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Subject: Conservation treatment

Conservation treatment

From: Barbara Appelbaum <aandh>
Date: Monday, May 8, 2000
Upon reflection, I think that my comment on the potential relevance
to the history of technology of an object to its treatment comes
primarily from wondering if investigating this aspect of an object
is the best way to find information that will help to determine its
treatment.  The most difficult question when facing an unusual
treatment problem is exactly where to go to get help.  When someone
asks, as someone did recently on this list, for information on the
treatment of textile shoes, it seems that this is not the most
helpful question to ask.  If someone is treating a tanka, the
information needed will not necessarily come from reading everything
that has been written about tankas.  This all comes from the
difficulty of categorizing what conservators do.

The problem with Mr. Sixbey's strange bust appears to come from
salts growing underneath a metallic foil.  If we try to think of
other treatment problems that are similar, the best fit I can think
of is painted metal objects like toleware or gilded metal where
corrosion in the base metal pushes at the surface layer.  So perhaps
the proceedings of the gilded metal symposium would have some clues.
One of the differences is the possibility, if there is one, of
pulling the salts out from the inside. Whether treatments of salt
problems in decorated ceramics or glazed tiles are relevant is
another question.  It is not that any published treatment will
provide a definitive answer to the problem at hand, but that reading
about other treatments will give ideas of things to pursue.  I have
found that this approach, that is, a more conservation-based one, is
more likely to come up with clues than pursuing information on the
way the thing was made.

The DistList is a good way to cut across the usual boundaries of
specialty-specific knowledge, but treatment of this specific object
may come from the details of handling, like whether it is possible
to reach the plaster surface with a brush,damp swab, or other tool
without dislodging the flaking foil.  This is another object that is
difficult to think about without seeing it.  In any case, my point
was that the issue of conservation expertise and how we search for
information that is relevant to a particular problem is a baffling
but very important one.

Barbara Appelbaum

                  Conservation DistList Instance 13:56
                  Distributed: Wednesday, May 10, 2000
                       Message Id: cdl-13-56-001
Received on Monday, 8 May, 2000

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