Volume 14, Number 3, Sept 1992, pp.32-35

Conference Reviews

Mary Piper Hough, column editor

IPC Conference

Manchester, England April 1992

More than 500 paper conservators from 27 countries met at the Institute of Paper Conservation's 1992 meeting in Manchester, England. The conference was held at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, April 1-4.

On the first day, preceding the opening session, the Committee had arranged several different tours to local museums, archives, and conservation labs. During registration, each participant was given a comprehensive notebook detailing the schedule, titles of presentations, lists of vendors and participants, and abstracts. The notebook and local maps and information were contained in a handsome tote bag of handmade paper from Sanganer, India. Perfect gift for all the paper aficionados!

At the conference site, one exhibition hall was devoted to a Trade Fair with vendors exhibiting their wares, and another hall was devoted to 25 poster displays. The papers were presented in an adjoining auditorium.

A wide range of subjects were discussed during the next three days, including painting, printing and drawing media, the conservation of albums and sketchbooks, treatment of oil stains on paper, bookbinding leather, and sizing and resizing. There were concurrent sessions on one day covering art on paper, and books.

On Friday evening, the Lord Mayor of Manchester invited the conference participants to a reception at the splendid Victorian Gothic Town Hall.

WAAC members attending included Theresa Andrews, Irene Bruckle, Debra Evans, Kitty Friesen, Victoria Blyth Hill, Joanne Page, Frances Pritchett, Jill Sterrett, and Karen Zukor.

The large number of excellent papers presented, and the opportunity to discuss them with fellow conservators made the conference an exciting and valuable experience, continuing the tradition of the previous IPC conferences in Oxford and Cambridge.

Postprints of this conference will be available in the near future. Please contact: The Institute of Paper Conservation, Secretary Clare Hampson, Leigh Lodge, Leigh Worcester, WR6 SLB, England.

Joanne Page
Book and Paper Conservation
Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Archaeometry '92

<Editor's note: Reviewer Emily Dunn declined to have this report placed in the online version of "Conference Reviews." Please see the print version of the newsletter.>

The Maintenance of Outdoor Sculpture: Whose Job Is It?

American Institute for Conservation, June 2-3, 1992, Buffalo, NY

The symposium brought together approximately 200 conservators, art administrators and curators to explore maintenance issues of sculpture in an outdoor environment. The 2-day forum included lectures, open discussions and group sessions covering a wide variety of topics. Partial funding for the symposium was provided by the Professional Services Program of the Institute for Museum Services.

The success of the symposium was in large part due to the efforts of the thirty-six professionals who presented lectures, prepared entries for the symposium binder and conducted task group sessions.

For those who missed the symposium, the binder which all participants received is still available from the AIC office (202-232-6636) for a cost of $35. The binder includes preprints of the formal presentations, glossaries, a bibliography, an outline of current conservation practices, information on fountain maintenance, sample survey forms, and handouts on contracting and specification writing. A follow-up booklet titled: A Guide to the Maintenance of Outdoor Sculpture will be available through the AIC office in the winter of 1992-93.

The content of the lectures and discussions reflected an increasing public awareness of the need for systematic maintenance. Maintenance programs established by the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Storm King Art Center were presented at the symposium as working models for public collections and museums.

The focus of the symposium was on defining the responsibilities of those who care for outdoor sculpture: conservators, curators, registrars, public art agency officials, and conservation technicians, depending on the size and nature of the collection. Many other professionals may also be involved, including artists, architects, landscape architects, conservation scientists, and engineers.

The role of the "owner/custodian" is to steward the collection. The first step must be to establish an inventory, then develop and oversee a maintenance program. A "conservator" is needed to identify mechanisms of deterioration and to conduct maintenance procedures specific to each sculpture. In making recommendations to the owner/custodian, the conservator integrates technical information with aesthetic judgment, ethical considerations, and understanding of available resources. The actual hands-on work of conservation must be conducted by a conservator or a "conservation technician", trained by a conservator. The conservation technician typically performs routine cleaning and renewal of coatings applied by the conservator.

Conservation measures may result in changes of surface appearance and must always be governed by a strong sense of ethics. The AIC's Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice serve as the basic ethical guide for maintenance activities. All personnel involved in maintaining outdoor sculpture should be familiar with these documents, which call for a "high sense of moral responsibility."

