2019 Annual Conference Program

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Conference Theme and General Information

Theme: New Tools, Techniques, and Tactics in Conservation & Collection Care

Date and Location: The 49th Annual AIC Meeting was held at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT from May 13–17, 2019

Synopsis: AIC’s 47th Annual Meeting in New England focuses on conservation professionals as innovators. From developing new approaches to conservation treatment and preventive care, to utilizing cutting-edge technological research, to examining how cultural heritage is defined and valued, conservation professionals are innovative, dynamic, forward-looking agents of change. Learn how collaboration with related fields and allied professionals influences the dynamics of the conservation/ innovation process.

How does a better understanding and appreciation of the properties of materials change their treatment, interpretation, and preservation? Papers were solicited that demonstrate the impact of material studies – or studies of materials – on the conservation profession, including the emergence of innovative treatments, new ways of “looking” and “seeing,” shifts in decision-making and desired outcomes, and changes in collection care strategies. Also welcomed were explorations of the impact of trending “materiality” studies on related disciplines including archaeology, museum and curatorial fields, and art history among others. Topics could include, but were not limited to: cutting-edge imaging and analysis techniques of materials, new materials having conservation applications, revelations about the meaning and significance of materials within an artist’s work, and improved methods of authentication.

Returning to a Small Island: Implementing Interdisciplinary Preservation and Sustainability Strategies[edit | edit source]

Speaker: Jeremy Linden, Principal/Owner, Linden Preservation; Jennifer Pye, Chief Curator, Monhegan Museum; Scott Fitch, Principal, Innovative Construction & Design Solutions, LLC; Ronald Harvey, Principal/Conservator, Tuckerbrook Conservation LLC

Abstract[edit | edit source]

At the 2016 joint AIC-CAC Annual Meeting in Montreal, Canada, the project team from the Monhegan Historical and Cultural Museum Association presented the outcomes of Museum’s 2013 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections (SCHC) Planning Grant. Three years later, at the close of the Museum’s successful NEH SCHC Implementation Grant, various strategies have been applied in an effort to establish sustainable preservation practices and technologies suitable to the Museum’s unique situation. This session will describe the strategies implemented, and examine their initial effectiveness and appropriateness, as tools for the long-term, sustainable preservation of thecultural heritage of a small island community off the coast of Maine. Structural approaches such as period-appropriate repairs, combined with winter heating strategies, were aimed at mitigating mold growth in the historic keeper’s house, while the renovation of the interior of an outlying building sought to provide appropriate environmental conditions for the storage of growing collections. Renovations of aging mechanical systems allowed for improvements in operational strategies, while creative energy-sourcing – including solar-thermal collectors and waste-heat recovery from the island’s generators – hopes to provide for more efficient moisture control and heating. Throughout the project, the interdisciplinary team – including the Museum’s staff and members of the island community, as well as outside partners from the conservation, historic pres- ervation, and engineering fields – worked to identify the best utilization of available resources, including sourcing much of the labor from on-island crafts- and tradespeople. While Monhe- gan’s physical situation is in many ways unusual, its needs as a small museum – including sufficient and appropriate storage and exhibition spaces that remain respectful of historic integrity, building and mechanical systems and operations that can be maintained by staff and accessible contractors, and sustain- able preservation and collection management practices – are common to many cultural heritage institutions. It is the team’s hope that the experience of the Monhegan Museum over the last six years – ranging from the implementation of various non- mechanical and mechanical strategies to the interdisciplinary thinking and design – may be helpful to similar organizations starting on their own path to sustainable preservation.

Keywords: sustainable preservation, interdisciplinary, sustainability, HVAC, mechanical systems, renovation

Life Cycle Assessment: A New Tool for Cultural Heritage Preservation[edit | edit source]

Speaker: Sarah Nunberg, Conservator, The Objects Conservation Studio, LLC; Matthew Eckelman, Assistant Professor, Northeastern University

Abstract[edit | edit source]

This presentation will discuss how custodians of cultural heritage have begun to employ the industry standard software tool called Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to evaluate the environ- mental impact of materials and actions that curators, conser- vators, registrars and art handlers employ. LCA is a systems modeling tool useful for quantifying the total resource inputs and environmental burdens of a particular method or product. Through a US-based, federally funded National Endowment for Humanities (NEH) project, FAIC spearheaded research that has resulted in creation of an initial, free, online library and beta tool. The library houses LCA of materials and methods related to preservation of cultural heritage and the beta tool draws from an initial database of materials used for cultural heritage, created specifically during this project. Both the library and the beta tool provide collections care professionals with guidance to achieve sustainable goals through informed choices. The presentation will report on the LCAs performed to date, all addressing different aspects of maintaining cultural heritage: cleaning methods and their environmental and human health impact, cradle-to-gate impact of manufacturing, using and displaying three 17th and 18th century silver objects, and comparisons of varied storage environment. The lists and categories that populate the beta LCA tool will also be discussed along with plans for further populating the tool and identifying additional LCAs for the library. In fulfilling the NEH grant, the project managers foundmany challenges and accomplishments while creating the beta tool and conducting the three pilot LCAs. The issues learned and information acquired will be useful in defining the terms for the Tier 2 implementation grant application where the full tool and library will be realized. The final project will be freely available to users worldwide, and will support further research in preventive conservation, treatment, and exhibition through conducting material analysis, organizing knowledge and sharing it openly. This project has already allowed for expansion of historic preservation through working with allied professionals, and consequentially learning about new tools, resources, and methods.

