Volume 17, Number 1, Jan 1995, p.15

WAAC Annual Meeting: Presentation Summaries

by Pauline Mohr, Column Editor

The 1994 WAAC Annual Meeting was held September 25-27 at the Asilomar Conference Center on the Monterey Peninsula. The papers from the meeting are listed below along with summaries prepared by the speakers.

The Lead Coffin Project, Historic Saint Mary's City, Maryland: Textiles Found in Three Lead Coffins Dating To 1682
Terri Schindel, Conservator
Buffalo Bill Historical Center
P.O. Box 1400
Cody, WY 82414
(307) 587-4771

The Lead Coffin Project was a true collaborative effort or as some prefer, an interdisciplinary project. The team who discovered and exhumed three lead coffins at Historic Saint Mary's City, HSMC, Maryland included conservators, scientists, archaeologists, historians, public relations experts and a business manager. The team was assembled from the staff at HSMC, State of Maryland, NASA, Institute of Pathology, Smithsonian, and College of William and Mary. A 15 minute video was produced as an overview of the project and it was used for fund raising endeavors. This presentation will include the video and a description of the textile conservator's involvement on the project. Topics to be discussed: project management, project preparation, on-site lifting of fragile silk/linen textiles, documentation, packing and transportation.

The History, Care, and Conservation of Totem Poles in Southeast Alaska
Helen Alten, State Conservator
Alaska State Museum
395 Whittier Street
Juneau, AK 99801

In Southeast Alaska, totem poles have served a number of functions from cultural signpost to historical memorial to burial marker or grave. An impressive sight when lined up on the beach in front of a village, totem poles have captured the imagination of Northwest Coast visitors for over a century. Totem pole replicas and miniatures have been common tourist items and decorative motifs since the last century. The totem pole has become a symbol of Alaska, and non-Native totemic poles appear throughout the state, in areas where there never were Native totem poles.

From a conservator's viewpoint, totem poles are exterior painted wood sculptures. Their care and preservation have always been problematic. Many different treatments have tried to stabilize the wood and/or paint. Different gap fill methods, coatings, paints, and restoration techniques have been tried, some with more success than others. A philosophical difference among pole caretakers, most noticeable between European and Native, results in distinctly different approaches to treatment. Finally, modern carvers are experimenting with new paints, researching old paint formulations, and trying different clear coatings in an attempt to prolong the life of their totem poles. Some of their attempts have the opposite effect.

This paper will attempt to summarize past and current treatments used on totem poles, with an emphasis on Alaskan materials. A draft of a general care sheet, developed to help totem pole caretakers, will also be provided for discussion.

Papier Mache Art by the Linares Family
Jo Hill, Director of Conservation
UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History
405 Hilgard Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90024-1549 (310) 825-1146

For the past few decades, the Don Pedro Linares family in Mexico has been making papier mache art in the form of skeletons, fantastic creatures, and other figures. This paper will offer a photo essay tour of the conservation and curatorial preparations for the En Calaveras show at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History opening November 6 1994. The History of the Linares family and art production will be described, focusing on the progression of art forms and figural types produced by several generations of the Linares family. The materials and techniques of the papier mache figures and their impact on treatment problems will be explored, as well as exhibition techniques planned for these unusual sculptures.

The Use of Surfactants in Conservation
Patricia Ewer, Conservator
Biltmore House
One North Pack Square
Asheville, NC 28801 (704) 274-6270

Jim Ross, Surfactant Consultant
Laundry Solutions
1252 Gainsborough Drive
Sunnyvale, CA 91807 (408) 773-0973

Patricia Ewer and Jim Ross have been pursuing an interest in surfactants for the past several years. Patricia Ewer has presented several papers on the cleaning capabilities of Orvus WA paste on cotton and wool at AIC and ICOM meetings. Jim Ross in involved in creating environmentally safe surfactants for use in home and industry. Ms. Ewer and Mr. Ross have formed a collaborative effort for the purpose of studying the use of surfactants in conservation. This paper surveys the use of surfactants by a wide variety of conservation professionals. The paper explores conservators' favorite surfactants, additives, combination systems, likes and dislikes of these systems and desires for alternatives. In addition, the conservators' application processes, typical substrates, composite materials and different types of soils. In the course of the presentation, the authors would like to initiate a dialogue with attendees.

