Ultrasonic Misting- Part One

I’ve been busy the past several months in the Paper Lab getting together the parts, purchase requests and wherewithal to construct an ultrasonic mister in order to care for a group of paintings needing some attention.

Last year, Lilly Library received a generous gift of over 450 paintings by the playwright, screenwriter and producer Clifford Odets http://www.indiana.edu/~liblilly/blog/new-donation-the-artwork-of-clifford-odets/

Soon after the library received this gift, the Paper Lab hinged and matted nearly all of the paintings for storage and safer handling and access. During this process we noticed that a number of the artworks were suffering from condition issues related to the paint media that Odets chose. Much of the work relies on a layering method of drawing and painting over wax crayon. Odets would scratch through the pastel and gouache paints he favored to reveal the crayon beneath (a.k.a. sgraffito).

Here is a photograph of one such painting- on the back of a postcard- in raking light.

You can see how the teal blue paint has been scratched away to reveal orange, pink and purple wax crayon beneath. However, though the technique allowed Odets to create some wonderful images, it also created what we conservators refer to as inherent vice. There is little adhesion between the media layers and as the upper water-based paint layers dried, they began to shrink in place causing minute cracks and more seriously, flaking and loss. This close-up shows what I mean (poor little flaky fish!)

 

In these circumstances, conservators perform a process called consolidationTypically, the consolidant is a type of adhesive carefully chosen for a number of factors including, but not limited to, compatibility with the object physically, visually and chemically, ease of preparation, ease of application, quality of bond strength and ageing characteristics. Normally, the process would be carried out under a low-power microscope using a small brush and delicately applying the consolidant to the cracks and underneath the lifting paint, fastening it back down. With these paintings the scale of damage prohibits such an approach- the fish above is 2cm long, which makes each of the tiny flakes far smaller than a millimeter in dimension. My fine motor skills are excellent, but not that excellent!

Another method is called for: that of Ultrasonic Misting. Developed by the Canadian Conservation Institute in 1990, the ultrasonic mister allows greater control of the whole process of consolidation of powdery paint and pigments. Unfortunately one can’t readily buy such systems- at least not at affordable rates for an aerosol generator- so I set out to construct one myself. There are a number of published articles explaining how to make one as well as a number of institutions who have blogged about it in the past, such as this account from the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program. Within a month or so I had purchased and cannibalized the necessary parts and had it up and running:

What the device consists of is a domestic ultrasonic humidifier, with the upper water reservoir removed. We use this very humidifier routinely in the lab for the relaxation of library materials, so it was good to have on hand! Resting in about one inch of water over the oscillator within the humidifier is a LDPE plastic bottle containing the consolidant adhesive. Ultrasonic frequencies generated in the base of the humidifier travel through the bottle and cause cavitation to occur, generating a fine mist of adhesive to rise from the liquid. A pump (the large white cube in the background to the left) was borrowed from our vacuum suction table to drive air into the bottle (through the clear tube entering the back of the bottle), and then the adhesive-laden water vapor finds its way out the top, through another length of tube to be emitted through a small applicator nozzle. Also sitting in front of the device is the consolidant of choice. Can you guess what it is? There is a clue in the painting I chose to include earlier…

Next week, I’ll cover the pros and cons of the design and talk about the success of the treatments.

Digital Brown Bag talk

I’ll be speaking next week in the IU Libraries Scholar’s Commons about the 3-D enclosure developed last summer. There will be a simulcast on Adobe Connect as well as a feed on Twitter if you can’t attend in person.

A Collaboration of 3-D Modeling and Automated Box Manufacture for Library Special Collections Enclosures

March 9th 2016 @ 12:00pm
Hazelbaker Lecture Hall (E159)

Doug Sanders, Paper Conservator
E. Lingle Craig Preservation Laboratory

The manufacture of protective enclosures is part of routine work in many libraries and museums. This presentation summarizes a novel collaboration of 3-D scanning and modeling technology provided by digital technology available on campus with automated box making services internal to Library Preservation. A custom-fitted enclosure for a painting on wood panel within the Lilly Library collections was the net result. This developmental method holds promise for specialized storage and shipping protection of library, scientific research and museum collections.
Spring 2016 Digital Library Brown Bag Series
The Digital Library Brown Bag Series presentations are held in the Herman B Wells Library from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm EST. The complete schedule is available at: http://libraries.iub.edu/digital-library-brown-bag-series.

Watch the presentation here http://connect.iu.edu/diglib. If you are not a registered Connect user, select “Enter as a Guest”.

