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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.


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.


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.


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.


Piecing together a flood damaged map

Friday, October 19, 2012

We are nearing the end of the flood damaged flatwork for the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library.  One of the final pieces was a map that had previously been broken into 32 pieces and lined on a linen cloth.

Czech map  before

Czech map before

We carefully removed each piece of the map from the linen backing.  We then washed each piece to remove any mud and debris from the flood and to make sure all residual adhesive was gone.

Mending Gang

Mending Gang

Since the map was in so many pieces we needed to work quickly to puzzle it back together.  Bill Voss and Giselle Simon rounded out what has to be the fastest puzzle team this side of the Iowa River.

Czech map mending

Czech map mending

Bill and I made some paste and pasted our backing sheet of handmade Japanese paper to the counter top.  We then moistened each piece of the map and carefully placed it upon the paper.  We worked quickly to add all the tiny pieces of the map and then placed blotters on it to help it dry.

Once the map was completely dry it was removed from the counter and encapsulated.  Only a few more pieces of flatwork to go and the NCSML will have all their pieces back!


Encapsulating a giant map

Friday, September 28, 2012

Part of our mission at the University of Iowa is community outreach, in the Preservation and Conservation department outreach happens in many different ways. One of our most recent community projects was helping the Davenport Public Library (DPL) with an over-sized map.  Amy Groskopf, the Associate Director at the Davenport Public Library, contacted us about encapsulating a large early map of the Davenport area.  They had sent the map to be conserved by a private conservator but were unable to have the map encapsulated there.

Large Map from Davenport Public Library

Encapsulating a large map

Encapsulating a large map










Encapsulation is the process of using an ultrasonic welder using mylar to create a stable housing for flatwork.

The DPL’s map was very large and Bill Voss, Giselle Simon and I all helped to position and move the map around as we created the enclosure. We’re so happy to have a large flat space in our new lab that made this project run smoothly!


Welcome Giselle!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Giselle Simon

Giselle hard at work.


At the end of June, the Preservation and Conservation Department welcomed our new conservator, Giselle Simon. Giselle joined us from the Newberry Library in Chicago.  We were so excited for her to get here so we could put her straight to work on very important tasks, like boxing up office supplies, moving boxes around and vacuuming cabinets!


Giselle is a great addition to our department and we are so happy to have her here!


Busy Summer

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Change was a foot this summer in the UI Libraries Conservation Lab.  We started the summer by starting to pack up our lab space in preparation for our move to the 5thfloor of the library.  It was a long, sometimes sad process but we knew that moving to a new clean space would be worth it.

Old Conservation Lab

Old Conservation Lab










Saying goodbye to our old space turned out not to be that hard when we were finally able to see our new space on the 5th floor.  It is clean and bright and we were able to lay out the space in a very cohesive manner.

Model Collection

Model Collection




My favorite spot in the new lab is the model collection and meeting area.  There is a great table to sit at with the entire conservation model collection at your fingertips!


If you are interested in seeing the new space stop on up to the 5th floor and follow the signs.


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.


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