Reference was made by a number of speakers to museums and public agencies across the country that still use untrained maintenance personnel to clean and coat their sculptures. Unfortunately, conservators are often called in to redress problems created by inappropriate maintenance practices. It is hoped that the collaboration witnessed during this symposium and the models of successful programs which are emerging across the country are indicative of a national movement toward more professional care of our country's outdoor sculpture.

(Adapted from a review prepared for SOS! Update, a free newsletter about the Save Outdoor Sculpture program. "SOS! Update" and other information is available from NIC, 3299 K Street, Suite 403, Washington, D.C. 20007.)

Glenn Wharton
Glenn Wharton and Associates Santa Barbara

Gerry Hedley Memorial Forum 1992:
"Why Study Technique? Know Your Painting"

"What sounds good is good" proclaimed Bennie Goodman in the 1940s and I believe that it holds true today. The Gerry Hedley Forum of 1992 was an excellent proof of it. The Forum was co-sponsored by the Hedley Research Fellowship Fund, Canada and the Art Conservation Program, Queens University. Scientists, conservators, and historians convened in Kingston, Ontario for the program of talks covering many aspects of the study of artist techniques. The Forum attendants actively participated in discussions in an attempt to shed light on techniques and materials from different perspectives. This objective was accomplished with fine results.

We were given the opportunity to hear Charlie Costain, conservation scientist at the Canadian Cons. Institute, who gave a thorough "Update on the Art in Transit Conference in London, September 1991." He also gave a practical demonstration on using a specially designed slide rule that allows the user to determine the desired level of protection for any object by choosing appropriate packing materials. The slide gives a choice of polyurethane foams, based on a given weight and desired level of protection. It is an excellent tool for registrars, and can be obtained from CCI.

Stephen Hackney, conservator at the Tate Gallery, summarized "The Study of Painting Technique at the Tate Gallery"--the contribution of the scientist and the conservator. Starting out with a premise that "the more one knows about the painting, the less likely one is to damage it", the scientists and conservators tackled the enormous subject of technique. Mention was made of the expressed interest in their research by art historians. Several papers have been published on their research, some of them can be found in: "Appearance, Opinion, Change: Evaluating the Look of Paintings", UKIC, 1990. In addition, a noteworthy suggestion was made to include new information in exhibition wall labels and catalogues elucidating the technical detail.

Rica Jones, conservator at the Tate Gallery and the keynote speaker for the Forum, presented the findings of her research: "Microscopic Distortion in 18th Century British Painters." A survey conducted at the Gallery brought to light a phenomenon observed in 54 British paintings from 1730-1760. A microscopic type of shrinkage or contraction of paint into tiny pools was observed. These tiny hexagonal cells were labeled "microcissing". Paint undergoes a complex dynamic change of dilutent evaporation and drying of the oil over time; and several other factors affect the ability of the paint to dry into a continuous film. The "micro-cissing", however microscopic in scale, plays a subtle role in the optical distortion of the appearance of paintings. She brings forth several interesting theories, for example: "Does varnish play a role in creating these vortex cells?" For more information, see "Drying Crackle in Early and Mid-eighteenth Century British Painting" by Rica Jones, in "Appearance, Opinion, Change: Evaluating the Look of Paintings", UKIC, 1990.

"Authenticity and Adulteration: What Materials Were Painters Really Using." Dr. Leslie Carlyle, conservator at the Canadian Conservation Institute, gave an account of her comprehensive research of "British Nineteenth Century Painting Manuals". Adulteration of not only materials but foods had been a function of the trade all along, but it escalated during the Industrial Revolution due to increased specialization and division of labor. Oil shops sold edible oils as well as pigments and artists' oils. As Dr. Carlyle quotes an extreme case from a 19th century book on varnish: "A man is not fit for trade if uncapable of selling a sheet of brown paper for cloth of linen". Currently sold artists' oils, we are told, have standards only but no laws, and no standards exist at all for the earth colors sold in the U.S. at the present time. She shared with us these and other fascinating facts from her yet unpublished doctoral work.

John Delly, of the McCrone Research Institute, interpreted the "Use of the Light Microscope in the Identification of Materials in Paintings." Along with expounding on the materials and tools used at the McCrone Institute for making cross-sections and pigment sampling, J. Delly illustrated their usefulness in the identification of forgeries of twentieth century works of art. He referred to the "Pigment Atlas" as well as to the "Fibrary", library of fibers, at the Institute of Paper Chemistry. He gave practical tips and film recommendations on photography through the microscope. For more information, see the Kodak publication: "Photography through the Microscope".

