Barbara H. Beardsley, Donia Conn, Catharine Hawks, Kathleen Kiefer, Andrew Oddy, & Marc A. Williams
KATHLEENDARDES and ANDREAROTHE, EDS., THE STRUCTURAL CONSERVATION OF PANEL PAINTINGS. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 1998. 565 pages, softcover, $85. Available from Getty Trust Publications, 1200 Getty Center Dr., Ste. 500, Los Angeles, Calif. 90049. ISBN 0-89236-384-3.
This book is the compilation of the proceedings of the April 1995 panel painting symposium held at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The symposium had four major components, each dealing with a different aspect of panel paintings: Wood Science and Technology, History of Panel-Making Techniques, History of the Structural Conservation of Panel Paintings, and Current Approaches to the Structural Conservation of Panel Paintings. Each section of the book includes the papers as they were presented at the symposium.
The first section, “Wood Science and Technology,” deals with the identification and structure of wood and how the various properties of wood react to moisture and insects. The history section, which follows, is divided into two parts, the first dealing with panel-making techniques and the second with the structural treatment of panels. The final section deals with current methods of conservation.
The book is filled with useful information. It is far from a dry, technical report that might sit in a bookcase and never be used or read. Whether the reader is a conservator with years of experience treating panel paintings, an art historian, a student, or an art collector, The Structural Conservation of Panel Paintings provides data that will remain valuable for decades. The symposium's organizers invited presenters whose common link was an interest in panel paintings but who came from a number of different disciplines. The broad range of historians, scientists, and conservators assembled means that even though a practicing conservator may not be current on the dendrochronology of hardwoods, he or she can now have access to an understandable reference. It is a strength of the book that even the keynote address and all material presented at the symposium are included in the publication. Thus the reader has access to varying opinions and even to some controversies. The editors should be complimented for including historical evidence and material concerning treatment methods that are no longer considered current. A great deal can be learned from this historical perspective.
Charts, graphs, and illustrations articulate the written text. The visual presentations in the book are excellent. Numerous black-and-white and color illustrations of panel paintings and wooden materials are presented as valuable references and aid in the understanding of the text. The format is clearly presented, allowing the reader to follow various writers' ideas with ease.
It is unfortunate that it took three years to publish the material in this book, but the wait was worth it. The Structural Conservation of Panel Paintings is an excellent work presented for the reader in an impressive format.Barbara H.BeardsleyArt Conservation Laboratory, Inc. Dudley Homestead Raymond, N.H. 03077JANEGREENFIELD, ABC OF BOOKBINDING, New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Books; New York: Lyons Press, 1998. 200 pages, hardcover, $35. Available from Oak Knoll Books, 414 Delaware St., New Castle, Del. 19720. ISBN 188-4718-418.
Oak Knoll Books stated the predicament perfectly when it wrote in the blurb for ABC of Bookbinding that accurate descriptions of historic bookbindings have been frustrating for many people working with rare and antiquarian books. When descriptions are found, many are difficult to understand or picture from those descriptions. By publishing Jane Greenfield's ABC of Bookbinding, Oak Knoll has moved toward remedying this situation, and the result will be welcomed by many people in the book world. There have been other dictionaries, glossaries, and thesauri, most notably John Carter's ABC of Book Collecting, Geoffrey Glaister's Encyclopedia of the Book, Don Etherington and Matt T. Roberts' Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, the Getty Information Institute's Art and Architecture Thesaurus and the American Library Association's Binding Terms: A Thesaurus for Use in Rare Books and Special Collections Cataloguing. Although useful, these can be inaccessible to people unfamiliar with bookbinding and its terminology. By collecting binding terms, bookbinding structure, and decorative styles into one volume and adding illustrations, Greenfield has produced a reference book that can be used by novice and professional alike.
Jane Greenfield is the author of numerous articles and books on the subject of bookbinding and the history of books. Her other books include Books, Their Care and Repair, The Care of Fine Books, Headbands—How to Work Them (with Jenny Hille), and the translation of Medieval Binding Structure. Greenfield worked for many years as conservator for the Yale Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and, prior to that, as a writer of binding descriptions for the Catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Beineke. Through cataloging the Beineke manuscripts, she was privileged to examine many bindings in detail and to compare many different historic structures and bindings.
In her introduction, Greenfield states that the inspiration for this glossary came from the American Library Association's Binding Terms. This thesaurus is an alphabetical list followed by a hierarchical arrangement of terms that was written to assist catalogers in writing MARC records. Binding Terms was compiled by the eminent binding and book history scholars of the 1980s and included very few definitions to accompany chosen terms. Therefore, Greenfield set about writing this glossary with Binding Terms in mind, building up an impressive list of definitions and illustrations for bookbinding terminology, history, and design. According to Greenfield, her readers are those most likely to need to know precise definitions to be able to apply them correctly either in their jobs or in their avocations. These people include librarians, bibliophiles, book collectors, binders, bibliographers, curators, binding historians, and book dealers. While Greenfield does not include conservators in her intended readership, they, too, will benefit from this glossary.
