About Author: Nancy E. Kraft

Posts by Nancy E. Kraft

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Teaching Moments at CRC

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Intern Assisting With Vaccuming Canvas PieceAll the work on the artwork damaged by Hurrican Sandy is done by volunteers. It’s a great opportunity for an intern to learn about assessing and cleaning paintings while on the job with a volunteer conservator. Today we had a student volunteer who is studying to become a paintings conservator. She assisted the volunteer conservator, had the opportunity to meet with two artists and work on several different pieces of art. Here she is assisting with vacuuming a canvas. You can already see the difference where they have cleaned.
Artist Cleaning Canvas Stretcher
Sometimes the best person to clean artwork is the artist because he/she knows the piece very intimately. The artist knows what materials were used to create the work and what the original looked like. For instance, the charcoal pieces that I was working with were smeared. Since I don’t know what the original looked like, I am the not the best person to clean the artwork — the artist is. I taught an artist’s assistant how to clean artwork on paper. She knows his work intimately and can consult with the artist as needed.

The paintings conservator worked with an another artist today and taught her how to vacuum clean her works on canvas. I also showed her how to clean the canvas wood stretchers. Since the wood stretchers are made of soft, porous wood, the frames will eventually need to be replaced. In the meantime, some of the mold has been cleaned off, reducing health risks.

There is no way that we can clean all the artwork in the time we have at the CRC. By training others on basic cleaning, we increase our “cleaning power.” Plus the work can continue once the CRC is closed.

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Busy Day at the Cultural Recovery Center in Brooklyn

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Testing for Mold

Testing for Mold

We had a very busy day at the Cultural Recovery Center in Brooklyn. The volunteer paintings conservator examined a couple of paintings that an artist brought in during the morning, just before noon she removed an artwork from a frame and examined the piece for mold and damage, in the afternoon she examined art on canvas and tested for mold.

Cleaning a Wooden Object

Cleaning a Wooden Object

The volunteer object conservator spent most of the day cleaning a wooden object with a vacuum cleaner, brush and soot sponge.

Vacuuming a Canvas

Vacuuming a Canvas

An artist’s daughter-in-law spent several hours vacuuming his artwork on canvas.

I spent the day assisting the paintings conservator photodocumenting each piece that she examined and spent a couple hours inspecting art on paper for mold.

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An Artist’s Quandary

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

CraigPaintingWhat does an artist do when his/her artwork is damaged? Throw it away because it has been changed and is no longer the same piece? Re-work it and make it a “new” painting? Repair the damage and try to keep the essence of the original? Or leave it as damaged and let it tell the story of the original and the disasterous event? Artists in New York are having this discussion. Everyone is coming up with a different answer and sometimes the same artist has different answers depending on the piece.

Craig Fisher, NYC artist, made the decision to keep this oil on canvas, 1988-89, as is, showing the damage of Hurricane Sandy. He’s decided to let the yellow show through the green.

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Assessment and Cleaning

Monday, February 11, 2013

AssessmentToday I spent most of the day inspecting close to 150 art works on paper for mold. It’s very time consuming. The front and back of each piece of art needed to be entirely visually inspected — each inch. I only found a handful that I thought a paper conservator should take a second look at. With reassurance that the pieces are free of mold, the artist can take his time making decisions on how to deal with his water-damaged works.

CleaningTwo volunteer conservators spent the day at the center cleaning the backs of artwork on canvas with a soot sponge. The paintings had already been treated and vacuumed. They finished the entire group and the paintings are ready to be picked up by the artist.

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Assisting Artists After Hurricane Sandy

Friday, February 8, 2013

Kraft and artist examine a painting When we inspect an artist’s work, we also ask for the story of the piece to learn more about its history and composition. The pieces that this artist brought in were her final project before graduation where she used as pure a blue, red, and yellow that she could get. She had her art studio in the basement and did not have time to get these pieces out before Hurricane Sandy. (Other higher priority items were taken out.) Each piece was in a plastic bag so there was some protection. Since the basement was flooded, she took everything outside to start drying things out. However while she had everything outside drying, it rained and then the temperature dropped. By the time the entire “hurricane event” was over, her sewer backed up twice. Staying on top of things was difficult.

Although theses pieces show a lot of damage, they are important to her. She plans salvaging them the best she can. A volunteer conservator will clean the pieces for her and then she will work on them as she has time, using advice provided by a conservator.

