fly at much higher altitudes than ever before (Bilstein 2001). However, though flying at high altitudes allowed for higher speeds and faster travel, the physical and environmental forces on the human body at such heights are much greater than on the ground. Flight suits were concurrently developed that could distribute, circulate, and pressurize the human body to allow for the survivability of a pilot during high-altitude flight. Without these suits, high-altitude flight would never have been possible (Chatham and Clark 1959). One such flight suit was designed and manufactured for the United States military by David Clark Company, Inc. It was composed of a number of synthetic materials, a wide variety of which were developed and manufactured in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. The incorporation of these materials enabled the execution of a design that non-synthetic materials of the previous century could have never been used to make, yet also created a system of considerable long-term conservation challenges.

The Hagley Museum in Wilmington, DE has two of these flight suits in their collections, and both were manufactured in the early 1950s. Overall, each suit is composed of approximately twenty different materials, including fabrics, rubbers, hard plastics, metals, and foams. Almost all materials present appear to have been synthetically produced. Despite the fact that the suits appear to be in good condition, certain components are beginning to deteriorate in ways that compromise the objects both structurally and aesthetically.

Many synthetic materials have proven to age in ways that are irreversible and deleterious to themselves and their surroundings. The inclusion of these materials in the overall composite system of both flight suits poses serious risks and tremendous challenges in their long-term preservation. Without proper care and maintenance, it can be expected that the condition of the suits will only worsen in time. Research has proven that the implementation of certain preventive measures can slow or arrest deterioration mechanisms of these materials overall, and these practices can prolong the life of these materials for years to come (Shashoua 2008, Quye and Williamson 1999). Understanding material composition is paramount in determining the most effective and appropriate conservation plans possible.

This research study had two aims; first, to understand the composition of synthetic materials present in the suits and determine the deterioration mechanisms associated with them, and second, to use this information to propose a preventive conservation plan that can be used to ensure the long-term preservation of the objects. The implementation of the protocols outlined in this report will allow for the prolonged survivability of the flight suits; two objects that represent a significant era in military and aviation history.

Spring 2011

Getts, Anne. An investigation into the color shift from purple to brown in a set of madder-dyed cylinder-printed furnishing fabrics from the Winterthur Museum(Supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens and Dr. Christina Cole)

The focus of this semester-long project was to investigate the color-shift in a set of quilted furnishing fabrics from the collection of the Winterthur Museum. Dyed with madder and cylinder-printed on cotton, the furnishings under investigation include three sets of curtains, three valances, two bedspreads, and two bolsters (accession numbers 1957.1315.1a-2c and 1957.1316.1-6). Constructed in 1953 from historic 19th century fabric, the furnishings were displayed in the museum approximately six months of every year, for four decades.

Presumably purple in color originally, the fabric has undergone varying degrees of discoloration. While some of the objects remain purple, others have shifted to brown. The discoloration can be separated into roughly into two categories – those that are brown but still retain a purple hue, and those that are brown and have an orange hue. It is hoped that by using this set of furnishing fabrics as a case study, information about the degradation pathway(s) will be obtained that can help prevent similar objects from suffering the same discoloration.

Concurrent analysis is being carried out by Chris Cole, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Conservation Education, who is investigating the state of the dye at the molecular level. Analysis by liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy (LC-MS) has indicated that no degradation products associated with alizarin or purpurin, the main colorants in madder, are present in the discolored areas. Since the colorant molecules are still intact, they are not responsible for the color change. Thus, there is an unknown factor, or factors, that is causing the textiles to discolor – and it is this unknown factor that is the focus of this investigation.

The purpose of this project was to examine the problem from a ‘macro’ scale. The body of the report has been divided into a number of sections. Information was gathered to orient the reader to the history of the furnishings and their use, to describe the objects and assess their condition, and to examine the various pathways of degradation for cotton and madder. This will create a logical flow of information from which the preliminary hypotheses are drawn.

It is hoped that from these hypotheses a series of experimental investigations into the cause of the color shift can be formulated. As well, general suggestions for the storage and care of these and similar objects are presented at the end of the paper. As the problem is better understood, these general recommendations can become more targeted in the pursuit to halt and/or prevent such color shifts.

Located in the appendices are written and photographic documentation of the current condition of the furnishings. This information creates a baseline from which the condition of the curtains can be monitored for further changes. Thus, these images, along with the other information compiled here, can be of use in future investigations of these and similar color shifts.

