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News Vicki Cassman Undergraduate Art Conservation Symposium

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​Left: Dr. Vicki Cassman and students practice packing techniques for the Australopithecus afarensis skeleton known as “Lucy.” Right: Dr. Dilia Lopez- Gydosh (far right), Director of UD's Historic Textile and Costume Collection, consults on an undergraduate project.

Please join us in the Winterthur Rotunda for our first Undergraduate Art Conservation Symposium, where students from across the university will present a series of talks summarizing research and treatment projects undertaken in the Department of Art Conservation. The full schedule of talks is below; for more information please contact Dr. Jocelyn Alcántara-García (joceag@udel.edu).


First Vicki Cassman Undergraduate Art Conservation Symposium

February 6, 2019. 4-6:45 pm in the Rotunda at the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library

Session 1 – Research

4:00 – 4:05 pm   Introductory Remarks

4:05 – 4:25 pm   Compilation on Pile Rugs, Untying Restoration from Current Conservation Practices (AnnaLivia McCarthy)

4:25 – 4:45 pm   Bridging Textile Conservation and Chemistry: Structural Elucidation of Dye Complexes/Lakes (Rachel Dunscomb)

4:45 – 5:05 pm   X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy of Copper-Organic Interactions Related to Cultural Heritage Collections (Emma Heath)

5:05 – 5:15 pm   Break

Session 2 – Preventive and Treatment

5:15 – 5:35 pm   Making a Mount: Preserving the American Flag from the Matthew Henson North Pole Diorama (Vivien Barnett)

5:35 – 5:55 pm   A summer at Curatorial Assistance – Digital and Physical Cleaning of Photographs (Hannah Blank)

5:55 – 6:00 pm   Break

6:00 – 6:20 pm   Inpainting for a 19th-century Thai Painting (Sydney Cole)

6:20 – 6:40 pm   The Treatment of a Pinto-Gila Polychrome Vessel: Problem-solving during the 2018 Arizona State Museum Pottery Blitz (Bellie Fichtner)

6:40 – 6:45 pm   Closing Remarks

​Presentation Abstracts

Session 1 – Research

Compilation on Pile Rugs, Untying Restoration from Current Conservation Practices (AnnaLivia McCarthy)

The pile rug has a unique status unlike all other textiles. It has been studied as a utilitarian object, artwork, product of trade, and prized collectable. The restoration and conservation of pile rugs is an equally complicated history blurred by parallel treatment and preservation methods. The uniqueness of pile rugs cannot be attributed to a single factor. The scope of this research is limited to the structural stability and compensation of visual loss in pile rugs. Construction, material, history, and previous care compound their complexity and allure. The goal of this research is to create a compilation on the methods in conservation and restoration of pile rugs from 1990 to present. In 1990, the Textile Museum in Washington D.C. hosted a symposium on the conservation of Oriental rugs. While the goal of the symposium was to spark further dialogue on the subject, published literature has since been sparse. My methods of examination are two-fold. Firstly, my research reviews the papers of the symposium and case studies published subsequently to create a literature review. Secondly, interviews with experienced conservators and restorers glean further insight, which is then compared to the information found in the literature review. Conclusions will draw on changes to practice over time and similarities and differences between current methods in conservation and restoration.

Bridging Textile Conservation and Chemistry: Structural Elucidation of Dye Complexes/Lakes (Rachel Dunscomb)

Metal salts called mordants have been included in textile dyeing to enhance the color and/or stability of the dye and in lake pigment production as part of the insoluble substrate to which the dye is bonded. Although there are reports on the chemistry between mordants and dyes that assume bonding between the dye and metal center, this bonding remains to be fully elucidated. Focusing on red anthraquinone dyes and a potassium aluminum sulfate (alum) mordant, this research sought to investigate the molecular structure of lake pigments using solution and solid state 1H, 13C, and 27Al nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction (XRD). Synthesis of model compounds through the reaction between alum with madder (alizarin, purpurin) and cochineal (carminic acid) suggested the importance of an alkaline solution for solubility purposes, as indicated by all applicable historical lake recipes which include an alkali. So far, the carminic acid complex without an added alkali seems to be a uniform hexacoordinated chelate. In addition, both the carminic acid and alizarin show a shift in color demonstrating a change in the electronics of the chromophore due to the presence of the metal ion. Although quality crystals for XRD are yet to be fully characterized, early results with NMR show that this ongoing project will shed light on the structure of natural dye lakes.

X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy of Copper-Organic Interactions Related to Cultural Heritage Collections (Emma Heath)

This ongoing project aims to investigate the role of copper-organic interactions within the accelerated degradation of historically relevant materials, such as verdigris watercolors and cellulose mordanted with copper sulfate. This project uses X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS), supplemented with Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (TOF-SIMS). Results from this investigation will be applied to historic collections and the development of conservation treatments for cultural heritage materials.