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Salvaging Artists’ Works After Hurricane Sandy

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rack of artwork with plastic protective coverA couple years ago, I received training so I could become part of a national cultural disaster response team called AIC-CERT (American Institute for Conservation Collections Emergency Response Team). After Hurricane Sandy, AIC (American Institute for Conservation) and the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation established a Cultural Recovery Center (CRC) in Brooklyn to reach out to artists and owners affected by Hurricane Sandy. Each week one AIC-CERT member acts as the team leader assisting where needed. At the end of the week, the baton is passed on to another AIC-CERT member. I’m acting as the AIC-CERT team leader for the rest of this week and then all of next week.

Today I worked with a paintings conservator and an artist to review his paintings that had been stablized and lightly cleaned in the CRC studio by volunteer conservators during the past few days. I photo documented each painting, taking a picture of the assigned number to the painting, a front image, and any problem areas. The conservator discussed the damage and possible solutions for each painting with the artist. She will add her observations and recommendations to a treatment sheet that is kept for each painting.

We then set each painting into a wooden rack that a volunteer had constructed for safe keeping until the artist can pick up the paintings.

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TGIF Sorta’

Friday, May 25, 2012

Instructor demonstrating how to make a four flap enclosureThe time at OceanTeacher Academy flew by and it is already Friday! We had a great group of students who stayed engaged and worked hard. In the afternoon, Caitlin demonstrated several things including how to make a four flap enclosure and a simple archival paper wrap as options for providing protection for rare books. Since budgets are always tight no matter the size of library and none of the libraries had direct access to a conservation lab we spent our time learning how to provide basic protection with limited materials and staff time.
Student standing in front of a cameragiving power point presentationThe students worked all week on a preservation plan and gave formal presentations at the end of the week. A written plan was also turned in to the instructors. These written plans will be reviewed by the instructors with follow up comments, used by the students to begin discussions with their management and as a starting point for possible grant proposals. The plans had short and long term goals with many goals requiring little money. Many students identified a need for better shelving practices, cleaning and handling procedures and repair of cracks in walls and foundations. Long range plans included a desire for air conditioning and improved scanning equipment.

Caitlin and I look forward to hearing about the student successes and challenges as they begin implementing preservation practices in their libraries. We are glad to have the weekend in front of us but will miss our new and renewed acquaintances as we head back home.

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Protecting Fragile Material

Students are using awls to make sewing station holes for stitchingThursday, May 24, 2012

We spent the morning at OceanTeacher Academy practicing stitching single-signature pamphlets into binders and making pockets. Pamphlet binders and pockets are both good ways to protect vulnerable material. We used both commercial and homemade binder covers for our pamphlets. A pocket can be used to keep a CD, pamphlet, map or other loose material with a book. A pocket attached to a folder can also be used to protect an item, particularly pamphlets that are too fragile to stitch in a binder or items too thick to include in a book. Pamphlet binders and pockets are inexpensive ways to protect fragile material.Student is measuring paper to make a pocket to insert into a book

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Visiting the National Archives in Bruges

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

OTA students listening to Archivist Luc Janssens in the new facility Today we visited the National Archives in Bruges at their old facility and the new facility that they will move into this August. Archivist Luc Janssens talked about how he organized the archives collection by size in order to maximize the shelving space. There are four different height and width sizes of shelving. He also mapped the collection areas on an architectural floor plan so that the movers can move the boxes and shelve them for him. He has to very careful that the boxes get on the correct shelf so he can find the boxes back again.New compact shelving in the new buildingBoxes are organized  by size
The depth of the firewall can be seen over the head of the architect leaning against the firewall
In order to reduce the chances of fire getting into the archive collections, he requested that a fire wall be built that will withstand fire for one hour. The depth of the fire wall can be seen behind the architects who came to visit with us during the tour of the new facility.

Luc also should us an example of safely displaying a book that needs special handling. Each book that needed special support was set out on a pillow.
A large book is resting on a pillow

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Dual tracks: Book Repair and Preservation Planning

Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Student is attaching a loose page in a book using document repair tapeDuring our week at OceanTeacher Academy, we are learning the basics of book repair for circulating collectons and preservation planning. Today we learned about mending page tears and tipping in loose pages. We stressed that these mends are for circulating collections only and not for special collections or rare books. The goal of simple mends for circulating collections is to extend the life of the book so it can continue to circulate until the book wears out. We used transparent, thin, flexible mending tissue.

We also continued to work on a preservation plan for each library. Students are discussing and recording preservation needs for collections, equipment and building. After each lecture, they review their recorded needs and make additions and/or corrections. By the end of the week they will each have a preservation plan. Today the students got into groups and shared ideas for filling out the various needs forms.

Students are sitting at a table discussing preservation needsStudents are sitting by a window discussing preservation needsStudents are discussing preservation needs and recording on the computer