Object conservation Category

0

Buttons, Buttons, Who’s Got the Buttons

Friday, October 17, 2008

This small metal box is full of buttons of all shapes and sizes that are from Mason’s Dry Cleaners that was owned by Elmer Smith Jr. in Cedar Rapids. These buttons, and the box they are housed in, were painstakingly cleaned by one of our volunteers, Diana Henry. She sorted the buttons by material and worked with Gary Frost to determine the best method of cleaning for each. This is among the items that will be returned to the African American Museum on Feb. 3, 2009.

0

Sandals Almost as Good as New

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

These Sandals are one of two pairs from the African American Museum. They were both caked with mud and sludge. We chose to clean these sandals because they were in better condition than the other pair, which had some warping and cracking.

For these I used a PVOH sponge to do an initial cleaning and then went in to do the detailing with swabs and saliva. According to Susan Kuecker they look better than they did before the flood!

0

Ghosting on 78s

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

While cleaning the records for the Czech Slovak museum, we noticed that upon drying, some of the 78s had some residual “ghosting”.  We tried a second wash but we couldn’t diminish the staining.  We took a couple of the 78s over to the Audio Visual department to do a test run with Rod Mickle. The records played but had very poor sound quality. Rod said that they could be enhanced digitally but that it would be very time consuming and expensive. He explained that what we were seeing was dirt lodged in the grooves of the records. We plan to do a second cleaning and hope that will diminish more of the ghosting. 

0

Feather Fans

Friday, October 10, 2008

Three feather and wicker fans were salvaged from the African American Museum, all three were moldy and covered with a thick layer of muck. We knew they would take a very long time to clean so as part of the museum’s triage we were told to save two of the three. I began working on the first fan at the Campbell Center in Mt. Carroll, IL under the instruction of Conservator Helen Alten.

Cleaning feathers is a tricky business, each feather needs to be brushed out individually without disturbing those surrounding it. These fans were constructed with a wicker handle and
fan, with feathers woven in around the perimeter.

There were multiple layers of feathers and those on top were downy so we had to fluff them up again. I went around and separated out each feather with a piece of blotter paper to support it and brushed it out with water, trying to keep the original shape. They were then left to air dry. They turned out surprisingly well considering their original condition. Combined, the two fans took about 15 hours to complete.

0

Basket Cleaning

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

We march on with cleaning baskets. This consumes most of my time at the lab now, as we are trying to finish cleaning the baskets before November 11th. I think we might cut it close. Sometimes it is difficult to know when to stop, as it seems there is always more dirt coming off. Is it flood gunk? Is it dust from before? I can’t tell, really, but it all comes off on the swabs. With this basket, cleaning the interior poses a problem, since the opening is too small to see anything inside. I brushed out, gently, what muck there seemed to be, and then vacuumed inside with the homemade attachment. I have spent a considerable amount of time on this particular basket, and will almost be sad to finish it. Almost.

0

George Washington Carver Woven Mat Cleaned

Monday, October 6, 2008

Among the artifacts from the African American Museum were two mats woven by George Washington Carver. The mat pictured was cleaned in about 15 hours by myself using saliva and swabs. I began work on the other but it was so fragile and brittle that I decided to send it to Helen Alten, our objects conservator.

0

Training Under Helen Alten Continues

Thursday, September 17, 2008

Waking up in our dorm rooms, we went to work nearly immediately, as the lab was only fifty feet away. Caitlin and I began tackling the “George Washington Carver clay mess.”  Clay had absorbed water in the flood, slid out of its storage jar and resealed itself, becoming moldy. We needed to get the mold out. We siphoned off the water and left the portion of the clay that was still wet to dry. The clay still inside the jar was dry but moldy, and we decided to take out the clay, wash the glass with Orvus liquid, then attempt to scrape off the mold on the surface. Mold, however, had penetrated every cranny and we scraped away most of the day, in between visiting the local dollar store for bamboo sticks and cotton and containers, and learning other techniques from Helen. The objects in the photo are the items that we managed to complete under Helen’s supervision.

0

Training Under Helen Alten

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

After the pretty drive over to Illinois, Caitlin and I unpacked the car–a load of baskets, the clay from George Washington Carver, some metal objects, a few gourds and some supplies Helen had recommended we bring.  Although it was almost dinner time, Helen thought we should dive into some training, and then reward ourselves with dinner out. 

Helen went over the “levels of cleaning” and demonstrated on one of the baskets.  She had clipped an end from a disposable dropper and attached it to the end of the Nilfisk vacuum hose, which resulted in finer suction. Helen also
introduced us to the PVOH sponge. It was an immediate hit; the sponge took up quite a lot of grime from one of the gourds we brought. After the intro lesson, Helen then showed us the wonder of sauerkraut as a pizza topping. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0

Conservator Helen Alten Visit

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Helen Alten is teaching at the Campbell Center, Mt. Carroll, Illinois, http://www.campbellcenter.org this week and graciously agreed to stop in for a visit to assist with some of the African American Museum of Iowa objects. To our surprise she offered to train Beth Stone and Caitlin Moore on how to clean baskets, gourds, and clay in the evenings at the Campbell Center. We promptly took her up on the offer. These items do have some of the same characteristics of paper. Learning to work with these materials will greatly enhance Beth’s and Caitlin’s skills. Having them clean these objects rather than Helen will also reduce costs to the AAMI.

Helen selected a few items for us to send her way and offered lots of great advice during our afternoon together. Susan Kuecker as the AAMI curator stayed throughout Helen’s visit so we could have instant decisions as to what to spend time on and who should work on what.

0

Moving On!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

When we finished the record project at the Oakdale paper facility we moved everything to the main library except a few boxes of LP covers which we put in our remote storage area in Oakdale Hall. We scrubbed and bleached everything we had used to make sure we weren’t leaving behind any of the mold or sludge we had cleaned from the albums and their covers.