Session 2 – Preventive and Treatment

Making a Mount: Preserving the American Flag from the Matthew Henson North Pole Diorama (Vivien Barnett)

During the ARTC-464 Paintings Conservation Internship, and in addition to on paintings conservation, I performed a preventive treatment. Under the supervision of Dr. Joyce Hill Stoner and Laura Mina, I created a mount for the shattered American flag that was part of one of the African American dioramas from the Tuskegee Legacy Museum, too fragile to reattach to the diorama. After discussing my goals with my supervisors and William Donnelly (Textile Conservation Studio), we decided to create a pressure mount as a sealed package because it would be the least invasive and visually distracting method suitable for both storage and display. I created a prototype of my mount to ensure that this method would work, using a sample of shattered silk to represent the flag. The layers of the mount consisted of a padded board made with polyester batting and a blue, plain-weave cotton show fabric over mat-board, Optium Acrylic as a substitute for glass, and layers of blue board and Coroplast to fill out the space in the frame. The package was sealed with J-Lar tape so that the layers can be seen from the sides and to maintain even pressure for the flag to be mounted. Once I saw that this method was a success, I created my final mount. I also had a reproduction flag digitally printed to insert into the diorama in its place.

A summer at Curatorial Assistance – Digital and Physical Cleaning of Photographs (Hannah Blank)

E.O. Hoppé was an English travel photographer who was active around the turn of the nineteenth century. Graham Howe, Curatorial Assistance's CEO, acquired Hoppé's collection from a photographic library after they were mixed in with stock photos. During the summer of 2018, I was employed by this company. At the time I was working, we were focusing on an Hoppé's exhibit that will to travel to Australia. My main focus was on cleaning (both physical and digital) photographs. Although the digital cleaning made up the bulk of my work, I also did physical cleaning. For digital cleaning, I used several photoshop techniques to remove scratches, dust, and make high-tech revisions of some of Hoppé's own low-tech corrections, e.g. he was very fond of scribbling things he didn't like out on his negatives with pencil. It is interesting to consider what digital restoration might mean for preserving the artist's intent while also preventing unnecessary interference. Physical cleaning, on the other hand, involved de-silvering and de-pinking the negatives, which were fragile after a hundred years.

Inpainting for a 19th-century Thai Painting (Sydney Cole)

This presentation will discuss inpainting materials and approaches for ACP 1645, Buddha Descending from Tavatimsa, owned by the Walters Art Museum. I have been carrying out retouching on this painting since early July 2018. The painting formerly belonged to Doris Duke and was stored in her New Jersey residence where it sustained damage during a hurricane.  This large two-piece panel painting has been in the paintings conservation studio at Winterthur since February 2016. Upon arrival, it had to stay in a horizontal position because much of the paint was flaking off.  The technical examination of the painting and the design for consolidation was carried out by Ellen Nigro (WUDPAC, class of 2018); consolidation was carried out by a number of students and was finished in December 2017 by Paula Pérez-Benito, a visiting doctoral student from Valencia, Spain.  Pérez-Benito also suggested using Golden Qor paints (soluble in water, ethanol, or acetone) and inpainted a small test triangle in the upper left. After approval of this approach was by the Walters Museum’s curators and conservators, and given my interest in the conservation of East Asian paintings, I have used combinations of the Italian tratteggio approach and slight suppression of selected drips with glazing.

The Treatment of a Pinto-Gila Polychrome Vessel: Problem-solving during the 2018 Arizona State Museum Pottery Blitz (Bellie Fichtner)

During the summer of 2018, I participated in the Arizona State Museum Preservation Division’s Pottery Blitz. During the Blitz, supervised by Dr. Nancy Odegaard, the lab completed the bulk and systematic treatment of approximately 70 Southwest Indian ceramics. The majority of these ceramics were poorly reconstructed and restored prior to being donated to the museum. Each posed differing conservation issues. In addition to addressing the valuable treatment atmosphere fostered by the Blitz, I will discuss the complete conservation treatment of one ceramic: a Pinto-Gila polychrome bowl that posed unique challenges and required inventive solutions. I will explain the full treatment of the vessel, which included tape and adhesive identification and removal, disassembly, reassembly, filling, and inpainting. I will also touch briefly on the ethics associated with treating archaeological ceramics. 

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Please join us for our first Undergraduate Art Conservation Symposium, where UD students will summarize their projects undertaken in the Department of Art Conservation.

​Please join us for our first Undergraduate Art Conservation Symposium, where UD students will summarize their projects undertaken in the Department of Art Conservation.

1/3/2019
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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