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News Student Blog: Hispanic Society of America

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Left: ARTC undergraduate student Miriam-Helene Rudd sifting through condition reports. Center: Documentation associated with each crate noting contents, changes, datalogger, etc. Right: Map of storage locations of crates when at the HSA. (Pictures: Joyce Lee Goldstein, Miriam-Helene Rudd)

In this blog post, ARTC undergraduate student Miriam-Helene Rudd discusses her internship at the Hispanic Society of America, including her work tracking the environmental conditions of artworks during shipping and international travel:


I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work at the Hispanic Society of America this past summer, where I interned under objects conservator Monica Katz. Founded in 1904 by scholar and collector Archer Milton Huntington, the HSA continues to serve as a library, museum, and immense resource on the culture and art of the Spanish-speaking world. The museum is currently closed to the public due to necessary roof repairs, but a traveling exhibit has introduced international museumgoers to their incredible collection. When I began my internship, Tesoros de la Hispanic Society of America – the exhibit which premiered at the Prado in Spring 2017 – was being installed in Mexico City. It was very interesting to be at the museum during ongoing construction and while a large part of the collection was either in crates or abroad!

My role was primarily to assist with a data-gathering project begun by Monica Katz in conjunction with the traveling exhibit. She had placed dataloggers inside and outside the 70+ crates that stored and transported the artworks. These recorded the environmental conditions (temperature and relative humidity) as the crates travelled internationally and encountered drastic shifts in climate. The intention of this ongoing study is to analyze the effect of different packing materials and object types on the buffering capacity of crates, and to more broadly explore appropriate climate conditions.

​Left: Crate for St. Michael Archangel, Ecuador 1700-1750, polychromed and gilded wood. Center: Crate for Mapamundi, Juan Vespucci, Sevilla, Spain, ca. 1526, ink and color on four sheets of parchment. Right: Empty crate opened for examination. (Pictures: Monica Katz, Miriam-Helene Rudd)

Graph displaying the discrepancy between the temperature and relative humidity of the interior and exterior of crate BA19, with key dates highlighted.

Before I could begin to analyze the data I first had to gain an understanding of the exhibit and crates. To do so, I sifted though and organized information pertaining to what objects were placed in which crates, what crates were sent in which shipment, the variety of materials and the various layers of packing used for each crate, the location of the dataloggers within the crates, when crates were opened, closed, moved, or altered, and more. I compiled many graphic organizers, drawing on information gleaned from paper trails, photographs, and questions posed to the conservation team and other staff, all of whom were always generous with their time.

Data is still being collected as the exhibit continues to travel – now on to its third location in Albuquerque, NM – so rather than analyze a finite and complete data set my job was to establish a framework that could later be expanded. For this assignment I drew upon my experience of writing a climate report for ARTC 301, Care and Preservation of Cultural Property, as well as all I learned from that course about dataloggers and environmental factors. For the task at the Hispanic Society I ultimately produced a variety of graphs, mainly those that displayed the changes in relative humidity and temperature over time for each crate both in isolation and as compared to the external conditions. Other graphs presented the data from multiple crates in order to compare variables such as packing material, object type, etc. and their effect on the buffering capacity.

​Rudd cleaning recto and verso of Palmgrove, Elche. (Pictures: Hélène Fontoira)

​In addition to my efforts with the data, I also had the opportunity to work with paintings and sculpture conservator Hélène Fontoira under whose guidance I cleaned Palgrove, Elche. The oil painting was completed in Spain in 1930 by artist José María López Mezquita, but had been sitting in storage and over time had acquired a layer of dust and grime. I used the studio's Nilfisk vacuum and a wide brush to clean the rear exposed canvas, and distilled water and cotton swabs to clean the front. Multiple rounds were required to fully clean the surfaces, and for one particularly stubborn line on the front I used a tiny swab and saliva. Though time consuming, it was a very rewarding process. By the end the entire scene had brightened – it was as if the sun had come out from behind a cloud!

​Left: Palmgrove, Elche – below line untouched, above line first round of cleaning. Right: Palmgrove, Elche – clean! (Pictures: Miriam-Helene Rudd)

I want to thank Monica Katz and Hélène Fontoira for welcoming me into their workspace and for all they taught me. I would also like to thank Dr. Vicki Cassman for introducing me to this internship and for providing me with a base of knowledge I consistently drew upon. This summer opened my eyes to the non-treatment-based work of conservators, and I found that I equally enjoyed the preventative and paintings conservation aspects of my time at the museum. I am thrilled to be returning to the Hispanic Society of America this winter, and I look forward to assisting with any new projects that might come my way!

— Miriam-Helene Rudd, UD Class of 2021

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In this blog post, ARTC undergraduate student Miriam-Helene Rudd discusses her internship at the Hispanic Society of America, including her work tracking the environmental conditions of artworks during shipping and international travel.

In this blog post, ARTC undergraduate student Miriam-Helene Rudd discusses her internship at the Hispanic Society of America, including her work tracking the environmental conditions of artworks during shipping and international travel.

12/22/2018
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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