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Subject: Communication of conservation information

Communication of conservation information

From: Lisa Mibach <mibach>
Date: Wednesday, April 29, 1998
On OSG-L Katie Holbrow <Katie.Holbrow [at] clark__williams__edu> writes

>I think a new adhesives and consolidants issue would be fantastic.
>In re your query about who might contribute:
>Using a nebulizer to deliver fine coats of resin for consolidation of
>powdery paint was presented by Dave Arnold at the Wooden Artifacts
>section of AIC in Norfolk.  He is currently working on contract at
>Harper's Ferry for Martin Burke; you could probably track him down

The prototype for the nebulizer method was invented by Stephan
Michalski (using an ultrasonic mister) at the Canadian Conservation
Institute and presented at the course given by the GCI in 1989 on
"The Consolidation of Poorly Bound Pigments", and subsequently in
various publications and poster sessions.

(My own technique (1980) of multiple (25-30) coatings of AC33 (Rohm
and Haas aqueous dispersion of ethyl acrylate methylmethacrylate)
using a chromatographic sprayer was also presented informally at the
GCI course.

I am sorry to have missed Mr. Arnold's talk, as one of the problems
Mr. Michalski reported was accurate distribution and flow
maintenance with solutions other than dilute gelatine, and I would
be interested to know how Mr. Arnold dealt with this.

I do not at all mean to detract from Mr. Arnold's work, but I do
believe that when it comes to questions of publication and
attribution it is important that we acknowledge the original authors
of useful methods, as it seems that our institutional memory is
rapidly shrinking.

It seems strange to me that we now have the best academically
trained generations of conservators, and better access to
bibliographical information than ever before, but less memory of
what we have learned (e.g. the irreversibility of soluble nylon) and
of the fundamental properties of materials than would ever have been
professionally tolerated 20 years ago.

Have we become careless because we have so many resources?  I am
becoming very concerned about the number of queries on OSG-L and
the DistList from people working as professionals who are asking
embarrassingly elementary questions. Perhaps it is just that the
current "economic climate" is forcing everyone to work faster and
with less background research and testing; this seems highly likely
to me, but if others agree, then we need to stop and examine the
implications this has on our claim to be conservators rather than

I am not suggesting that we curtain casual discussion, or discussion
about adaptations or observations which would not have been
published, as the Net is becoming a viable substitute for the
discussions we used to have with colleagues in hallways at AIC but
can no longer afford. However, I think we owe it to each other to
ask *after* we have done the basic homework, and not before.

I guess I have graduated to Old Fogey status, but I would certainly
like to see a return to the day when no one would presume to bring
up a question or comment about the use of a resin (product) without
being able to also state the chemical name, manufacturer, molecular
weight, glass transition temperature, solubility parameters, and
toxicity of the same (and what practical difference these make...)

The Net gives us wonderful opportunities (which Mr.Robert Organ
foresaw in the early '70s when he proposed a national conservation
institute of conservators located all over the country where they
could do the most good, but connected by computers; this was
considered very frightening at the time), but we must not allow ease
of communication to substitute for our own professional obligation
to keep our knowledge up to date and accurate.

Perhaps we need to have some serious thinking and discussion about
how we may need to change communication and information
dissemination, since the methods we have used since the '70s seem to
be less effective than they were at disseminating the information we
need. We have always tried to uphold the highest standards of
professional publication in the JAIC; yet the Journal has difficulty
getting enough articles, and we have ever more newsletters (which
must be fulfilling some kind of need), and yet still fundamental
information is not being transferred. Are there some types of
information or ways of expressing it that conservators need that are
not being met by JAIC? Is it just that we don't want to bother with
the lengthy publication process? Or does the kind of information
useful to conservators differ in some way from that useful to
conservation scientists?  Some of the time? All of the time?

I will submit this to the DistList, as I think that this discussion
is more appropriate to the broader range of specialty areas there,
and I hope that interested OSG members will add to the discussion

Lisa Mibach
Heritage Resource Management
1-29 Cambridge St. North
Ottawa, ON K1R 7A4 CANADA
613-234-6544 ph/fax

                  Conservation DistList Instance 11:88
                    Distributed: Friday, May 1, 1998
                       Message Id: cdl-11-88-003
Received on Wednesday, 29 April, 1998

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