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ECPN Interview: Textiles with Annabelle Camp

ECPN Interview: Textiles with Annabelle Camp

A new series from AIC's Emerging Conservation Professionals Network highlights specializations that require particular training. WUDPAC Class of 2022 Fellow Annabelle Camp is the first interview in their textile series.
 
Art conservation and mending the past

Art conservation and mending the past

Kaeley Ferguson, a library and archives conservation major, became the most recent WUDPAC Fellow to treat a volume from a 19th-century diary series in the Winterthur Library collection.
 
Conservation in action

Conservation in action

​Time-lapse video of WUDPAC students cleaning a 400-year-old Turkish rug is the newest addition to the Department of Art Conservation's Instagram account.​​
 
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Student Blog: Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library

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A teacher and student standing on the front steps of an old house.

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Senior Furniture Conservator Kathy Gillis & WUDPAC Student Riley Cruttenden at Winterthur's Old Gate House.​

​Over an eight-week period this summer I researched and analyzed architectural components of a circa 1902 gatehouse on the Winterthur Museum estate in New Castle County, Delaware. The focus of this examination was to improve our understanding of the house's original wooden shutters. How were they painted over time? The paint is currently in poor condition: peeling, chalking, and delaminating, leaving exposed wood that is vulnerable to decay. What are viable options for preserving the shutters? The Winterthur estate historian and facilities team determined that the building should be restored to the way it appeared in the late 1960's – the last portion of H. F. du Pont's life, and the last period that he would have been involved in making aesthetic decisions about the property. No photographs or records document how the building appeared during that time. So, as Winterthur preserves and repaints the building's shutters, what color should the shutters be painted?

Working with Winterthur librarians, furniture and objects conservators, the facilities team, and conservation scientists, we were able to build evidence of how the gate house changed over time and provide guidance for care of the shutters. We identified five periods of paint on the shutters and even identified a painting firm and individual painters likely associated with those periods of paint. With a reasonable degree of confidence, we have determined that the shutters were painted a deep, forest green with accents of very pale sage green during the late 1960's. After improving our understanding of the buildup of paint over time, we proceeded to treatment testing. One of the treatment challenges with the shutters is the extensive use of lead pigments on earlier layers. The layers with lead are failing the most and creating a health and environmental hazard. With full OSHA safety recommendations in place, we tested removing the paint with solvents and with heat tools. Mechanical removal with the aid of heat, followed by solvent applications for residual paint worked the best. We consulted colleagues at Colonial Williamsburg who care for many outdoor, painted structures to identify a high-performance paint with good color fastness and with minimal thickness. Minimizing the thickness of paint is essential for the maintenance of historic outdoor structures, as paint layers will become thick over time, obscure carved details, and create new problems. The results of our analysis and testing were compiled into a 30-page report, with condensed versions to follow. The goal of the condensed reports is to help provide justification to hire contractors to conduct thorough treatment and repainting of the shutters.

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A front view of the old gatehouse, and a photo of the student and a staff member on an aerial forklift, approaching the second floor of the gatehouse.

Left: Winterthur's Old Gate House​. (Image: Riley Cruttenden) Right: WUDPAC Student Riley Cruttenden ​working with the Winterthur facilities team to sample from windows on the second story. (Photo: Kathy Gillis​​)​

​Over the course of the summer, I also started a Tik Tok channel to highlight our work on the gate house. The channel features 1 to 3 minute videos that explain various steps of our project. The videos are aimed at a general audience, who may not be familiar with the field of conservation. In total, videos on the channel have received over 3,900 views. I have received communications on and off the app about what viewers have learned from the channel. Both the summer work project itself and sharing the project on Tik Tok have been deeply rewarding. With this analysis and the commitment of a very dedicated facilities team, I am optimistic that our recommended care plan will find funding and that the shutters will return to the deep green and pale green colors that they were painted under the discerning eye of H. F. du Pont. Thank you very much for supporting the WUDPAC program and helping to make projects like this possible. ​

— Riley Cruttenden , WUDPAC Class of 2023

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The student applying a thin putty to areas of paint loss on a green shutter.

Riley Cruttenden​ stabilizing degraded paint on the raised panel shutters on the first floor of the gatehouse​.

See videos of Riley's summer work project on their tik tok channel @queer_conservation) or at the links below:

Link 1

Link 2

Link 3

Link 4

Link 5​

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Our thanks to the host institutions and to Conserv for helping our students expand their conservation understanding and experience.

Winterthur is the premier museum of American decorative arts, with an unparalleled collection of nearly 90,000 objects made or used in America since 1640. The collection is displayed in a magnificent 175-room house, much as it was when the family of founder Henry Francis du Pont called it home. Winterthur is also 1,000 acres of protected meadows, woodlands, ponds, and waterways. The 60-acre garden, designed by du Pont, includes magnificent plantings and massive displays of color throughout the year. The graduate degree programs and extensive research library make Winterthur an important center for the study of American art and culture. You can learn more about the museum and grounds on the Winterthur website.

Conserv Solutions Inc. is a tech startup based in Birmingham, Alabama. Conserv is working to create a comprehensive platform for preventive conservation that involves integrating risk management for environment, pests, disasters, and other agents of deterioration into a single tool. The company started with the creation of wireless sensors for relative humidity, temperature, and light that feed into collections-specific data analytic tools. They are currently working on software for integrated pest management, leak detection monitoring, building management system (BMS) sensor integration, and energy usage integration for sustainability measures. Conserv is eager to partner with researchers and practitioners in our field to build the next generation of sensors and software for cultural heritage preservation. You can learn more about Conserv by visiting their website.​​

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Used in the Home Page News Listing and for the News Rollup Page
​Three members of the WUDPAC Class of 2023 spent their summers at internships supported by Conserv Solutions Inc. In this blog post, Riley Cruttenden talks about their experience researching paint from a gatehouse at the Winterthur Museum estate.
10/15/2021
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