Analysis of Pictograph Materials and Symbolism from Mockingbird Canyon, Riverside, California
Kate Duffy, NEA/Mellon Fellow
Conservation Research
Conservation Center
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036 (213) 857-6158

Cindi Alvitre, Director
Traditional Council of Pimu Ti'at Society
3462 Avocado Street
Riverside, CA 92507 (909) 276-1161

Mockingbird Canyon represents one of few remaining Southern California Indian solstice/rock art sites within Riverside County. The site was utilized by the Luiseno, and Gabrieleno tribes as part of a complex religious structure that integrated astronomical elements into traditional ceremonies performed. The presence of ethnographical documentation, as well as the participation of the Indian communities, has provided opportunities to accurately interpret the panels of pictographs, as well as reach a clearer definition of the processes involved and materials used in the production of the rock art. The understanding of the cultural elements, and the sacred nature of the site, furthers the efforts of conservators, culturalists and the Native American community to protect, manage and interpret significant cultural resources.

Mockingbird Canyon contains three separate areas of pictographic art displayed on granite rock formations. Examinations were undertaken in order to identify the pigments and weathering products, as well as to examine the fragility of the artwork in its environs. Samples were taken from representative rock formations and prepared as cross-sections, thin sections, and dispersed pigment slides. Polarized light microscopy (PLM) was used in conjunction with x-ray diffraction (XRD) and Fourier transform infrared spectrophotometry (FTIR) in this project.

Although dating ethnographic rock art is difficult, the results confirm that this area has been used in ceremonies up through this past century. The pigments identified are hematite, yellow ochre, and red ochre. Barium sulfate, a modern pigment used since the nineteenth century was also found. Identified weathering deposits include gypsum, kaolinite, whewellite, and weddellite.

The fragility of the rock art is also considered. No detectable levels of original binder were found in these analyses indicating that a loss of pigment could easily occur. In some cases, weathering deposits such as gypsum are acting as the pigment binder while in other cases, weathering deposits are displacing pigment layers. In several areas, the original design is destroyed by the application of graffiti. Prevention of further vandalism is the most important issue in preserving this area for posterity.

Conservation at the Powerhouse Museum, Sidney, Australia
C. Mary Gissing, Conservation Intern
UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History
406 Hilgard Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90272 (310) 825-1146

The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia, is a public institution, forming part of a group administered by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), which has been in operation since 1879 in various forms. A short slide presentation will introduce the museum and illustrate the broad nature of the collection, which focuses on objects related to: science; technology; industry; design; decorative arts; and social history. The conservation policy, and the role and functions of the conservation department within this large public institution will be outlined, followed by a brief discussion of the responsibilities and activities of a conservator. A further short slide presentation will show the various work areas of the department.

Changing Approaches to Conservation: A Closer Look at Kachina Dolls
Nancy Odegaard, Conservator
Arizona State Museum
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721 (602) 621-6314

Lately there has been much discussion and concern regarding the appropriate care and conservation of Native American Collections. The value of contextual and cultural information has become recognized as crucial to the conservation process. Kachina dolls are one of the most popularly recognized examples of Southwest Native American art. As composite objects with ceremonial association there is often some confusion regarding treatment design. Varieties of materials, manufacture techniques and intended use have evolved over the last century. This paper will illustrate some of the issues relevant to the conservation process.

The St. George Triptych at the Los Angeles County Museum
Montserrat Mallat Le Mense, Conservator

1720 Pacific Avenue 128
Venice, CA 90291 (310) 392-0804

The St. George Triptych at LACMA is a lovely, early example of the Spanish International Gothic style. Although the panel's provenance is unknown, there is a clear stylistic link to retablos in the Huesca and Zaragoza regions of Aragon. The size of the retablo and the quality of the materials employed in its manufacture indicate it was commissioned for a side chapel or small church. The Aragonese countryside along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela is peppered with dozens of ermitas, small churches founded by cloistered communities and dedicated to Saints.

The recent treatment of the retablo provided an opportunity to analyze and appreciate the technique and artistry of this lesser known sphere of Medieval painting. An outstanding feature of the LACMA St. George is the spectacular state of preservation of the silver leaf in the central figure of St. George. Silver leaf was also used in the backgrounds of the side panels, but with a colored glaze to simulate gold; remnants of this technique, called coloradura, are still visible in portions of the panel. The presence of an early layer of shellac poses some interesting questions and a possible explanation for the excellent state of preservation of the silver.

Methods of Pest Control at LACMA
Steve Colton, Conservator
Conservation Center
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036 (213) 857-6166

Over time, conservators at LACMA have used many traditional methods to control the inevitable pest problems that will occur to a museum actively collecting a wide range of material from all over the world. All of these traditional eradication methods seem to have some drawbacks that progressively limit their use, especially those that involve the application of chemical poisons. Emerging information and regulations also narrow one's choices.