Moody, Ellen. Stinks and stains: an evaluation of the threat posed to museum collections by Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs(Supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens)

This research project investigates the effects the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), orHalyomorpha halys, has on museum objects. A ubiquitous pest at Winterthur and other east coast museums, it is widely regarded as annoying, yet innocuous. However, BMSBs collected from an infestation at Winterthur last year were retained in a plastic bag and, after 24 hours, produced a brown-colored fluid. This raised alarm in Winterthur’s Preventive Team, prompting this study, the main goal of which was to determine how these secretions might affect materials in museum collections. This was achieved by an experimental procedure of exposing fragments of representative collections materials to live BMSBs in a controlled environment, as well as consultation with texts and experts. Analysis of the BMSB secretion was also performed with Gas Chromatography Mass Spectroscopy and pH extraction tests. The experiment demonstrated that the secretion forms brown stains when deposited on collection objects. Analyses showed that the secretion contained acidic materials, fatty acids and bacteria – all compounds that may have a negative long-term impact on materials if left unattended. Thus, BMSBs can potentially cause both immediate aesthetic damage and continuing harm to collections materials, which makes preventing their exposure to these pests critical to affected institutions. How to manage BMSB populations in buildings and how to detect and treat materials stained with BMSB secretions was also addressed, though both these topics require further research.

Since the BMSB was introduced to the United States in 1996, a multitude of entomological articles have been published on it and its impact on agriculture. To the author’s knowledge, the BMSB has not yet received attention in the art conservation literature. This project indicates that understanding its effects on collections is urgent, as it has a greater potential to damage collections than conventionally thought. Specifically, studying its life cycle, determining the sort of damage it creates, as well as how to detect this damage, will allow conservation professionals to determine whether a BMSB-targeted IPM strategy is needed for their collection.

O’Banion, Steven. Investigation into possible pest-attractive or deterrent qualities of dyes on Quills(Supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens and Dr. Christina Cole)

It has been noted anecdotally that pests, such as Dermestid beetles, sometimes preferentially eat specific colors of quillwork and textiles made from proteinaceous fibers. These observations have led some to question if certain dyes either attract or deter pests. However, no formal survey has been previously conducted correlating pest damage to dye color.

Color-specific pest damage is quite visually disruptive, as it often alters the overall readability of an object. Further, the removal of specific components can undermine an object’s structural integrity. Knowing if specific dyes or classes of dyes attract or repel pests will benefit conservators and collections-care staff by allowing them to take preventative measures to protect their vulnerable items.

This study investigated trends between dye color and pest damage on primarily pre-1856 Eastern Woodlands porcupine quillwork. Objects were examined in person and via images. In-person examinations were determined to be superior as they allowed for relative amounts of damage to be taken into account. Based on objects examined in person at the Penn Museum, white and blue quills were preferentially attacked by pests, while red and yellow quills exhibited less damage.

Pests preferred to eat the quills that were blocked from light and/or soiled, indicating that factors other than the colorant must be considered. Based on objects examined via images, black quills were eaten less frequently than undyed white quills, while blue, red, and yellow quills were eaten more frequently. While the colorants used on some of these objects were known, no trends relating specific colorants to pest damage were observed. A collection of pipe stems from the Missouri River area suggested that trends noted for Eastern Woodlands quillwork may hold true for quillwork in other regions. Additional in-person examinations, combined with further scientific analysis of the colorants used on Eastern Woodlands quillwork, would help corroborate or contradict the trends observed in this study.

Promise, Ellen. Preventive concentration research project. 3D archival storage: practical guidelines for a small museum(Supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens)

This independent study satisfies one of the requirements of the Additional Concentration in Preventive Conservation offered by the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation.The primary research goal is to synthesize available information to provide a useful set of guidelines for storing a small collection. Secondary research goals are to address what storage materials are appropriate or inappropriate for use in housing museum collections and what methodology has been employed to establish a material's suitability or lack thereof for use in housing museum objects. To answer these questions, a literature review and several site visits to local historic institutions have been undertaken.

The guidelines produced by this study will be targeted to a rehousing project in the Winterthur Museum Archives. The archives, under the care of Archivist and Records Manager Heather Clewell, currently include approximately 600 three-dimensional objects in need of more appropriate storage housings. Some objects are resting on shelves out in the open, while others are resting on file cabinets. The collection is diverse and includes fragile materials, such as samples of human hair and pressed flowers, as well as more robust artifacts of metal or ceramic. Some objects present unique storage challenges because of their size or unusual shape. Examples include several saddles with straps and a set of golf clubs. Space is a limiting factor in considering options for new housings. Cost is also an important factor. Creative and efficient solutions are necessary.

