2020 Annual Conference Program

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Conference Theme and General Information

Theme: Conservation: Reactive and Proactive

Date and Location: The 48th Annual AIC Meeting was held virtually from May 21 - September 1, 2019

Synopsis: Instead of standing before a packed hotel ballroom, I am delighted to virtually welcome a larger and more international audience to three months of sessions, business meetings, topical discussions, and more as we open the 48th Annual Meeting of the American Institute for Conservation.

I am writing from my home in New York City. Sheltering in place has led me to reflect that I am on the land of the Lenape and the Wappinger People. And, that the AIC office in Washington, DC, is on the lands of the Piscataway Convoy Tribe, Piscataway Indian Nation, the Nacotchtank People, and other Chesapeake Indigenous Tribes. Because it is the AIC’s mission is to preserve everyone’s cultural history, it is right to rec- ognize those who came before us.

Eerily, the current COVID-19 pandemic coincides perfectly with the theme of our meeting Conservation: Reactive and Proactive. In the planning stages, the theme was meant to address the many ways that conservators have had to change the focus of their activities and acquire new skills in response to shifting trends in the cultural heritage sector. Two examples include the growing emphasis on preventive con- servation and the popularity of interpretive and interactive exhibitions that are not as reliant upon multiple original works.

During at a time of prolonged closure and staff absences, conservators are applying the principles of preventive conservation in order to safe- guard collections, as well as virtually unveiling their in-depth technical interpretation of works that have special meaning and significance for an excluded public eager for personal connection.

Closer to home, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a reckoning not only with what objects the American people find to be of most interest, but, more critically, what they hold to be most dear. While sheltering in place, the familiar—a handmade quilt or family photograph—becomes precious and, thereby, deserving of preservation. This is truly an opportune time to plant and nurture a pervasive spirit of preservation among Americans.

We will witness how conservation professionals are drawing from a wide skill set to respond to these challenges in creative and productive ways.

Cradle to Grave: Sustainable Manufacture, Use, and Disposal of Collections Care Materials in Museums[edit | edit source]

Speaker: Justine Wuebold

Abstract[edit | edit source]

Managing material waste requires a customized and collaborative design to control the museum’s ecosystem of buying, using, repurposing, and discard- ing material. This presentation takes a closer look at commonly used collec- tions care and storage materials to determine their sustainability based on responsible manufacturing, length of transport, durability, and recyclability. The following materials were investigated for their lifecycle sustainability: Green Solvents, Tyvek, Ethafoam, Acrylite, and Plywood. In researching these materials, conclusions were made based on literature review and interviews with industry professionals in manufacture, use and recycle.

On a practical level, specific companies were investigated for their sustain- able manufacture (DuPont, Evonik, Sealed Air), specific materials were chosen for their use in collections care (Tyvek, Ethafoam, Acrylite), and specific recycling facilities were interviewed regarding their acceptance of museum quality materials (Terracycle and SuperLink Plastics). Surveys performed by Sustainability in Conservation (SiC) and the AIC Materials Working Group (MWG) informed material investigation and provided data about sustainable use in the collections care field. Conclusions and results of this investigation will be presented to paint a better picture of sustainability in our most-used materials. Here are some of the practical issues to be discussed: recycling pre-consumer waste; cost and carbon footprint for shipping material scraps; reuse of materials in storage; excess custom displays and enclosures; non-curbside recycling materials; and hazardous contamination and dispos- al. On a behavioral level, accountability plays a strong role in how museums choose to focus their efforts toward sustainability.

In some cases repurposing can be problematic due to material contamina- tion or enclosure customization needs. Storing scraps for special recycling is a major issue in overcrowded collections departments, and hasty deci- sion-making leads to inappropriate disposal of trash, recycle and hazardous waste. It is necessary to consider how recycle and disposal best-practices can be better encompassed within the Collections Policy, a document that should be accessible and familiar to all employees regardless of their status within the department.

This level of accountability requires every professional working in the collec- tions environment to understand proper material disposal. Accountability is most effective in collaborative circumstances, where everyone plays a role in successful environmental initiatives. Special recycling measures involve a monetary cost, which is often the decision of a higher ranking professional within an organization or department. Involving everyone, including import- ant decision-makers, is the only way to make a successful transition toward a more environmentally responsible workplace.

This research is intended to lay the groundwork for future Life Cycle Assess- ments and raise awareness of sustainability issues that exist in collections care. Defining criteria for considering a material sustainable will provide a necessary tool for collections care professionals to help them be more informed about the impact of these materials that are ubiquitous in collec- tions departments. Accountability and collaboration are key elements to building a more sustainable practice as a collections care team. Continuing research will take into consideration the practical and behavioral changes required in the manufacture, use, and disposal of collections care materials.

