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News Student Blog: Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts

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Calcium phytate complexes with reactive iron (II) ions to rinse them out of the paper and prevent iron-catalyzed degradation. The vibrant yellow water being poured out of the bath indicates degradation products and inducers have been removed from the paper. (Image courtesy of Gillian Marcus.)

You know it is going to be an exciting summer when you begin treatment of nine screenprints by Andy Warhol and a three-color lithograph by Paul Cezanne in the first week of your internship. Such was the case for my 8-week internship at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA), the beginning of my year-long Grand Tour of Philadelphia’s paper conservation labs.

I began to refer to my time at CCAHA as my “Summer of Firsts” since the subsequent seven weeks were as packed with new and thrilling challenges as the first. Among my hopes for my third year of graduate study was to acquire my first hands-on experience with the treatment of screenprints, parchment, platinum prints, and photographic albums, as well as with phytate treatments for iron gall ink. With many thanks to my amazing supervisors at the Center and the incredibly knowledgeable staff, I was able to experience all of these in the first of my three internships.

My most extensive treatment project of the summer involved a pair of platinum prints mounted on acidic boards. The mounts featured text identifying the photographer indicating they were original to the photographs. Unfortunately, both objects had experienced severe water damage and the mounts were no longer stable. Treatment involved removing the photographic prints from the mounts, bathing them to reduce stains and degradation products, and mending tears.

In order to separate the photographs from their damaged mounts, I had to use very thin, long spatulas to mechanically reduce layers of the acidic board (left). Once the mount was reduced to only a few layers (center) the object was immersed in a bath to soften the mounting adhesive. The final layers of the mount were then peeled away from the back, leaving the freed photographic print (right). (Images courtesy of Barbara Lemmen.)

The platinum prints were mounted onto new boards printed on archival materials.

I was able to work with CCAHA’s digital imaging team to create replica mounts onto which the treated photographs could be mounted. The replicas were created by taking high resolution images of the damaged originals and transferring the original text to a new document with the same format. The new document featured colors chosen to be compatible with both photographs and to approximate the color of the original mounts prior to light and water damage. After remounting, losses along tears or abrasions were isolated with dilute wheat starch paste and inpainted to match surrounding areas. Due to the many steps and drying times for this project, my treatment extended into the last week of August. As such, the official after treatment photographs are still forthcoming. A sneak preview taken with my camera phone can be seen below.

The next step for the photographs is to be framed with CCAHA’s signature sealed package before heading home. The next step for me is six months at the Philadelphia Museum of Art followed by five months at the American Philosophical Society. One city, three brilliant but vastly different institutions, and a whole world of possibilities and challenges. If my summer was any indication I am off to another great adventure.

— Joanna Hurd, WUDPAC Class of 2020

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In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2020 Fellow Joanna Hurd discusses starting her graduate internship experience and a summer treating prints by Warhol and Cezanne at Philadelphia’s Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts.

In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2020 Fellow Joanna Hurd discusses starting her graduate internship experience and a summer treating prints by Warhol and Cezanne at Philadelphia’s Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts.

9/2/2019
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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