Fall 2009

Barnes, LeeAnn. Qualifying preventive conservation at archaeological excavations(Supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens)

This study was designed to explore some of the current relationships between the disciplines of conservation and archaeology. The primary goal was to identify activities that fall under the category of preventive care. In addition to a review of literature, investigations included a survey on archaeological conservation for both conservators and archaeologists and personal interviews with experienced archaeological conservators. Through these references, it was discovered that ambiguity exists over the term preventive care as it applies to archaeological conservation.

A review of the following conservation activities with an expanded notion of preventive care is presented: planning, supplies and materials, on-site lifting of finds, packing, transportation, finds processing, safety, surveys, storage, monitoring, documentation, security, emergency planning, conservation awareness, training, education, and outreach. This review of conservation activities attempts to elucidate the places where conservation and preventive care can contribute within the complexities of the archaeological process. Ultimately, the manifestations of conservation activities at a field excavation are related to the perceptions of the role of conservation. A brief look at perceptions of the role of archaeological conservation is presented.

It appears that the integration of conservation into archaeological excavations is a changing and multi-dimensional endeavor. It is concluded that the discipline would be well served by periodical reflexive review of this dynamic relationship. General trends in professional organizations and heritage management indicate that the profile of conservation is rising and awareness is greater than in the past. In response to shifts in global heritage management, new directions for preventive conservation include the preservation of sites and artifactsin situ.This study moves towards "qualifying conservation at archaeological excavations" by examining ways that conservation can be incorporated into excavations and by assigning meaning to the term "preventive conservation" in field archaeology.

Daly, Rose. Conservation of materials and resources(Supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens)

In the current economic crisis and with issues such as oil shortages becoming headline news as they did in the 1970’s, art conservators and heritage building managers are looking for ways to save energy. In addition they are feeling the societal push to become more ‘green’. This study investigates how the environmental parameters required by a collection can be met using sustainable practices.

To save both energy and money it is possible to turn off Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. If the systems are turned off when the buildings are unoccupied it is more likely the conditions in the buildings will remain stable. By turning off HVAC systems for short periods of time, for example when the building is closed, the systems can be run in a more sustainable way. The project researched the practice of these short shut-downs, and included a three-day HVAC shut -down test at Winterthur.

Winterthur is a historic house that has 175 period rooms with various materials including: furniture, decorative arts, works of art on paper, books, paintings on wood and canvas, leather, basketry, glass, metals, and textiles. The building has thick masonry walls, insulation, and double pane windows. The HVAC was installed in the 1960’s. The parameters at Winterthur in the winter are: 68°F-72°F, Relative Humidity (RH) 40% +/- 5%; in the summer the parameters are: 72-75°F, RH 50% +/- 5%. These parameters are a conservative standard for the materials in this collection.

A mild week in September was chosen for the shutdown, as the outside conditions would be similar to the collection parameters. During the 12-hour shutdown it was decided that if there were trends in the temperature and humidity moving quickly away from the parameters the systems would be turned back on. Monitoring was done in a thorough and systematic way, with readings taken by: building thermostats, thirteen dataloggers, and the building engineers took readings every two hours with a hand-held hygrothermograph.

The shutdown was for 12-hours, the entire system was turned off from 6:00 PM until 6:00 AM, three nights were tested. The building temperature and RH remained within the parameters and the systems did not have to be turned on to regulate the environment. There were fluctuations, the overall trend was that temperatures were elevated a few degrees, and the RH was elevated a few percentages. The elevated temperature and RH is noticeable in the data charts, but when the data is examined in long time the changes during the shutdown are within the Winterthur environmental parameters.

Interviews with conservators, archivists, and building managers gave insight into similar practices that will or have been taken at other institutions. These professionals described their experiences shutting down systems for days, or weeks, in a variety of climates spanning the United States. They spoke positively about their experiences, the environment in their collections remained stable or improved and they saved energy and funds, in some cases thousands of dollars were saved. Data was also collected about system setbacks, and the buffering ability of buildings with no environmental control.

The success of these conservators and of the Winterthur test case may indicate to other museums the possibility of similar methods to save energy and funds while maintaining the environmental parameters required by their collection.

