NECA Biennial Fall Meeting, Newport, RI
1. Illuminating Ancient Fresco Technique: Multi-spectral imaging and pigment analysis of a Roman wall fragment at the Harvard Art Museums. Kate Smith, Conservator of Paintings, Harvard Art Museums.
A roman wall painting fresco dated to circa 11 B.C.E. has been in the Harvard Art Museums ancient collection since 1922. It was “rediscovered” in 2009 and identified as part of the Augustan imperial villa at Boscotrecase, the bulk of which excavated frescos are shared between the Naples Archeological Museum and the Metropolitan Museum. In preparation for exhibition, the fragment was stabilized, cleaned, and thoroughly analyzed with multi-spectral imaging techniques and pigment analysis. The small but densely decorated nature of the fragment makes it a kind of technical synecdoche for the villa decoration program. Tool marks and compositional planning incisions were clarified, the palette identified, and possible workshop specialization patterns revealed.
2. Francesca Woodman’s BFA Thesis: Conserving a Work of Art for an Active Archive. Monique C. Fischer, Senior Photograph Conservator, NEDCC and Amanda Maloney, Associate Paper and Photograph Conservator, NEDCC.
Francesca Woodman attended The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) from 1975-1979. Her BFA thesis was composed of a light-weight tissue paper support, about 30” x 20”, and twenty-one 3 ½” x 5” inter-positive transparencies attached to the front with pressure-sensitive tape. The tissue paper was heavily annotated with ball point pen inscriptions and was folded multiple times to fit into a 9” x 12” grey mailing envelope with a photographic self-portrait attached to the reverse with pressure-sensitive tape. This piece was inherently quite fragile and after 40 years in RISD’s Fleet Library archive, the tape had become brittle, discolored and fallen off. Eighteen of the twenty-one transparencies had detached and were lying loose in the storage box and the residual adhesive had locally yellowed the paper support.
Woodman’s thesis is a favorite piece among RISD students and access to the object is in high-demand. In 2006, Andrew Martinez, archivist at the Fleet Library, RISD brought Francesca Woodman’s BFA thesis to NEDCC as it was becoming increasingly difficult to handle and was in desperate need of conservation; however, there was no funding to pursue this project at that time.
In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in Francesca Woodman’s work. Her oeuvre is made all the more powerful and poignant by its scarcity since she took her own life in 1981 when she was just 22 years old.
The thesis conservation project got the green light in early 2015 and the approach was two-fold: to preserve the thesis’ original essence and provide safe access to the object for the researchers and RISD students. Working closely with the archivist, Francesca’s thesis was stabilized by treating the original tapes, tissue support and re-adhering the transparencies. A customized housing was created for the thesis to minimize handling and to make it easily accessible to RISD students. Detailed digital images were taken and a high quality facsimile print was made to help further increase safe access and display of the thesis. This presentation describes our discussions with the archivist, the conservation process, and outcomes of the project, both intended and unexpected.
3. Remaking History: Teaching a University Course in the Conservation Lab. Barbara Adams Hebard, Conservator, John J Burns Library, Boston College.
A Boston College history of the book course was enhanced by integrating books from the John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections in the curriculum and by incorporating hands-on workshops in the conservation lab as a part of the course. A history professor specifically requested that the workshops happen in the conservation lab. The conservator taught five workshops to students in the history course Early Printed Books: History and Craft. Their teacher, as well as a second professor from the History Department, attended the workshops along with the students. This course focused on the revolution in ideas, culture, and technology spurred by Johan Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, through reading and hands-on practice. The history of the book prior to 1800 was specifically addressed in the workshops. Because the conservation lab is associated with the John J. Burns Library, the conservator began each of the workshops by showing the students rare books which illustrated the materials and techniques to be covered during the hands-on sessions. The projects in the workshops were chosen to help the students learn more about the properties of materials used by bookbinders pre-1800 and to give them the opportunity to interact with the tools and equipment typically in use at that time. The students produced imaginative items and they were exhibited in the Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Library, the main library at Boston College. The conservator, Barbara Adams Hebard, will discuss the challenges of offering the workshops in the lab, including: space issues, impact on workflow, supply expenses, and preparation for the workshops. She will discuss the positive benefits which occurred as a direct result of the workshops, both in the History Department and the University Libraries.
4. Knole: The 2016 Nigel Seeley Fellowship. Allison Jackson, Assistant Conservator of Frames, Harvard Art Museums and Gilding Conservator in Private Practice.
This presentation will provide an overview of the experience of the 2016 Nigel Seeley Fellowship, the first year the biennial fellowship was offered. Offered by the Royal Oak Foundation, the American partners of the National Trust of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the fellowship took place in a newly constructed conservation studio at Knole House, one of England’s largest houses and a medieval deer park; and focused on the conservation of gilded surfaces. The 8-week fellowship included practical work on gilded objects including an 18thc wall sconce, a set of 17thc ballroom furniture which have been heavily intervened with, and mapping the locations of a set of 44 16th c portraits. Also awarded through the fellowship was the opportunity to travel. Visits to National Trust properties, conservation studios, museums, and churches were plentiful, and aided in informing the presentation of a house museum collection and experiencing the rich history that the UK has to offer.
5. Fragile Paper, Monumental Scale: The Preservation of Chinese Export Wallpapers at Rough Point, Newport, Rhode Island. Deborah LaCamera, Lorraine Bigrigg, and T.K. McClintock, Studio TKM Associates, Inc.
The authors will present an overview of the on-going conservation efforts aimed at the preservation of 18th century Chinese export wallpapers in the Doris Duke Estate, Rough Point, situated on the ruggedly picturesque coastline of Newport, Rhode Island. The challenges of preserving inherently fragile material on a large scale will be discussed in the framework of a 200+ year history of mounting and remounting, aging and interventions.
The Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN). Evelyn (Eve) Mayberger, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow for Advanced Training, Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
The Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) is a network within the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) that provides resources and communication platforms for AIC members who are entering the field of conservation. As an ECPN outreach officer, I will give a brief overview of some of our current initiatives.