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Subject: Conservation principles

Conservation principles

From: Hugh Glover <hglover>
Date: Wednesday, July 26, 2006
I am not familiar with the charters and documents cited, but as a
conservator (largely decorative arts, trained in UK, now USA) I am
familiar with the code of ethics of conservation, and preservation
of original material and reversibility are key.

I do not redo damaged gilding with purposefully like materials,
instead I use knowledge of conservation to apply suitable
alternatives, thereby preserving more original material intact.  It
is not because I do not know how to apply traditional methods.

Costs do factor in.  For example, I inpaint (with reversible
materials) thousands of gesso losses every year, rather than
filling, gilding, and toning them, and that can be seen as some very
large savings that can now be applied to more urgent needs.

The 'like-with-like' restoration method uses only similar materials,
not exactly the same materials, since they are presumably only
assessed by eye.

I am personally interested in American 19th-century gilded picture
frames and the closer I study them the more I appreciate the smaller
detail of materials and techniques that constantly developed through
the century.  It is easy to over-simplify them as just joined wood
with compo, oil and water gilding, etc.  Certainly they can be
restored with 'like' materials, provided the materials are stable,
reversible, and distinguishable.  How long should we dry the compo
until it is stable? How reversible is hide glue?  Should original
hide glue be preserved or thrown out?

An inquiry in Conservation DistList Instance: 20:4 Wednesday, July
19, 2006 concerns the problem of damaged water gilding due to
repeated restorations with traditional materials.  The fact it is
fine art makes no difference to me (and so I liked Rob Proctor's
response to this topic).  The sooner reversible methods are used on
the icons the better, is my outlook. And there are endless degrees
of reversibility; it is their study that makes the use of
alternative techniques and materials a little harder and less quick
than it may first seem.

Hugh Glover
Conservator of Furniture and Frames
Williamstown Art Conservation Center

                  Conservation DistList Instance 20:7
                   Distributed: Monday, July 31, 2006
                        Message Id: cdl-20-7-004
Received on Wednesday, 26 July, 2006

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