ABC of Bookbinding is broken down into three primary sections: “Bookbinding Terms,” “Bookbinding's Structural Evolution,” and “Binders, Designers and Styles of Decoration.” The “Glossary of Bookbinding Terms” is the largest section, containing approximately 1,000 terms related to the materials and parts of a book. It is Greenfield's hope that this glossary will help standardize the terms used in binding descriptions. The “Glossary of Bookbinding's Structural Evolution” is laid out chronologically by century and is written in a bullet format with numerous illustrations of the full bindings and cutaway drawings showing the customary method of sewing, lacing, working endbands, etc. The “Glossary of Binders, Designers and Styles of Decoration” lists a mixture of terms alphabetically and provides a timeline summary at the beginning, outlining the evolution of decoration and subsequent trends. An illustration is provided for each entry in this section.
Apart from a couple of small points, the glossary is well written and illustrated. Definitions in the “Glossary of Bookbinding Terms” are accurate but not as detailed or comprehensive as those in Etherington and Roberts or Glaister. Unlike Carter, the terms are geared more toward bookbinding than book collecting. If Greenfield is aiming for standardized terminology, however, it must be pointed out that some terms seem contrary to common nomenclature among binders and conservators. Standardized terminology is ideal but probably impossible. Take, for example, the case of “tight joint” versus “closed joint” for books with the boards laced on. The term I learned, and have seen used in the United States and Britain, is “tight joint,” whereas Ms. Greenfield seems to prefer “closed joint.” Another area of ambiguity exists with the definitions of parchment and vellum. “Parchment” and “vellum” are often used interchangeably, and Greenfield does not distinguish between the two. Each does have a specific definition (parchment being any skin prepared by soaking and scraping, and vellum being specifically calfskin) and this glossary would have been a good place to state the distinction. However, ABC of Bookbinding is more understandable and accessible that the other three standard glossaries (Carter, Glaister, and Etherington and Roberts), as almost every term is illustrated. These illustrations help the reader acquire a better understanding of difficult terms than a written description alone would.
The “Glossary of Bookbinding's Structure and Evolution” is excellent. The overview of general trends is useful for identification, and the cutaway drawings combined with the bullet notes are very helpful. This section is useful for conservators since it helps not only in the identification and description of historic bindings but also in decisions about treatment options and the design of housings. By knowing what features of a specific binding are unique or special to the period, conservators can know to what degree treatment will be invasive or damaging.
In the “Glossary of Binders, Designers and Styles of Decoration,” the decoration timeline gives a nice overview for the terms that follow. One weakness of this section is the use of sketches as opposed to photographs of actual bindings. Photographic images would have provided clearer detail in decorative style and tooling designs and made it easier for readers to pick out the defining characteristics. Questions arise whether one image is sufficient to represent a prolific designer's style and how that one image was selected from numerous examples. Mitigating this problem is a list at the end of the glossary of catalogs in the bibliography from which the images for the bindings came. Apart from any reservations, this section will be useful for conservators determining the importance of a binding or binder's work before treatment commences.
Finally, the index of alternative terms is very helpful as a cross reference for those unfamiliar with standard terms. It is sometimes difficult to quickly locate the cross-referenced term, however, since the cross reference is not consistently placed within the definition.
Although ABC of Bookbinding is similar in audience to Carter and similar in scope to the Getty's Art and Architecture Thesaurus and to Glaister or Etherington and Roberts, it is more accessible with succinct definitions and the added benefit of illustrations. Its most important contribution to the field of bookbinding literature is that it collects decorative styles and binders and designers along with binding terms and binding history into one ready reference. The book is also an important addition to book history literature because it focuses not only on designers and trends in decoration but also on the evolution of binding style. This volume is very accessible to all the different groups for which Greenfield intended it but will be most useful for librarians, collectors, curators, bibliographers, historians, and dealers. Greenfield did not state that she intended this book to be used by conservators, but surely it will be an important reference tool on any book conservator's shelf to assist not only in clarifying terminology but also in the decision-making process for treatment of historic bindings.DoniaConn34366 Vieste Terrace Fremont, Calif. 94555CHARLESSELWITZ and SHINMAEKAWA, INERT GASES IN THE CONTROL OF MUSEUM INSECT PESTS. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 1998. 107 pages, softcover, $25. Available from Getty Trust Distribution Center, Dept. C142, P.O. Box 49659, Los Angeles, Calif. 90049-0659. ISBN 0-89236-502-1.
