JAIC 1993, Volume 32, Number 2, Article 9 (pp. 207 to 209)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1993, Volume 32, Number 2, Article 9 (pp. 207 to 209)




The recent article by Dusan Stulik and Henry Florsheim, “Binding Media Identification in Painted Ethnographic Objects,” (JAIC 31(1992):275–88.) on the identification of binding media in ethnographic objects needs clarification. The use of color tests for the identification of binding media, or anything else for that matter, should be taken as a presumptive indication of chemical presence. For example, I am quite familiar with the reduced phenolphthalein test for blood and have performed the test tens of thousands of times on thousands of objects. The test works quite well on surface bloodstains of recent origin (several months) and will work less well on mixtures of blood and other biological materials (saliva, sweat, insect parts, etc.). Specificity and sensitivity of catalytic tests for blood are quite variable in older samples of ethnographic and/or archaeological origin. The forensic article by Henry Lee referenced by the authors also states: “Color catalytic tests are very sensitive, but not specific. The positive color test alone should not be interpreted as positive evidence of blood.” Negative tests are exactly that; no reaction was detected and they are to be interpreted with great caution. The reaction of metal ions such as iron with the test reagents is quite complex and not easily interpreted as described in the article. Similar comments can be made about plant and other peroxidases. The identification of blood would be most accurately identified using an immunological technique such as ELISA. An excellent review of the problems associated with the testing of blood is Robert Gaensslen's “Sourcebook in Forensic Serology, Immunology, and Biochemistry,” National Institute of Justice, 1983.

In keeping with the original intent of the tests, I feel that this type of analysis should be used for screening purposes only and where there is a large amount of material available for consumption. If the question of the absolute identification of binding media is important, other tests or combinations of tests would be necessary. There are many sensitive and accurate ways of obtaining this information other than color tests. Simplicity is not necessarily the only criterion in developing tests. The modification of tests from clinical chemistry or forensic science presents many difficulties in interpretation since the assumptions surrounding the source of their samples is different than those of the conservation scientist. Clearly, it makes considerable difference whether one takes a sample from a patient's arm, or from the hood of a car, or from the blade of a stone tool.

CHARLES S.TUMOSA,Head,Analytical Services, Conservation Analytical Laboratory, Smithsonian Institution


We are in total agreement with Mr. Tomosa. Analytical tests described in our article are orientation tests that allow a user who does not have any other means for binding media identification to analyze studied artifacts. As we have written in our article, simple tests are not indended to replace sophisticated instrumental methods or to compete with their sensitivity. Complex problems and ambiguous results should always be resolved using instrumental methods. Our Binding Media Project targets both high and low technology analytical methods. High technology is developed in parallel to simple analytical tests and is used to “tune up” their performance.

DUSANSTULIKHENRYFLORSHEIM,Scientific Program, The Getty Conservation Institute



In Frank Matero's article “The Conservation of Immovable Cultural Property: Ethical and Practical Dilemmas,” (JAIC 32(1993):15–21) other standards and codes, both American and international were cited, but there was no reference to The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. Initially developed in 1975 and revised in 1983 and 1993, these standards may be applied to a wide variety of resource types, including buildings, sites, structures, objects, and districts. They include four philosophical approaches to work on historic properties (Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction) and address in simple language the points addressed in other conservation guidelines.

We are in complete agreement with the author's thesis, i.e., that more inclusive definitions of significance will broaden the base of properties that are conserved; that historians, architects, and other professionals need to work more closely on projects; and that poor planning results in shoddy workmanship and a loss of significance. In particular, we concur with his concluding statement, “If the preservation of historic monuments, buildings, and sites is to continue to develop as a serious and professional discipline, it must embrace and apply the principles already established.”

Because The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties (1993) are unarguably the most-used historic preservation principles “already established” in the United States (though not expressly named conservation), we were understandably disappointed that they were omitted in Matero's discussion.

Certainly, if we are seeking to establish a closer dialogue between the disciplines in conservation and historic preservation as seen in the creation of the Architecture Specialty Group within the American Institute for Conservation, we should be able to recognize and apply the standards of all disciplines.

E. BLAINECLIVER,Chief,Preservation Assistance Division, and Acting Executive Director, National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, National Park Service, u.s. Department of the Interior


I concur with Mr. Cliver that reference to The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties would have been a useful addition to include in the discussions of existing standards, especially for the United States. Like numerous other standards, they owe much of their language and theoretical basis to the earlier European documents such as the Venice Charter, which is well known to most conservators and therefore useful as a convenient starting point for comparison with the AIC Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. One of the goals of the article was to explore basic common (and sometimes conflicting) attitudes and theories, not offer a listing of thematic or national charters. Mr. Cliver's mention does confirm one of the major arguments of the thesis: that reasonable principles already exist and they must be tested, reviewed, and periodically re-evaluated for revision. It was, in fact, on the basis of a statement made two years ago in Albuquerque during the Architecture Specialty Group meeting about “the need to create standards” that prompted the preparation of the article in the first place. With all these national and international standards in place, one can only hope for a better show of trained conservators actively participating in the architectural arena.

FRANK G.MATERO,Director of the Architectural Conservation Laboratory and Associate Professor of Architecure, Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, University of Pennsylvania


The editor welcomes letters concerning the specific contents of papers published in JAIC. Letters accepted for publication will be printed in whole or in part at the editor's discretion.

Copyright � 1993 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works