Keywords: environmental impact, preservation, analysis

A Case for a New Case Paper: From Farm to Table to Desk to Bench[edit | edit source]

Speakers: Eric Benson, Associate Professor & Chair of Graphic Design, and Quinn Morgan Ferris, Senior Conservator for Special Collections, University of Illinois; Jennifer Hain Teper, Head of Preservation, University of Illinois Library; Anneka Vetter

Abstract[edit | edit source]

In the spring of 2018, a class of students led by conservators at the University of Illinois Library took a field trip to Fresh Press Agricultural Fiber Papermaking Lab, housed within the Univer- sity of Illinois’ School of Art and Design. After the students and instructors experienced the steps and products of agricultural fiber sheet formation first-hand, they were struck by an idea— what if a cross-campus collaboration could yield a new source of paper for conservation use?

Paper case bindings, based on historical structures and modified using conservation-friendly materials, have been championed by notable book conservators from Christopher Clarkson to Gary Frost. They are often selected as a rebinding option due to their reversibility, durability, flexibility, and inex- pensiveness. In the past, the use of flax-based heavy weight handmade papers, such as PC4 Flax Case paper from the University of Iowa and Cave paper out of Minneapolis, MN, have been preferred for these bindings. But more recently, the supply of these papers have dwindled, leaving conservators searching for suitable alternatives. Though papers made from bast fibers (such as cotton or linen) have remained popular due to their good working and aging characteristics, the production of such papers do not prioritize sustainable practices. Historicaltreatises on using alternatives to bast or lignin-rich fibers, such as straw, date back to the early 19th century, though such material choices did not become the mainstream.

Since 2011, Fresh Press has been conducting research on how to change the paper supply chain from forest to farm by exploring regional sustainable agricultural fiber waste as paper and paper products (like packaging and building materials). A partnership between Fresh Press and the University Library Conservation Lab is currently underway to investigate the physical, material, and chemical characteristics of handmade paper sourced from regional agricultural waste. The goal of this partnership is to co-engineer a more environmentally friendly and locally sourced paper that would meet the needs of the book conservator, fill the void in the case paper market, and help further the mission at Fresh Press to “change the paper supply chain from forest to farm.”

The most important characteristics of conservation case paper are its strength, fold endurance, and longevity, which we hypothesize are reproducible with fibers other than the tradi- tional flax. The locally sourced agricultural fibers from the U of I’s Sustainable Student Farm being investigated for case paper include corn, soybean, tomato, miscanthus, rye, big blue stem, hemp, switch grass, and sun flower, among others. Experiments will quantify and compare each paper’s acidity, yellowness, fiber length, tensile strength, basis weight, moisture content, caliper,density, bulk, smoothness, porosity, stiffness, burst strength, tear strength and folding endurance. Through a collaboration with the mechanical engineering department, these tests will be conducted following the Technical Association of Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI) guidelines and protocols. The data gathered will guide which fibers and blends are selected to maximize strength and fold endurance for case paper. In addition, accel- erated aging studies will be conducted to determine projected longevity and the ability of the fibers to stand up to conservation practices.

This presentation will describe and evaluate the collabora- tive research and experimentation undertaken to create a new, locally and sustainably sourced case paper for conservation rebinding at the University of Illinois and beyond as we consider the future impact of our findings.

Keywords: Paper making,case paper,conservation binding,s ustainability,collaborative research,book and paper

How Preservation and Access Go Together in Collection Care: Valuable to the Community Rather Than Forgotten Forever - a Case Study[edit | edit source]

Speakers: Johanna Wilk, Conservator, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Institute for Conservation

Abstract[edit | edit source]

Lack of knowledge about a collection and the resulting lack of appreciation of its values are among the most common and “ordinary” agents of deterioration that cause the loss of objects. This is the reason why the care for a collection has to include research to link materiality and information and must provide proper access to the collection to make it valuable to the community. Appropriate storage and exhibition form an important part of these tasks – improving the environment of a collection does not only contribute to its protection from wear, breakage, loss, pests, fire, vandalism and theft, light damage, contaminants and climate extremes, it also provides access and overview, and places it in a framework showing it is something worth protecting. In 2013 the Institute of Conservation of the University of Applied Arts Vienna under the leadership of Gabriela Krist and the monastery Neukloster in Lower Austria decided to work together to bring its “Kunstkammer” – an arts and natural wonders chamber – back to life again. At this time the collection was known neither to the public, nor to art histo- rians, nor to most of the monks. However, it existed: locked up in hidden rooms, stored choc-a-bloc and hardly cared for, already suffering mechanical damages and losses. A plan of action was developed, based on risk analysis and on the analysis of the collection itself. First, an inventory was drawn up, each object was accessed and documented. It showed that the collec- tion comprises more than 4000 natural specimens and 1000 paintings and objects, which were collected in the 18th century, amongst them highlights such as carved precious stone, ebony carvings and shell sculptures. The data about the condition and the dimensions of the objects served as a basis for the calcula- tion of storage-space requirements and of the need for conser- vation treatments. Conservation treatments followed a concept of “minimal intervention” with the goal of preserving and saving more objects rather than perfectly restoring/conserving some objects. Simultaneously, research was continued on the collec- tion, including archival sources, literature research and the analysis of similar collections in Europe. The gained knowledge was then invested into the development of an exhibition concept. Exhibition and storage rooms were planned and implemented according to the principles of preventive conservation and using as much of the monastery’s infrastructure as possible: in-house carpenters, electricians, the gardener... Given a tight framework of time and money (as always in collections) the projects had to focus on priorities and aims, deciding on which actions and expenses would be more, or less, beneficial for the collection. In May 2017, the project was finished successfully and the exhibi- tion opened to the public. The interest in the community and the pride at the achieved results and at the collection itself in the monastery is constantly rising. This new situation makes sure that the collection will never be forgotten again.

Keywords: collection care, Kunstkammer, Austria, storage, exhibition