Roberts, Caroline. The effectiveness of Avalure AC 315 as a sacrificial graffiti barrier for marble surfaces(Supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens and Richard Wolbers)

Historic buildings, outdoor monuments and sculpture are especially prone to vandalism because of the public nature of their display. One of the more common forms of vandalism is graffiti. By definition graffiti represents any kind of graphic made on a surface, with aerosol spray paint being the most frequently encountered tagging medium. Tagging is a real problem from a preservation viewpoint, and Save Outdoor Sculpture, a Heritage Preservation initiative designed to engage the public in the protection of outdoor heritage, lists tagging as a condition criterion on both its Survey and Rapid Assessment forms (SOS website 2010).

A real challenge faced by conservators and industries that specialize in the care of outdoor monuments is that the techniques of removing graffiti can be as damaging as the tagging itself. Methods include pressure-washing, abrasive cleaning, as well as overpainting, all of which can be harmful to deteriorated stone surfaces (Webster 1992). In addition, common practices in chemical washing, in which chlorinated hydrocarbons, glycols and various polar solvents have been used, pose health and safety concerns for the technician removing the graffiti (Graffiti Hurts website 2010).

In response to the inherent difficulties of monitoring, protecting, and safely effacing the effects of vandalism from outdoor monuments, clear coating systems have been developed as a preventive measure against tagging. These systems are also referred to as graffiti barriers, or in cases where the coatings themselves are designed to be removed with the graffiti, as “sacrificial” graffiti barriers. Investigations into the benefits of sacrificial barrier coatings began in the 1960’s and 70’s as the occurrence of graffiti in major cities began to rise (Tarnowski 2007). The results of these studies are mixed. Natural and synthetic polymeric coatings in different solvents have been tested for their protective capabilities, but were found to result in changes in the stone’s physical properties, including appearance and moisture permeability. These coatings were also shown to have varying degrees of reversibility (Ashurst 2002).

There is a clear need for a protective coating that minimally changes the surface appearance and physical properties of stone, and that is easily reversible. Even if a coating meets these standards the question remains whether such a coating could be removed in a way that is less harmful to the person doing the cleaning, as well as the stone substrate. The main purpose of this study is to determine whether Avalure AC 315 meets the standards required in a sacrificial graffiti barrier, and to determine if aqueous cleaning methods can be used to remove it.

Spring 2009

Guidess, Gretchen. Devising storage mount prototype(s) for the textiles of the DeBraak Collection(Supervised by Dr. Joelle Wickens and Bruno Pouliot)

This project is a link, in a very long chain, of conservation study and analysis performed on a group of textile fragments that were found at a marine archeological site. TheDeBraakCollection came from the underwater wreck site of theDeBraak, a British ship that sank off the coast of Delaware in 1789. The entire collection numbers over 20,000 pieces and approximately 30% of the ship’s hull. The textile portion of the collection consists of about 250 flat fragments and about six larger costume fragments that retain some three dimensionality. Textile specimens were brought to Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation in 2000 for the purpose of fiber analysis and documentation. A succession of students attempted to identify fibers and weave structure in an effort to connect the information with possible use on ship. (Szuhay, 2000; Peranteau and Larochette, 2003; McClosky, 2004; Ritschel and Sahmel, 2005). With the material investigated and the reports complete, it was recommended that the collection would benefit from preventive conservation planning. (Sahmel, 2005)

During the Spring 2009 semester, as part of the requirements towards an additional concentration in preventive conservation, storage methods and techniques currently in use in both archeological and textile collections were investigated. This afforded an opportunity to examine storage housings employed in textile collections in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, a review of literature that dealt specifically with the storage of archeological textile fragments was undertaken. This augmented discussions with conservators and also broadened the study to include European methods and practices. This project culminated in development of a prototype for theDeBraaktextile fragments. Two examples and detailed instructions for making the passive storage mounts were produced. The prototypes were designed to work within existing storage cabinetry, and available space, while incorporating additional buffering material and increase protection, at the object level, against dust infiltration and light exposure. The final project report included instructions on how to implement rehousing using volunteer support, a source list for the materials needed, an estimate of material amounts, and minimum budget requirements to complete the rehousing project.

Subsequently, the 250 flat fragments were rehoused by volunteers using the rehousing plan. Their work insures access for study, improves finding aids in this part of the collection, and minimizes the risks of damage. The project highlighted the challenges of preventive care for archeological textiles; maintaining what remains in as close to an unchanged state as when it was found. Talking with conservators, whose charge it is to care for this material, underscored the fact that even ‘passive’ acts such as storing material can have devastating and lasting effects on these objects, at times even worse than treatment intervention.​

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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489