The Nunalleq Center and Archaeological Site: Community and Cultural Preservation in Southwest Alaska’s Rapidly Changing Climate[edit | edit source]

Speaker: Frances Lukezic

Abstract[edit | edit source]

In the Yup’ik language, Nunalleq means “the Old Village.” Nunalleq is a pre-contact archaeological site, dating from 1400 to 1670 AD, and is located in Southwest Alaska near the Native village of Quinhagak. Confronted with increasingly violent winter storms and the tundra’s melting permafrost, vil- lagers of Quinhagak noticed that coastal erosion was endangering the site and exposing perfectly preserved organic artifacts.

Concerned their cultural heritage was being lost and swept out in to the Bering Sea, Quinhagak’s village corporation of Qanirtuuq Incorporated part- nered with archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen and conducted rescue archaeological excavations from 2009 to 2018. The excavations pro- duced over 60,000 artifacts, the largest collection of prehistoric Yup’ik arti- facts in the world. All the artifacts remain in the village of Quinhagak, housed in the newly created Nunalleq Culture and Archaeology Center.

During the final excavation season of 2018, the Center also served as a con- servation lab. In prior years, wet organic artifacts had been shipped to the University of Aberdeen in Scotland for conservation then back to Quinhagak after treatment, at an unsustainable tremendous cost. This paper presents the work undertaken at the Nunalleq Center during the 2018 excavation season, highlighting the adaptations required to conserve wet organic artifacts in a geographically remote location with limited resources and modifying the building to accommodate the archaeological collection, all in an environment affected by climate change. The paper will also discuss the Nunalleq Center’s future as it weathers the rapidly changing climate of Southwest Alaska.

Collaboration and Innovation: Developing the Potential of Environmental Monitoring Data at the National Library of Scotland through Industrial and Academic Partnerships[edit | edit source]

Speaker: Julie Bon, Co-author: Ian Symonds

Abstract[edit | edit source]

The National Library for Scotland cares for over 30 million items held in trust for the people of Scotland. The Library cares for and protects these collections through a rolling programme of interventive conservation in combination with a robust preventive conservation approach ensuring that our collections are stored and displayed in conformity with our environ- mental parameters. The Collections Care and Estates teams at the Library work closely to ensure that these parameters are maintained. This work has become much more streamlined following the recent introduction of a new front-face to our BMS.

The new LEEP (Library Environmental Energy Platform) has redesigned how Library staff can access and analyse data within the BMS. Real-time data for environmental conditions and energy consumption can be accessed via a user-friendly and highly intuitive platform. This open protocol platform has been designed by the Library in conjunction with their industry partner, Craigalan Controls. The innovative and collaborative approach taken on this project has resulted in two recent nominations for national facilities manage- ment awards in the UK.

This paper will introduce the new platform and demonstrate the benefits that it has brought to the Library in terms of energy consumption reductions as well as facilitating quick and proactive collections care responses to environ- mental issues that have arisen. The paper will then go on to outline the next steps in this work which involves partnership working between the Library and Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh to undertake research utilising the real-time data that is now available. A research proposal has been submitted which would apply ANN (Artificial Neural Network) modelling techniques to examine environmental fluctuations on a number of Library microclimates.

The aim of this research is to establish acceptable fluctuations to allow a relaxation of tight hygrothermal controls and therefore reduce energy con- sumption to enable the Library to meet, and exceed, national climate change targets. Tight environmental controls in exhibition areas are crucial to ensure that the Library complies with its obligations in loan agreements with lending organisations as well as with Government Indemnity Insurance requirements. The modelling developed will improve exhibition design and planning and will allow the Library to provide lenders with the reassurance that the microcli- mates in use are protecting the collections.

Another outcome of relaxing tight environmental parameters for display when using microclimates will be to allow NLS (and possibly other nation- al organisations) to display collections in smaller libraries, museums and galleries that are currently unable to meet such parameters. This will enable Library collections to reach a much wider audience, which is a key strategic priority for the Library’s new 2020 – 2025 strategy.

Glenstone: A Case Study in Energy Saving Measures in a Modern Museum Building[edit | edit source]

Speakers: Samantha Owens and Steven O’Banion

Abstract[edit | edit source]

Glenstone is a museum of modern and contemporary art integrated into nearly 300 acres of rolling pasture and woodland in Montgomery County, Maryland, allowing for a contemplative experience of art and architecture within a natural environment. In 2018, Glenstone opened an expansion that includes a new 204,000-square-foot building called The Pavilions. Designed with Glenstone’s environmental mission in mind, the building features green roofs, controlled natural lighting, and cisterns that collect rainwater.

Through precise mechanical manipulation, Glenstone was able to cut energy usage in half over the course of the first year of operation. To achieve this goal, the building management system was configured to provide useful information that highlights inefficiencies at a glance. Temperature and rel- ative humidity are controlled with moving set points that allow for gradual drift in response to seasonal fluctuations in the weather. In coordination with the expansion, Glenstone’s original 30,000-square-foot museum building, termed The Gallery, was upgraded and optimized. The careful attention paid by Glenstone’s staff allows the Museum to maintain environmental condi- tions that minimize energy consumption while still meeting the needs of the collection.