Volume 9, Number 2, May 1987, pp.16-18

Conferences in Review

Various authors

March 13-15, "Textiles in Historic Houses: Studies and Methods of Conservation"

The Fourth Conference of the Italian Center for the Study of Historic Textiles was held in Florence.

Christina Aschengreen Piacenti, president of C.I.I.S.T. and director of the Costume Gallery at the Pitti Palace, welcomed more than one hundred forty curators and conservators representing museums and conservation centers in Great Britain, the United States and Europe, including Scandinavia. The sixteen papers emphasized the conservation of upholstery textiles and wall coverings. The organizers specifically excluded tapestries, carpets, and leather as topics for discussion. Simultaneous translation was provided throughout. Tours of three Florentine Villas provided a clear view of conservation problems and treatments. The Villa del Poggio Imperiale, now a fashionable boarding school, contains 18th century handpainted cotton chintz wall coverings still in their original location. Temporary measures have been taken to prevent further peeling and fading of the now brittle, light damaged textiles. Long stitches have been used in an attempt to support loose pieces of fabric, and white cotton curtains have been hung to shield the wall coverings from continued exposure to light and the present occupants of the Villa. In both the Villa della Petraia and Poggio a Caiano, the 19th century textiles show the effects of gross fluctuation in temperature and humidity. In some instances, exact reproductions of antique wall coverings and upholstery fabrics have replaced the original. The existence of detailed household inventories makes such replacements a viable restoration alternative. Moreover, many of the manufacturers of the original textiles are still operative and able to weave stunning reproductions. The participants identified regular maintenance as the essential factor in the conservation of historic houses. Vacuum cleaning of draperies, wall coverings and upholstery fabrics must be done as often as four times a year.

The conference organizers allowed ample time for informal and formal discussion enabling participants to compare and evaluate specific treatments and materials.

The conference closed with a reception hosted by the Marchese Emilio Pucci, the noted fashion and textile designer. Proceedings will be published and available through: C.I.I.S.T.

Museo degli Argenti
Palazzo Pitti

Sharon Gordon Donnan
Workman and Temple Homestead
City of Industry, California
March 16-20, "Cleaning of Paintings"

A one week seminar organized by Suzanne Deal of the GCI and taught by Richard Wolbers of the Winterthur Art Conservation Training Program. New methods of cleaning paintings such as the use of enzymes and resin gels were discussed. Mr. Wolbers has brought new techniques of cleaning to the field of Conservation from his previous work in medical research.

March 23-27, "Conservation in Field Archaeology".

A short course was given to the faculty and graduate students of the Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, sponsored by The GCI. Lifting, cleaning, and storage methods were discussed for ceramics, glass, metals, coins, textiles, wet organics, and dry organics. The class was organized by Benita Johnson, and taught by Catherine Sease (Field Museum, Chicago), Nicholas Stanley Price (GCI), Jerry Podany (JPGM), Claire Dean (JPGM), Glenn Wharton (Private Conservator), and Sharon Donnan (Private Conservator).

April 6-9, "Second International Earthquake Conference"

Organized by the Los Angeles City Council, was held in Los Angeles. In attendance were city managers and civil defense administrators from many countries.

From the J. Paul Getty Museum, Barbara Roberts, Conservator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Wilbert Faulk, Head of Security, and Scott Reuter, Associate Preparator, addressed the conference on Safeguarding Museum Collections for Earthquakes.

April 6-10, "Electrotyping"

A one week seminar organized by The GCI and taught by Benner Larsen of the Royal Art Academy of Copenhagen. Methods of reproducing missing elements from art objects using the technique of electroforming were taught.

April 6-10 The American Chemical Society

The ACS held its annual meeting in Denver, Colorado. Of interest were sessions on Archaeological Chemistry. April 7 was devoted to "Nuclear Techniques and Applications". Various papers dealt with neutron activation analysis of ceramics and clays and their interpretation. The most popular presentation was on the proposal for carbon-14 dating of the Shroud of Turin. Other papers presented work on lead isotope ratios of metals and neutron activation analysis of archaeological metal fragments. The papers presented on April 8 were of more direct interest to conservators as the subject matter was "Organic Substances in Art and Archaeology." Basic protein and amino acid chemistry was presented in various papers. Complications of amino acid racemization dating were discussed and several successful applications of this relative dating method were presented. This session included also an update on the status of the scientific testing of the Shroud of Turin, which, as the day before, drew a standing-room-only audience. Other papers presented included a preliminary report on dating of bone by ESR (electron spin resonance), a specific test for human serum, a microprobe study of textile fibers, a study of textile pseudomorphs and a study of deteriorated historic silk banners.

On April 9 papers were presented on the subject of "Chemical Studies of Provenance and Technology". Papers included provenance study of amber, analyses of organic residues in amphoras, elemental composition of Roman coins, studies on ancient solders, medieval manuscripts, Limoges enamel, ceramic sherds, ancient stone and mortar, 19th century silk textiles, X-ray diffraction of coins and the potential of Ca-41 dating of archaeological and palaeoanthropological materials.

The proceedings of this symposium will be published by the American Chemical Society in the next volume of "Archaeological Chemistry".

Submitted by Pieter Meyers
Head of Conservation

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