Sign up for email reminders! Send an email to iulist@iulist.indiana.edu with the message body: sub dl-brownbag-l Your Full Name

Common School Wall Chart

In the Paper Lab, we recently treated a large set of educational wall charts dating from the 1890’s, printed by W.L.Bell & Co. of Kansas City, Missouri.IMG_2972

The set was purchased by a Bloomington resident in 1995 for $25 from a local antique shop. It was donated to our county historical society who in turn recently passed it along to a unit within the university library system. There are 25 intact charts, printed both recto and verso with all manner of subject- literacy, penmanship, geography, physiology, mathematics, and governance. At first the work- though complex- was fairly routine: disassembly, washing, alkalization, mending, pressing. The longer we had it in the lab, the more it revealed aspects of itself in terms of its immense value in documenting American life and education in the late 19th century. The poster reflects the Common School Movement- a development in American education that sought to develop a common curriculum. It began in the 1830’s but went through ferment and change in the 1890’s when this was printed. A parallel movement had risen in Germany in the mid 1800’s as well- the training of teachers could not keep pace with rapidly increasing numbers of students in schools. Wall charts allowed for clearer instruction for greater numbers. Coupled with german expertise in chromolithographic printing, the glory days of the educational wall chart reached a zenith in Europe in the mid 19th century. Our set of charts highlights both technical printing skill and contemporary educational thought in one.

before treatment
before treatment
after treatment
after treatment
before treatment
before treatment
after treatment
after treatment

 

One plate, with a particularly gruesome physiological theme, displays the effects of prolonged alcohol and tobacco consumption:

PhysiologyChart_AT

All of the physiological plates, this one included, had an interesting printing technique we do not see too often.  In areas that depict blood, viscera, and sometimes hair, it appears that an additional layer of glaze, perhaps just linseed oil, was added on top of the ink to create greater saturation of color.  During aqueous treatment (washing) this particular effect can often blanch- much like the ring left from a wet glass placed on top of a varnished table- in order to rectify it, we were able to swab the foggy areas with isopropyl alcohol to drive the water away that had become bonded within the ink’s oil.

These detail shots show before and after the treatment:

chart pic detail_DTchart pic detail_AT

After each sheet was treated, a cloth-covered drop front box was made to hold unbound charts, with the original roller in its own compartment. It will now reside in our Auxiliary Storage Facility (ALF).

Apparently, the Common School Movement was criticized as promoting Protestant values during the period when the US saw an influx of Roman Catholic immigrants.  Such strife eventually led to the Parochial School Movement.

Today’s debates over home-schooling versus public education and evolutionary theory versus creationism are just a continuance of how we, as Americans, are constantly struggling to decide how to educate our children. Different interest groups compete for dominance over curriculum depending on the social conditions of the time.

For more about changes in the American curriculum, read Kliebard, Herbert M. The Struggle for the American Curriculum 1893-1958. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Hornak Drawings Conservation Treatment

This month we worked on three drawings by Ian Hornak, an American artist who worked in the late 20th century. His early work consisted of erotic pen and ink drawings and later consisted of photorealistic landscapes and portraits in acrylic on canvas.

One drawing had masking tape around the edges, another was spot-adhered to matboard, and the third was fully-adhered to matboard. All three had surface dirt and minor tears.

Ian_Hornak05_before

Our treatment plan was to remove the matboard, surface clean the drawings, spot-test and wash the items, and lastly, mend any tears with paste and Japanese paper.

Ian_Hornak01

If you look closely, you may be able to see the graphite under-drawing. A real treat was seeing an initial sketch on the back of that same drawing.

Ian_Hornak04

These pieces will be included in an exhibition at The Kinsey Institute, opening next month. The opening reception will be on January 24th from 5-7pm with an introductory talk at 4pm by Eric Ian Hornak Spoutz, the artist’s nephew and Executive Director of the Ian Hornak Foundation. Hope to see you there!

Ian_Hornak02 Ian_Hornak03

For more information on the exhibit please visit:
http://kinseyinstitute.org/services/gallery.html

And for more info on the artist:
http://ianhornak.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Hornak

-Arini Esarey

We’re back!

It’s been nearly a year since the last blog post. Within the Preservation Department we’ve had some personnel changes, a sabbatical, and day-to-day busy-ness which have all conspired to the neglect of this blog. However, more recently we’ve become inspired and determined to share the interesting, satisfying and productive work we do with the greater public. To us, the public can mean fellow staff within Indiana University Bloomington Libraries, the IUB campus community as a whole, and of course the wider audience of like-minded individuals in preservation and conservation labs across the country.

We hope that you’ll see more posts from all of us who work within the department; even some guest entries by student employees (those who can be cajoled!) and perhaps some staff within the Library who ally themselves with or benefit from our operations.

To start things off I’d like to highlight a project we’ve been working on in the Paper Lab for the past month. The Wylie House is an historic house museum here on the IU Bloomington campus, originally built by the first President of Indiana University, Andrew Wylie. Within the museum’s collections are over 5000 letters of correspondence involving several generations of family members, many of which have been transcribed. Even though Carey Beam, Interim Director and Graduate Assistant Abi Parker, as well as previous Director Jo Burgess and many other interns have done a great job storing and transcribing these letters, they’ve now come to the Paper Lab for surface cleaning, mending, pressing and migration to a new storage format of archival document folders and cubic foot storage boxes. It’s a big project with an estimated completion date of May 2014. We’re finding out all sorts of interesting things while working on it, which will be the subject of several posts in the coming months. For now, here are some pictures of the ongoing work.

posted by Doug Sanders, Paper Conservator

mending1

surface cleaning1pressing stack