Part of the Getty Conservation Institute's Research in Conservation series, Inert Gases in the Control of Museum Insect Pests is an effort to bring together in one volume the available information on the use of argon, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and oxygen scavengers for the control of museum insect pests. It surveys the work done in Australia, Europe, North America, and the United Kingdom on the application of modified atmospheres using these agents to eradicate a variety of pests that plague historic structures and cultural collections, as well as surveying important literature from other fields that contributes to an understanding of how these agents work. In addition, the text provides information on the materials needed to create low-oxygen and carbon dioxide systems and details the knowledge gained by practitioners working with these systems over the past decade. Appendices include a list of professional contacts willing to provide advice and assistance upon request, and a list of materials and suppliers.
The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) became involved in research on the use of anoxia for pest control when Nieves Valentin joined the staff in 1987. Since then, GCI has concentrated on the use of nitrogen anoxia both for pest control and as a long-term environment for the preservation of organic materials of special importance. There are many reasons that nitrogen is a particularly useful weapon in the battle against insect pests, and GCI's preference for this gas over other candidates is clear in this text but does not prohibit fair discussion of the alternatives. Argon, carbon dioxide, and oxygen scavengers (used with or without nitrogen) are covered well, if not in perhaps quite the same depth as nitrogen.
The book begins with a review of evidence in support of the belief that insect mortality in both high carbon dioxide and reduced oxygen environments results from dehydration. This concept is well supported by what is known of insect physiology and by studies that relate kill rates to weight loss in target insects. If, as the studies suggest, weight loss is a function of loss of water, then dehydration is a major factor in insect mortality in these modified atmospheres. A brief discussion of research into the impact of oxygen concentration, temperature, and humidity on insect mortality through desiccation follows. The chapter closes with a succinct discussion of the potential for creating anoxia resistant insect species by failure to ensure a complete kill. The possibility is a real one that any conservator using these techniques should not take lightly.
A history of the use of anoxic treatments for pest control in cultural property forms the next chapter. While this is not an attempt to cite every effort or publication, it is nonetheless an excellent chronology of the seminal work that brought these methods to acceptance in the museum community. The contributions by Mark Gilberg, then at the Australian Museum, and Nieves Valentin, Michael Rust, and Janice Kennedy for GCI are summarized in tables that give oxygen concentrations, temperature, relative humidity, and time for eradication of a lengthy list of museum pests using argon or nitrogen atmospheres. This research was fundamental to the development of effective treatments.
Materials and methods to create enclosures and modified atmospheres are the focus of the next two chapters. There are tables delineating the utility of various barrier films for creating containers and comparing the costs and properties of the gases and of heat sealers for films. A discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of various closures ends the first of these chapters. The next chapter deals with humidification systems for treatment gases and, indeed, the circumstances in which humidification is necessary. The need to humidify nitrogen when it is used in a dynamic mode (i.e., constant flow of nitrogen) is noted, along with the fact that in a static system (one in which the gas has an opportunity to reach an equilibrium with the objects), or in argon or carbon dioxide treatments, humidification may be unnecessary except for a few categories of highly sensitive objects. The chapter continues with good comparison of argon and nitrogen for anoxia, which, while important, might have been most usefully placed in the preceding chapter. Monitors for oxygen, carbon dioxide, and relative humidity are covered next, followed by temperature sensors and leak detectors. There is a brief review of methods to monitor insect life signs. This might have been better placed in the chapter that describes initial research on the efficacy of modified atmospheres in killing pests, because it is not something likely to be monitored during routine treatment. The final section in this chapter is especially important because it addresses the human health and safety issues related to the gases used in these treatments. While the immediate response to high carbon dioxide levels is different from that experienced in oxygen-deficient argon or nitrogen environments, the latter are more insidious because they give little warning of danger. While the gases themselves may not kill, oxygen concentrations of the kind used in these chambers can be fatal to humans in less than a minute. A high carbon dioxide atmosphere is more forgiving. Unpleasant sensations warn of impending unconsciousness, and death may not take place for a few hours. The need to monitor gas concentrations in closed environments around the containers where modified atmospheres are used for pest control is emphasized. Recommendations for prudent practice from the Compressed Gas Association, which include the need for staff training in dealing with oxygen-deficient atmospheres, are listed, along with tables describing the health effects of various oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations.
Chapter 5 reviews pest eradication using barrier-film bags to contain the modified atmospheres. The important contributions by John Burke in the development and promotion of these techniques are acknowledged here. The sizes and types of enclosures are discussed through the experience of conservators at several institutions, providing an interesting survey of the variety of methods and materials that have been tested in practice. Within the context of the earlier chapters, it is sometimes easy to see why some of these have worked better than others.
