The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 26, Number 2
Aug 2002


New Silica Gel Product

The May 2002 issue of the WAAC Newsletter (which its readers rely on for good technical information) has a new editor for its Technical Exchange Column: Albrecht Gumlich ( or 310/440-7448). He anticipates receiving information about or personal experiences with the most recent high-tech devices with potential relevance for conservators; new materials; tools; supply info or bargains; tips and tricks; ancient techniques; and recipes and improved application methods.

In the May issue, he describes Art Preservation Services's Rhapid Gel, which was developed for the passive control of relative humidity in museum exhibition and storage cases. It buffers RH in the range between 40% and 60%, and is much more efficient than any other silica gel produced for museum use. It comes in polyester sheets 1/8" thick, has a very fast response

time and takes only two days to equilibrate (which is done by putting it in an enclosure at the desired humidity—not in an oven). $10 per square foot from Art Preservation Services, 305 East 89th St., New York, NY 10128; 212/722-6300.

It's HEPA Vacuums All Over Again, Only More

The WAAC Newsletter, which is strong on technical information for conservators anyhow, has covered the topic of HEPA vacuums twice: in September 1997 and in May 2002.

Chris Stavroudis, the author of these reports, says he was a bit disappointed to learn how few colleagues have HEPA vacuums in their studios. He reviews all the good reasons why every conservator ought to be using one, and says he hopes the information he supplies will remove that last obstacle to people going out and getting one of their own. He covers many more models than last time (39 HEPA and ULPA vacuums as opposed to 24), gives 19 kinds of information about each model, and gives supplier contact information for each model.

Free Indoor Air Quality Software

Available free from the EPA, I-BEAM (Indoor Air Quality - Building Education and Assessment Model) is animated software, that helps building professionals and others to manage IAQ in commercial buildings. It is an update and expansion of EPA's Building Air Quality, offering comprehensive state-of-the-art guidance for managing IAQ in commercial buildings.

The program can be downloaded from if you have a PC (not a Mac) and other required features (memory, etc.).

A Freeze Drying Service in New Jersey

There was an ad in the May AIC News , from the Artifact Research Center, about their freeze drying services, which are used to stabilize archeological artifacts, prevent mold growth, discourage insect populations, and dry wet books, archival materials and artwork. Their web site is; e-mail is; tel: 908-684-9556.

The Glove Question

Michaela Brand, of the Deutsche Historisches Museum (, has an article in the June Paper Conservation News on the questions that came up last May when conservators were setting up an exhibit of about 60 manuscripts from around 1000 AD. Couriers asked whether they should wear gloves or not, and "This simple question developed into an unexpected chain of reactions where many different answers featuring various aspects and attitudes arose." In other words, "It all depends."

The author reviews the arguments pro and con, the conditions, and the settings that deserve consideration before a choice is made:

Types of gloves in book and paper conservation
Use in the reading room by the reader
Against the wearing of gloves in reading rooms
In favor of wearing gloves in reading rooms
Against the wearing of gloves during conservation exhibitions.

She concludes that the wearing of gloves is not an easy issue to resolve or find a universal answer for. "Despite the numerous warnings against the wearing of gloves in this article, the intention is to encourage people to make their own informed decisions."

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