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News Student Blog: WUDPAC Class of 2022 Photographic Materials Block

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First-Year WUDPAC Fellows Katie Rovito (she/her) (left) and Magdalena Solano (she/her) (right), remove surface grime from photographic collections.

During the Photographic Materials Block, the WUDPAC Class of 2022, joined by visiting students, teachers and friends, were able to treat four photographic collections: an archival collection of 35 mm color slides and Polaroids belonging to fashion designer, Stephen Sprouse; a photo album from St. Croix documenting Central and South America at the end of the 19th-century; the Cecile Barefield Jefferson Collection, from the archives of Fisk University; and a group of photographs from La Casa Del Boxeador (The House of the Boxer) in Puerto Rico. Over the course of two and a half weeks, the group treated a record 1500 individual objects, donating time and resources, while learning the history and chemistry of photographic processes.

Students were split into project management teams, responsible for organizing one of the four projects. Each team documented their collection and developed a treatment protocol, which the rest of the group carried out. This allowed each participant to have hands-on experience with objects from each collection. The teams were joined by two undergraduate University of Delaware (UD) students, two recent photographic conservation graduates, and a visiting PhD candidate in art history. Visiting lecturers also offered their thoughts and hands, assisting with particularly tricky aspects of treatment. This collaborative effort brought together conservators at different stages in their careers, all working together towards the same goal of preserving these unique collections. Jalena Jampolsky, who is in the curatorial track of UD’s art history PhD program, offered a valuable perspective, and made our classroom a more dynamic learning space, while aiding in historical research for all of the collections.

The collections treated during the block were incredibly diverse, not only in material type but historical context. Thus, they posed unique challenges for the class to overcome as a whole. From 1980 punk-rock fashion, to the beloved boxing champions of Puerto Rico, these collections inspired us to think in a global way.

From left to right: Allison Kelley (she/her), Margalit Schindler (they/them), Rachel Bissonnette (she/her) and Abby Rodriguez (she/her), First-Year WUDPAC Fellows, examine 35mm color slides from the archives of Stephen Sprouse at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields.

Stephen Sprouse was known for his edgy, androgynous, punk-rock looks and designed for artists including Duran Duran and Blondie. The archive of Stephen Sprouse at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfield’s contains Polaroids and color 35 mm slides, which show studio models and runway shots, and include handwritten notes for each design. They were stored in degraded polyvinyl chloride sleeves which were causing damage to the contents. Participants rehoused six binders worth of material, and created a condition database for the institution to use for further research.

The bound album from the Whim Museum, St. Croix Landmarks Society contains photographs from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (1884-1900). It is part of a collection of four albums donated to the Whim Museum by members of the Bartrum family, who were co-owners of a shipping company in the West Indies. The family did business throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean, and the photographic album includes albumen and silver gelatin developing-out prints (DOP) and printing-out prints (POP) photographs from these locations. The photographs in the album presented different challenges and were cleaned in-situ. A uniquely engineered collapsible cradle was designed and built for safe viewing and display. In partnership with CCAHA, the album will be digitized this summer in hopes of continued research.

Cecile B. Jefferson (ca. 1882-1971), was a graduate of Fisk University, a historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee. Miss Jefferson served the institution for forty-nine years as Matron of the Dining Hall and Dean of Women and was an active member of the Fisk University community. The photo archive documents an African American family, their friends, and life at Fisk University. In addition to professional studio portraits, a majority of the collection is gelatin silver developed-out prints taken by an amateur photographer, likely Ms. Jefferson herself. The staggering 922 items in this collection, including albums and framed objects, were cleaned, organized, and rehoused.

La Casa del Boxeador is a nonprofit organization founded in 1969 by former Puerto Rican champion boxers Sixto Escobar, the first Puerto Rican undisputed world boxing champion, and Pedro Montañez. The organization serves as a place for the boxing community to gather socially and receive many services, including financial management, health, housing, mental health, and English language skills. Part of the mission of La Casa del Boxeador is to develop the Historical Archive of Puerto Rican Boxing with its collection of memorabilia to preserve and promote boxing heritage. The collection of photographs, including silver gelatin DOPs, chromogenic prints, and digital prints from La Casa del Boxeador, visually exemplifies the rich history of the organization and its engagement with the community and athletes. The photographs document social gatherings, award ceremonies, training, and matches; many have inscriptions identifying the people, places, dates, and locations. The photographs are a small part of an extensive collection and were cleaned, rehoused, and placed in archival boxes for easy storage and access.

The Class of 2022 is grateful to all of the institutions who allowed us to treat their collections.  We also send our wishes to our colleagues and friends at La Casa del Boxeador and the rest of Puerto Rico, who are recovering from the recent earthquakes that devastated the island.  

Margalit Schindler 

First-Year Conservation Fellow

WUDPAC Class of 2022

(they/them)

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During the WUDPAC Class of 2022 photo conservation block, students treated 1,500 objects while learning the history and chemistry of photographic processes.

During the WUDPAC Class of 2022 photo conservation block, students treated 1,500 objects while learning the history and chemistry of photographic processes.
2/3/2020
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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