Volume 7, Number 2, May 1985, pp.1-3, with photograph illustrating lab interior

Profile: Western Regional Paper Conservation Laboratory (WRPCL)

by Debra Evans

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, consisting of the De Young Museum and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, have four conservation labs and one of these is the Western Regional Paper Conservation Laboratory. WRPCL was established in 1972 with a mandate to treat the two museums' collections of works of art on paper which consist of approximately 100,000 prints and 4,000 drawings. In addition to its primary service to the Fine Arts Museums, the lab has, since its beginning, undertaken the treatment of paper objects belonging to other institutions and to private collectors in the Western states. A diverse client base provides WRPCL with treatment projects ranging from master drawings to contemporary graphics to large historical collections. The lab maintains an active schedule of on-site surveys. It also conducts workshops, gives lectures to various organizations and provides monthly public service clinics.

WRPCL was established under the direction of Roy Perkinson. Robert Futernick began work at the lab in 1974 and assumed full charge in 1976. Conservators who have worked at WRPCL in a part or full-time capacity include Keiko Keyes (1975), Jim Bernstein (1976-79), Inge-Lise Eckmann (1976), Debra Fox (1976-77), Patricia Morris (1979-81), Sylvia Rogers (1981), Holly Krueger (1982), Linda Ogden (1980-82), and Anne Rosenthal (1983-84). Current staff members are associate conservators Debra Evans (1982- ) and Pauline Mohr (1975- , half-time at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) and apprentice Janice Mae SCHOPFER (1981- ). WRPCL has been extremely fortunate in having the paintings conservation and bookbinding expertise of the latter two staff members. An adjunct staff member, Niccolo Caldararo, handles the ongoing matting, framing and special exhibition needs of the Fine Arts Museums.

An important function of the WRPCL has been conservation training. Over the years it has provided internship positions for conservators Pauline Mohr, Pam Young Randolph, Nina Rayer, Craigen Weston Bowen, Leslie Kruth, Patricia Morris, Debra Evans, Margaret Lawson, Sylvia Rogers, Dan Clement, Sandra Blackard, Barbara Stahlersholk and Julie Goldman (current intern). Interns have come from apprenticeship situations and from the Cooperstown, Fogg, Queen's and Winterthur programs.

 [Photograph of Lab]

The WRPCL facility is conveniently located in the Achenbach Foundation (i.e. the graphics collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco) wing at the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park. Immediate access to this large print and drawing collection, to the library and to the expertise of the curatorial staff makes the location ideal. The lab is relatively small. It consists of a main room which has natural light and is used for treatment and administrative work, a smaller room for photodocumentation, a photographic darkroom, and an adjacent room which serves as a matting and framing area.

WRPCL is fully equipped with standard instruments, materials and so on, but it has also gained a reputation for its inventive adaptations of ordinary materials and equipment for special applications. These developments include: a press operated by an inflatable truck tire inner tube, a magnesium bicarbonate system which uses a pressure cooker, a microwave oven for quick paste cooking, several variations of use for the vacuum suction table, a light bleaching unit made from sunlamps and track lighting fixtures, a paper casting apparatus, and a timesaving mat cutter adaptation.

The lab's photodocumentation area has recently been streamlined and updated with the aid of an NEA grant. The current system consists of a copystand mounted with two 35mm cameras which take black and white, and color films. They slide horizontally and eliminate the need to change cameras or to move objects during a photo session. A large magnetic board is mounted on the wall to accommodate larger objects.

An important effort has been the development of a computerized system to expedite report writing and to facilitate production in the lab. Several programs have been written for the lab's Apple III computer. Reports may be entered directly into the computer as an object is being examined. A coded checklist may be used. Individual notations are thereby easily accommodated, yet the time spent in producing reports is greatly reduced. WRPCL handles condition, proposed treatment, survey and final treatment reports in this manner, and the computer sees heavy use as a word processor.

Debra Evans
Western Regional Paper Conservation Laboratory (WRPCL)
California Palace of the Legion of Honor
San Francisco

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