Because of these two converging problems, pests that will always be around and the availability of fewer conventional weapons, methods that are as benign as possible to the art yet can be used safely within the museum have been pursued. To that end our Vacudyne Fumigation Chamber, originally set-up to use ethylene oxide, has been converted to an oxygen deprivation chamber which utilizes humidified nitrogen. However, this does not answer of all the problems, and so the use of Integrated Pest Management will be described.

Tear Repair, Los Angeles Earthquake Style
Susanne Friend, Conservator
ConservArt Associates
4823 Berryman Avenue
Culver City, CA 90230-5109 (310)391-3537

On January 17th, 1994 most conservators in Los Angeles were not thinking, as they huddled in their closets, how much art was being damaged. Sadly for the occupants of 1 Bunker Hill, the mural in the lobby was cracked in half that morning, producing approximately 20' of tears.

The mural, entitled "Apotheosis of Power",was painted in 1930 by Hugo Ballin for the old Edison Building. It is oil on canvas adhered to plaster, and is approximately 15' x 9'. The wall was specially plastered to receive the painting and has several horizontal iron reinforcing bars. The differential response to stress from the earthquake by the rebars and the plaster caused the painting to split and separate from the wall directly above the iron bar center. The painting still attached to the final plaster layer, was found displaced outward by as much as 6". The lower part of the wall had literally "jumped" forward, permanently throwing the painting out of plane. Plaster rubble and dust was caught behind the detachments, which extended as much as two feet away from the point of rupture.

The entire damaged area (about 4' x 9') was faced, then some pieces were cut out in order to reestablish the design alignment. The damaged plaster underneath was cleaned out, consolidated and replastered. The pieces, which had registration marks on the facing, were then replaced and held in place with buttresses attached to the scaffolding. While the compositional registration was perfect, it was much more difficult to achieve a planar registration. In many areas the canvas had to be peeled away and the plaster shaved down. In others, the plaster below was compressed into the soft new scratch coat in order to gradually slope the area down to match the other side. Hollow areas beyond the major detachment points were injected. The painting was varnished, filled and inpainted.

This paper emphasizes the conflicts represented by leaving a painting in a less than perfect condition or inflicting greater long term damage to have a more satisfying immediate effect.

From Flying Carpets to Flying Horses
Duane Chartier, Scientist/Conservator
ConservArt Associates
4823 Berryman Avenue
Culver City, CA 90230-5109 (310)391-3537

There is no programmatic method available for the lifting and moving of large, unwieldy and fragile art works. Each case presents new problems and opportunities for the development of creative methods for moving and installation. The only constant in all such tasks is the necessity to understand the structures and materials of the objects as well as the internal and external forces that will be applied in the move. This analysis, whether it be systematic or empirical, should indicate structural weaknesses in the works and guide the actual construction of mounting hardware, lifting devices and packing materials.

Too often "conventional wisdom" is used in transporting and moving art and this can create many difficulties and increased expenses for the conservator or client. Over-design can be as great a problem as under-design.

In the past year ConserArt Associates has been responsible for three projects involving lifting, transportation and installation of very large, unwieldy and heavy art works. This paper describes the careful planning, lift design and orchestration required to safely move an eight ton glass sculpture; a four ton, 100 year old plaster horse; and three oversized marouflaged triptychs (center panels are 16' x 16'). These examples will be used to illustrate a particular philosophy of using flexible and low-mass structures for stabilization and installation.

Julia Morgan: Her Design for Asilomar and Other Works
David Wessel
Architectural Conservator
Architectural Resource Group
Pier 9, The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94111 (415) 421-1680

Julia Morgan was an architect, engineer, and successful San Francisco businesswoman. Her career spanned more than forty years, and many of her works have become noteworthy California landmarks. She is perhaps most commonly remembered as the architect of the Hearst Castle at San Simeon. But Morgan's work includes far more than this one famous project. Her buildings are found throughout California, particularly the northern part of the state, and include residences, public buildings and religious structures.

The presentation will begin by focusing on a range of Morgan's works in the Bay Area to illustrate her use and understanding of building materials. A recent seismic strengthening project will be shown. Morgan's design for Asilomar and the history of the facility from its inception will then be discussed. Mention will also be made of the new facilities by John Carl Warneke.

The Use of Wild Cucumber Seeds (Marah Macrocarpus) in California Rock Art
Mitchell Hearns Bishop
Research Coordinator
Documentation Program
The Getty Conservation Institute
4503 Glencoe Avenue Marina del Rey, CA 90292-6537
Michele Derrick
Acting Head - Analytical Section
Scientific Program
The Getty Conservation Institute
4503 Glencoe Avenue Marina del Rey, CA 90292-6537

The Wild Cucumber (Marah macrocarpus) plant and seeds, native to the Southwestern Untied States, have been used for a variety of purposes. Historical accounts show that the California Indians used the Wild Cucumber roots as a pesticide and used its seeds for euthanasia, as marbles, as containers for magical substances and for various medicinal functions. The oil and pulp of the seed of the Wild Cucumber has also been cited as a binder in California rock art particularly among the Luiseno and Gabrielino groups. However, the use of various substances as binders in rock art has been the topic of a longstanding controversy. This paper examines the historical accounts of the use of the Wild Cucumber and presents the results of the analysis of binders in samples from Chumash Indian rock art sites in California. The results show many similarities in the composition of the paint binder with that of the pulp and oil from the cucumber seeds.

