Volume 7, Number 1, Jan. 1985, pp.4-5

Profile: Art Conservation Laboratories of Santa Barbara, Inc

by Scott Haskins

Art Conservation Laboratories of Santa Barbara, Inc. (ACL), was established on 1 February 1984 by JAMES M. HANSEN, to meet the needs of public and private collections on a regional level. Initially, ten years ago, a single furniture laboratory serviced the needs of Mr. Hansen's galleries, maintaining the collections of museum quality antique furniture. The first facility was on the gallery premises, occupying 900 square feet and employing one conservator. Over the years the demand for conservation services increased such that a formal lab was formed, expanding to include painting conservation. On 31 October 1984 Mr. Hansen closed his galleries in order to concentrate on the administration of ACL as well as the enhancement of its computerized data base management. Today ACL is housed in a 6500 square foot facility. It employs nine employees and has been incorporated since June 1984.

James M. Hansen is president of the corporation; Edward Ouelette, vice president and client relations; Sandra Simmons and Allyson Harlan, secretarial and computer support; Scott M. Haskins, paintings conservator; Maria-Luisa Lucini, assistant paintings conservator; Kenneth M. Wyrick, apprentice paintings conservator (3 year program); Ernesto Solis, furniture conservator; and Ralph Cernuda, photography and graphic arts. The laboratory is located in the downtown section of Santa Barbara. The regular entry is at 320 E. Gutierrez St. and deliveries are taken at the freight door off Palm Avenue.

The administration of ACL relies heavily on its computerized data base management. When a project is received, a file number is assigned which becomes a permanent part of the electronic data bank and allows access to all documentary records. Initially, a series of six documents is generated by the computer comprising a treatment proposal, condition report, an estimate form, a project time card, a photographic order sheet and a conservation treatment summary. Also produced from the project file number is a checklist for coordination of services among the offices, of contracts and, inevitably, of an invoice. These forms are produced upon assignment of the project file number and accompany the project through all stages of conservation in the form of a documentation packet. The various forms are filled out at the appropriate stages and labeled photographs are inserted as they are produced. While every project is documented, the extent of documentation usually depends on the project. Minimum documentation will consist of no less than written forms, an 8 x 10" black and white photograph and a color slide. Normally packets will include before, during and after treatment shots in black and white, some appropriate color slides and possibly a raking light photograph before and after treatment, if applicable. Extensive documentation is often required when complex problems are confronted. All data from the analytical tests are included; results from aided examinations are detailed; and oftentimes graphic documentation may supplement extensive photographic documentation. Upon completion, the documentation package returns to the front office where information is updated on the computer and a copy of the documentation package is made for the client.

Painting conservation occupies approximately 2000 of the 6500 square feet in the laboratory. This area is divided into two separate spaces: the inpainting area and the main lab. The inpainting area has large windows, the usual equipment (powered easels, halogen cool lights and tables.) There is space for painting display and there is also an area set aside for materials testing where pigments fade, varnishes yellow, canvases distort and adhesives fail. Most testing is conducted under ambient conditions. In the main lab, structural work is performed. Typically, these processes include vapor treatments using organic solvents; deacidification; mending of supports; lining (both traditional and synthetic.) Although the lining process is avoided whenever possible, the majority of lining which are necessary are either done cold or with heat set adhesives. Flattening/consolidation intervention is always separate from a support reinforcement treatment. This main laboratory is furnished with an Aus Jena Stereobinocular microscope (floor model) and a new 8 x 12 Nascor Hot Table with table top vapor treatment/suction table equipment. Of interest is the special readout capabilities of the hot table's electronics which gives data on heat, pressure and humidity during a treatment. This data is directly accessed by our computer and then printed in graph form and kept with the documentation as a permanent record.

Furnishings in the lab were developed to specification by John Young who has come up with unique designs for painting storage, work tables with adjustable tops and dispensers for supplies. Of particular interest are the painting storage cabinets which have roll out units.

High ceilings, ample square footage, easy access and specialized equipment allow for relatively easy handling and treatment of large scale paintings. The lab has proven itself to be a working space in which a dozen or so projects can be worked on, handled and rotated comfortably.

Located nearby the painting work area are: a 10 foot spray booth, and in an adjoining room, a kitchen area, the polarizing microscope/sampling bench, and the documentation/graphic arts area. The documentation/graphic arts area is furnished with light boxes and desks for graphic art layout and so on. It is situated next to the dark room.

The furniture lab occupies about 900 square feet and is divided into a work area and an isolated heavy equipment workshop. A large collection of antique hand tools arrays the walls. It includes old blockplanes, miter saws, molding planes, spokeshaves, drawing knives, carving and turning chisels, screw dyes, taps and hand drills. The heavy equipment area contains a tablesaw, circular saw, jig saw, framing saw, lathe, joiner, routers, power drills, sanders and grinders.

The large working space and the variety of tools aid the conservator in tasks ranging from the most sensitive refinishing job to an extensive structural project. Ernesto Solis, our furniture conservator, is a second generation wood worker from Mexico City and he has been specializing in the conservation/ restoration of antique furniture and objects for the last six years. Methodology in the lab stresses the preservation of old original finishes and signs of wear whenever possible, while still satisfying the utilitarian requirements of the object. Therefore, any old nicks or gouges which give character, are preserved and the natural beauty of the finish is brought back by consolidating and building up old materials instead of removing them.

Across from the furniture area is the photographic center where all of the photodocumentation is produced and organized into packets. Generally speaking, a 4 x 5 negative is used for black and white work, while 35 mm slides are used for transparencies. However when needed we have up to a 8 x 10 transparency capability.

Ralph Cernuda, our photographer, also prepares graphic artwork required for presentations, exhibitions, publications or advertising. He is in charge of the darkroom facilities which are equipped for large format processing. All black and white processing and printing are done at ACL, while color work is sent out.

Other facilities at the lab include the offices, a library, a matting and framing room and a loading dock with vehicle access.

In February 1984 the building which now houses the ACL was simply an empty facility requiring some basic structural design and the purchase of various materials and equipment. Within the next year ACL plans to acquire an infrared reflectometer (vidicom), an x- ray unit, luminaires and more sophisticated evacuation systems. Also within the coming year a well equipped paper conservation lab is planned and possibly a facility for photographic conservation.

Art Conservation Laboratories of Santa Barbara, Inc. offers its services to museums, universities, foundations, galleries and private collectors.

For further information about the laboratory, please contact Ed Ouellette at ACL, P.O.Box 23508, Santa Barbara, CA 93121. The telephone number is (805)963-4476.

Scott Haskins
Painting Conservator
Art Conservation Laboratories of Santa Barbara, Inc.

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