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Subject: Latex mask

Latex mask

From: Stephen Cooper <s_cooper>
Date: Wednesday, December 1, 2004
I am a Master's candidate in Preservation/Conservation Studies at
The Kilgarlin Center for Preservation of the Cultural Record, School
of Information, The University of Texas at Austin. I am working on a
project to characterize the deterioration and choose appropriate
materials for the housing and support of a rubber mask.

The mask, held in The Ransom Center at UT Austin, is from the 1974
horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and was made by the art
director, Bob Burns. Unfortunately, Burns passed away earlier this
year and details about the materials and the fabrication of the mask
have been difficult to uncover. Based on anecdotal evidence, Burns
probably made this mask as a test mask before he cast the three
masks actually used in filming. Based on published interviews with
Burns about his techniques, the mask was made of "liquid latex and a
fiberglass insulation product that is no longer manufactured," which
was probably cast from an alginate negative mold cast on the face of
a friend of Burns.

The thin-walled, thirty-year-old rubber mask has become rigid but
can still flex a little. Its color has darkened, and its form has
mostly collapsed. It has some blooming, but how much of this is
recent is not known (images at

I have gathered the current/standard literature related to rubber
objects but would like to hear of any experiences with similar
objects. In particular, has anyone had success with softening a
latex object enough to recover some of its original shape? And, if
its original shape is recoverable, what material is recommended for
use as a support and housing?

Stephen Cooper
The University of Texas at Austin

                  Conservation DistList Instance 18:27
                Distributed: Thursday, December 16, 2004
                       Message Id: cdl-18-27-027
Received on Wednesday, 1 December, 2004

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