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Subject: A death

A death

From: Ann N'Gadi <ngadia<-a>
Date: Monday, June 2, 2014
Melvin J. Wachowiak, Jr., (1958-2014)

Melvin (Mel) J. Wachowiak, Jr., Senior Conservator at the
Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute (MCI) passed away May
28, 2014, at his home in Davidsonville, MD, after a long struggle
with cancer.  Mel was born on February 15, 1958, in Springfield, MA.

Mel received his M.S. in Art Conservation, with a Major in Joined
Wooden Objects, from Winterthur Museum, Art Conservation Program,
University of Delaware in 1989 and a B.S. from Springfield College
in 1981.  During this period he worked at the George Walter Vincent
Smith Museum of Springfield, MA, and had a training internship at
the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  His professional training was in
the conservation of wood objects such as furniture and he had a
special interest in Asian furniture.

Mel began his career at the Smithsonian's MCI, then called
Conservation Analytical Laboratory (CAL), in August 1989 as a
professional furniture conservator, with proven expertise as a
microscopist among his many skills.  He developed new techniques and
materials for examining and restoring wooden objects, including
identification of wood types, and textile and paint sources for
Spanish Colonial sculpture in the US and Mexico; guided restoration
of Yup'ik Indian masks for display and of a Hawaiian outrigger canoe
for the Hawaiian Treasures exhibit at the National Museum of Natural
History; and documented the steam-bent plywood on the world's first
all-wing jet aircraft, the Horten H IX V3, for the National Air and
Space Museum (NASM).  He held two United States Patents: Patent
Number 6156108 for Wax Emulsion Polish and Patent Number 6258882 for
Wax-resin Polish.

Mel was an Instructor in Wood Science at the University of Delaware
from 1989 to 1991.  He was an Instructor in the CAL's Furniture
Conservation Training Program from 1989 to 2001 and its Director
from 1995 to 2001.  He served successively as the Assistant Director
for Programming, the Assistant Director for Conservation, and the
Head of Conservation between 2001 and 2006.

Over the past decade, Mel had developed and led the use of 3D
scanning, multi-spectral imaging, other computational imaging
techniques, and most recently reflectance transformation imaging
(RTI), to enhance the quality and scope of information that can be
captured digitally.  He demonstrated the cultural heritage
applications of these techniques through a multitude of
collaborative research, conservation, and exhibition projects
carried out with Smithsonian partners, and developed an
international reputation as a leader in digital imaging.  Keenly
aware of the importance of techniques that are both portable and
truly non-invasive (requiring no samples and not altering the
original in any way), Mel sought new ways to capture high-resolution
digital information at a time when these were relatively unknown
technologies in the museum community.

His recent work, through a Smithsonian-funded project with the
Freer/Sackler Galleries, used RTI to digitally document a large,
significant collection of 19th century paper impressions of
inscriptions from now-degraded ancient Persian monuments--available
to researchers worldwide on a Smithsonian website--exemplifies the
high quality and reach of his endeavors.  He also used optical
microscopy and computation imaging to examine NASM's Apollo
spacesuits for evidence of lunar dust.  The MCI Imaging Studio under
his leadership was a partner in the Smithsonian's pan-institutional
program Inventing American Photography and used computational
imaging to examine the Smithsonian's extraordinary holdings of early
American daguerreotype photography.

Mel was dedicated to mentoring and training others, including
Smithsonian staff, fellows, and interns, in the use of these
techniques in their own project work.  At the same time he worked
actively with professional partners and service providers to develop
improvements of these technologies' features for use in a museum
research and preservation context.  The reputation he has earned as
a leader in digital imaging has been recognized through project
funding received from a number of Smithsonian as well as federal
sources, including NSF and the Institute of Museum and Library

Mel was a devoted husband and father, leaving behind his wife of 28
years JoAnne (Butler), son Nikolas Joseph, and daughter Natalie.  He
was the soul of MCI and a great asset for the Smithsonian.  He was
very generous sharing his knowledge and friendship with everyone and
will be deeply missed.  A memorial service will be held Sunday, June
8, 2014, in Annapolis, Maryland.

Messages of condolences can be sent to MCI <mciweb<-a t->si< . >edu> for
forwarding on to the family.

Harriet F. Beaubien, Paula T. DePriest, and Robert J. Koestler

To see a PDF of the Announcement


                  Conservation DistList Instance 28:1
                   Distributed: Friday, June 6, 2014
                        Message Id: cdl-28-1-001
Received on Monday, 2 June, 2014

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