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News ARTC research and outreach in the spotlight

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​Left: Undergraduate summer intern Layla Huff of Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD, uses XRF spectrosco­ py to scan bookcloth in the Winterthur general collection stacks. Layla was the HBCU Library Preservation Intern (a paid internship) at Winterthur in summer 2019. Center: Sara Leonowitz scanning bookcloth. Sara is an undergraduate majoring in Art Conservation at the University of Delaware and interned on the project for course credit in summer 2019. Right: One of the Winterthur books that tested positive for arsenical bookcloth, being handling appropriately with nitrile gloves as PPE. Images courtesy of Melissa Tedone.

The newest issue of News in Conservation, published by the International Institute for Conservation, spotlights two important research and outreach projects led by ARTC faculty and students. The first News in Conservation article discusses The Poison Book Project led by Dr. Melissa Tedone, lab head for book and library materials conservation at the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library and an affiliated associate professor in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conser­ vation (WUDPAC). This study of mass-produced book bindings discovered a hidden hazard in library collections. From the IIC article:

Rustic Adornments for Homes of Taste (1857) had been requested for exhibit in the Win­terthur galleries, and while working under the microscope to remove a waxy accretion, [Dr. Tedone] was surprised to see the bright green colorant flake readily from the bookcloth with even the gentlest touch of [her] porcupine quill. [She] began to wonder whether this bright green hue came from a pigment rather than a dye, and if that might account for the lack of co­hesion in the bookcloth's colored starch coating. Aware of recent literature about Victori­an wallpapers, apparel, and other household goods colored with toxic emerald green pigment, a dubious concern grew in [her] mind: could this same toxic pigment have been used to color nineteenth-century bookcloth?

In Winterthur's Scientific Re­search and Analysis Lab, Dr. Rosie Grayburn conducted X-ray fluorescence spectros­copy (XRF) on Rustic Adorn­ments and identified the strong presence of arsenic and copper in the book­ cloth. She followed the ele­mental analysis with Raman spectroscopy, confirming the compound copper acetoarsenite, or emerald green pigment. This revela­tion halted [Dr. Tedone's] treatment efforts and spurred [them] to create the Poison Book Pro­ject, an investigation of po­tentially toxic pigments used to color Victorian-era book­ cloth. Working with library staff and conservation in­ terns, [they] analyzed over 400 cloth-case publisher's bind­ings in both the circulating and rare book collections at Winterthur Library. After an initial test batch in a range of colors, [they] decided to focus exclusively on green book­ cloth for the initial phase of the project. [They] identified nine books bound in arsenical emeraldgreen cloth, four of which had been housed in the circulating collection. 

To learn more about hazardous nineteenth-century bindings found in the collections of Winterthur and elsewhere, the safety ramifications of these items and recommendations for identification and handling, read the full story in the News in Conservation issue here.

​Images: The photograph conservation workshop at Casa de Oswaldo Cruz. Images courtesy of Debra Hess Norris.

​The second article looks at the ongoing collaboration between UD's Department of Art Conservation and APOYOnline—an organization dedicated to strengthening networks among cultural heritage professionals in Latin America, the Caribbean, and other Spanish- and Portugese-speaking countries—and APOYOnline's recent 30th anniversary conference and workshop on heritage preservation. From the IIC article by Dr. Claudia S.Rodrigues de Carvalho, a member of the organizing committee and the coordinator of the Casa de Rui Bar­ bosa Preventive Conservation Plan:

The conference key-note speaker was [ARTC Chair and] Professor Debra Hess Norris from the University of Delaware. The confer­ence's themes were cooperation networks, preventive con­ servation, risk management, professional training and edu­cation in preservation, and digitalization and digital preser­vation, all of which were discussed in four panels over two days. Panel 1 was on networking and communication... panel 2 was on digitization and digital preservation, panel 3 was on professional development and preservation education, and Panel 4 was on preventive conservation and risk manage­ment.... After visits to the National Library, the Public Archives of the State of Rio de Janeiro, and the Historic Architecture Center of Manguinhos, the conference's closing ceremony was held at Casa de Oswaldo Cruz, where Debra Hess Norris and Nora Kennedy de­livered a lecture on the preservation of photographic materials.

During the last two days of the celebration, the photograph conservation workshop took place at Casa de Oswaldo Cruz, with 60 participants and a team of specialists and instructors including Debra Hess Norris, Nora Kennedy, Ronel Namde (J. Paul Getty Museum), Sarah Freeman (J. Paul Getty Museum), and Amber Kehoe (The Harry Ransom Center). As part of the program, the lnstituto Moreira Salles hosted the participants for a visit to see its photographic collection. The conference gathered professionals and students from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Co­lombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Spain, the United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Canada, Por­tugal, and Spain.... Besides presenting the important work of cultural heritage professionals throughout the Americas, the Caribbean, and Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries around the world, the event also gave us a sense of accomplishment in im­ proving the careers of the future generation of professionals in preservation cultural heritage; approximately 30% of reg­istered participants were students from various training programs in preservation/conservation from Brazil, Latin America, and Portugal.

To read the full articles and view the entire News in Conservation issue, click here.

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The newest issue of IIC's News in Conservation spotlights two important research and outreach projects led by ARTC faculty and students.

The newest issue of IIC's News in Conservation spotlights two important research and outreach projects led by ARTC faculty and students.

4/8/2020
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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489
  • art-conservation@udel.edu