Anne Ruggles, conservator at the National Gallery of Canada, presented an interesting case study of the "Materials and Techniques of Benjamin West." In addition, in the Workshop/ Studio Tips section, she produced a very fine instructional videotape of her technique of paint/varnish cross section preparation using microtomy.

Catherine Stewart, conservator at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection gave an update on Progress Report on Investigations into "David Milne's Materials and Technique."

Janice Passafiume of Jana Conservation in Etobicoke spoke on "David Milne - A Search for his True Value."

Marion Barclay, of the National Gallery of Canada, gave a paper on "Materials used in Certain Canadian Abstract Paintings of the l950's." She gave a brief history of the development of the artists' paint tube that brought her to the 1950's and the use by Canadian artists of automotive enamel, not unlike the Americans of this period. "To treat paintings from this period, it is essential to understand what the materials the artists used were initially made for." For a full account of the materials research by Marion Barclay, see the catalogue for the exhibition: "Crisis of Abstraction in Canada" that opens at the Musee de Quebec in November.

"Curatorial Interest in Materials and Technique" was a paper given by the curator and the co-author of the above mentioned catalogue, Denise Leclerc, of the National Gallery of Canada. She gave an account of her personal fascination with artists' materials and how these aspects of the works of art inevitably influenced her approach to the exhibition. For more information, see the above mentioned catalogue: "Crisis of Abstraction in Canada".

Scott Williams, conservation scientist at the Canadian Conservation Institute, addressed the multitude of "Commercial Prepared Artists' Varnishes and Media." The preliminary results of his comparative study of the commercial varnishes were presented to the participants in a fomm of a draft handout.

Workshop/Studio Tips concluded the two day conference and were all very interesting and quite thorough since the speakers had at least twenty minutes each for their presentations. "Consolidation of Powdery Pigments" using the ultrasonic mist by Stefan Michalski and Carole Dignard of the Canadian Conservation Institute seemed particularly innovative. It is to be published soon. "Consolidation of Lean/Matte Paint Films" by Susan Walker, of the National Gallery of Canada, belonged to the same family of problems and treated interlayer cleavage. The other Studio Tips speakers were: Anita Henry, conservator in private practice, Montreal, "Smoke Damaged Acrylic Paintings," Elyse Klein, intern at the Conservation Analytical Laboratory, Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Canada: "Backing Board Systems;" Eva Smithwick, conservator, Glenbow Museum, Calgary, "Principles of Dynamic Symmetry." Aneta Zebala, conservator at Thompson & Associates, Santa Monica, "Low Cost Studio Lamps for U. V. Examination and Photography." In general, the Gerry Hedley Forum was an excellent multidisciplinary effort to inform and hopefully will be repeated again next year. Since the proceedings of the conference will not be published as one volume, the individual authors can be contacted at their respective institutions.

Aneta Zebala
Paintings Conservator
Thompson Associates
Santa Monica

Deterioration and Conservation of Stone

Lisbon, Portugal, June 1992

The 7th International Congress on Deterioration and Conservation of Stone took place at the National Laboratory of Civil Engineering in Lisbon, June 15-18, 1992. The Congress brings together geologists, engineers, and scientists working in polymer research, biodeterioration, weathering mechanisms, and conservation materials and techniques, as well as stone conservators and students.

The conference was lively, with several spirited exchanges. Of particular importance was a discussion regarding the appropriateness and relevance of weathering and aging tests devised in the laboratory to actual field conditions. Several members of the conservation community called for laboratory tests that can be demonstrated to have a specific relationship to conditions encountered in the field. New treatment methods and materials were presented, as well as evaluations of past treatments, some of which were carried out up to 25 years ago, and so offer important evidence of the efficacy (or lack thereof) of particular treatments. In summarizing the conference at its close, the President of the Congress praised the papers generally, but significantly urged English-speaking authors to include relevant French studies in their research, to avoid an overlapping and duplication of work.

The Congress was followed by trips to quarries, monuments, and the world historic site of Evora, Portugal.

The Proceedings of the Congress are published in three volumes and include over 160 papers, in English, under the categories of: causes, mechanisms, and measurement of stone damage; external factors of decay; biodegradation; laboratory methods and techniques; in-situ evaluation of damage; treatment methods and products; and case studies.

They are available from: The 7th International Congress on Deterioration and Conservation of Stone, Laboratorio Nacional de Engenharia Civil, Av. Brasil 101, 1799 Lisbon Codex (Tel. 351.1.8482131, FAX 351.1.8474759).

Patricia Leavengood, Objects Conservator
Art Conservation Services, Seattle

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