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Subject: Human skin

Human skin

From: Valerie Free <valerie.free1<-a>
Date: Saturday, April 5, 2014
Flavia Perugini <fperugini<-a t->mfa< . >org> writes

>I have been asked to advise on the conservation and mounting of a 6
>inch diameter piece of human skin.  The skin is about to be
>surgically removed from the artist's body.  The artist's intent is
>to mount the skin on a medallion once it has has dried and shrunk.

I thought a medical opinion would be in order here.  These informal
comments are posted with the permission of Dr. Maxwell Rajan, MD

   "First off, the artist will need to undergo some basic screening
    tests to keep everyone safe.  HIV, hepatitis B and C labs (HBV
    surface antigen, Hepatitis C antibodies), tuberculosis skin
    testing (preferably a 2 step test).  Those critters can
    potentially put others at risk when handling the specimen in the
    future, especially TB.  When the skin is removed, the plastic
    surgeon or dermatologist who is going to do it should probably
    have it on a premount.  As it dries it will shrink and distort
    along the minor imperfections of depth that will happen with
    surgical removal.  As it dries and tension grows, smaller and
    smaller premounts can be used to keep the original shape.  The
    same thing is done for muscle biopsies.  The surgeon clips the
    muscle in situ and then cuts it free outside of the tension
    clips to keep the muscle from just collapsing into an elastic
    mess.  As for the leathering and tanning of the skin, I would
    imagine that would best be left to an artisan who deals with
    such materials."

Valere Free
Head of Conservation
National Museum of Qatar

                  Conservation DistList Instance 27:38
                   Distributed: Sunday, April 6, 2014
                       Message Id: cdl-27-38-003
Received on Saturday, 5 April, 2014

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