Conservation in Crisis - A Brief Introduction into the State of Cultural Patrimony and Preservation in Cuba
Rosa Lowinger, Conservator
The Sculpture Conservation Studio
1144 South Stanley Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90019

I left Cuba as a child in 1961 and until I returned as a conservator, I had little idea of the wealth of art, architecture and artifacts that existed in the country of my birth. Thirty years had passed. During this time, the Soviet Union had collapsed, the promises of the Cuban revolution had waned, and much of the country appears badly deteriorated. However, if one looks beyond the rusted grillwork and collapsing stone of the buildings, that is if one sees Cuba through the eyes of a conservator instead of a disappointed exile, one becomes aware of the wealth of six centuries of Indian and African artifacts, a fine tradition of painting and architecture that ranges from the Spanish Baroque to Art Deco.

Over the past two years I have visited Cuba six times. I have been working with the Centro Nacional de Restauracion y Museologia, the central conservation training and research facility located in Havana. Conservation is being carried out in spite of enormous pressures that include shortages of things like pencils and paper not to mention basic solvents. These activities center around the Centro and other facilities in Havana as well as the conservation facilities in the other colonial cities of Cuba.

I will be showing slides of the cultural wealth that exists in the island that was the center of the Spanish presence in the Caribbean. In addition I will discuss the state of conservation in Cuba and some of the solutions that are being developed to carry out conservation treatments in a country of vast material shortages.

A Comparative Study of Consolidants for Stabilizing Friable, Salt-Laden Sandstone Prior to Desalination
Eric Hansen, Conservation Scientist
John Griswold, Conservator
Blanche Kim

William S. Ginell, Scientist
The Getty Conservation Institute
4503 Glencoe Avenue Marina del Rey, CA 90292

Presented is a progress report on a comparative study of the effectiveness of consolidants for stabilizing friable, salt-laden stone prior to desalination.

This study differs from previous studies in the conservation literature concerning the removal of salts by immersion in water, because highly deteriorated (by means of successive salt crystallization cycles) samples of stone were used to test the consolidants. The conclusions differ from those gathered when intact samples of stone are used for testing, specifically in regard to the failure to consolidate salt-laden limestones. Other important factors include: the types of consolidants (thermoset or thermoplastic); the inhibition of salt removal when highly concentrated solutions are used to deliver the consolidants; and the influence on water absorbed by stone due to constituents such as clay and how this is related to the dimensions of the object.

The current study focuses on the desalination of salt-laden and degraded samples of Wyoming molasse sandstone which were consolidated with Acryloid B72 in toluene, Eponex 1510/Jeffamine T403 (an alcohol-soluble epoxy), and Silbond 40 (a poly ethylsilicate). The acrylic and the epoxy consolidants were used in two dilutions (10 and 25%), and the poly ethylsilicate was used neat.

The methods under consideration for evaluating and interpreting these results will be discussed. Of particular interest is determining the location of the remaining salts within the sample, and whether or not they are encapsulated by the consolidants. The feasibility of using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), FT-IR spectroscopy, and X -ray fluorescence for this type of investigation will be explored. Potential means of mapping the relative salt concentrations in a cross section of the sample will be presented, including core sampling. Additionally, the factors affecting the failure of the poly ethylsilicate will be addressed.

Technology and Conservation of the Mexican Amate Paper
Marie Vander Meeren
Paper Conservator
Escuela Nacional de Conservacion, Restauracion y Museografia
Manuel del Castillo Negrete, INAH-SEP
Exconvento de Churubusco
Xicotencatl y Gral. Anaya Mexico C.P. 04120

Amate paper, made of the inner bark fibres of a select species of plants, was one of the materials used as a writing support in precolumbian times in Central America. There was quite an industry manufacturing this product judging from the large number of "codex" made of this material.

Nowadays, amate paper is still used and follows very closely the prehispanic traditions with some concessions in the manufacturing process and vegetal species chosen to make the product. Studying the manufacturing process and the types of plants chosen has helped us understand some of the causes of deterioration that we see in our museum collections of this material.

Consolidation of amate paper with materials commonly used in paper conservation has given satisfactory results.

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