Dynamic treatment systems using a constant flow of nitrogen in various containers are explored in detail in the next chapter. This is a treatment that Gordon Hanlon at the J. Paul Getty Museum and GCI scientists have researched and, to a great degree, perfected over the past few years. Their experience in designing fairly large, customized containers that can be used nearly anywhere and their design of a humidification system for dynamic nitrogen treatments have been major contributions to pest control efforts in museums.
Various reusable containers that can be constructed in-house or purchased from commercial suppliers are the subjects of the following chapter. It provides a particularly useful discussion of the Rentokil bubble chambers that have proved most useful for treatments with carbon dioxide. The problems of converting these for use with other gases are covered well, and they are illustrated through the ultimately successful efforts of Steven Pine at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Rigid chambers are not neglected, and several rather clever adaptations of containers initially designed for other uses are illustrated, along with successful conversion of a chamber originally intended for ethylene oxide fumigation.
The final chapter is devoted to carbon dioxide treatments. Because this gas is generally less expensive, can be used in commercially available containments, and rarely requires humidification, it has been used to eradicate pests from more museum objects than either nitrogen or argon. The relationship of kill rates to temperature with a 60% carbon dioxide atmosphere is shown in a table that clearly illustrates the need to keep temperatures above 23°C for rapid, complete eradication of typical pests. Experience with carbon dioxide pest control treatments at several U.S. and Canadian institutions and by a commercial service in Germany are presented to show the range of applicability of the treatments. It is good to see that John Burke's work and that of Thomas Strang of the Canadian Conservation Institute are given due credit. One finding resulting from the rather extensive experience to date is that use of carbon dioxide bubbles during winter months in temperate climates may not be productive in poorly heated buildings. The extensive monitoring by Jeremy Jacobs and others at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History demonstrating the inactivity of target pests during winter months is not discussed here, although it might have helped alleviate concern about this issue. The authors do lay to rest most of the concerns about the potential generation of carbonic acid in these chambers.
One reservation about this publication is the persistent use of the term “fumigation” to describe the use of all these methods. While it can certainly be argued that this is not a completely inaccurate term, it places these modified atmospheres in the same category with methyl bromide, ethylene oxide, sulfuryl fluoride, and other highly toxic gases that have been used in the past and whose regulation led to their disuse in museums. Classification of carbon dioxide as a fumigant has led to its near abandonment in United Kingdom museums. In the United States it is listed as a fumigant only in California. The decline in museum use of carbon dioxide in the United Kingdom might serve as a warning that the same would be true in the United States if all states followed California's example. Should carbon dioxide become classified as a fumigant throughout the United States, it may be simply a matter of time until the use of nitrogen and argon are regulated as well. Regulation would require museums to seek treatments only through commercial companies or to have their own staff certified to use the gases in pesticide applications, a lengthy and sometimes expensive process. It is possible that useful and, with reasonable precautions, very safe pest control options might become casualties of our terminology.
The book is worth its price for the summaries of research, let alone the extensive reviews of field experience. A list of the scientific names for the pests discussed in the text eliminates the ambiguity that can accompany the use of common names, which are often of only regional utility. The list of people with whom one can discuss methods and materials is an especially fine addition, as are the extensive list of suppliers and the list of references cited in the text. One day we may reach the stage where specific manuals that delineate step-by-step methods for the use of each modified atmosphere can be distilled from experience and research. The field is not quite at that level, but as Charles Selwitz and Shin Maekawa have shown through this excellent compilation of information, we are far closer than anyone would have thought possible even a few years ago. This book undoubtedly belongs on the shelf of every conservator or other museum professional faced with infestations in structures or objects. While it is not a “how-to” manual, it is an essential guide for understanding the basics of insect eradication with argon, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen scavengers. No novice should undertake these treatments without first reading this text.
Charles Selwitz is an organic chemist, and Shin Maekawa is a mechanical engineer. Their academic backgrounds and their experience in GCI research on pest control treatments have made them an excellent team to compile this book. Their success is evidenced by the breadth of their review of past and current research, the clear explanations of the mechanics of various systems, and their acquaintance with all the principal figures contributing to our body of knowledge on these methods of pest control. They have given conservators, and indeed the entire museum community, a very useful tool for understanding an important and rapidly evolving approach to pest management.CatharineHawks2419 Barbour Rd. Falls Church, Va. 22043-3026MARTHA WINSLOWGRIMM, COMP., and RACHELPAAR, ILLUSTRATOR. THE DIRECTORY OF HAND STITCHES USED IN TEXTILE CONSERVATION. 2d ed. Washington, D.C.: Textile Specialty Group, American Institute for Conservation, 1995. 45 pages, spiral bound, $10. Available from American Institute for Conservation, 1717 K St., NW, Ste. 200, Washington, D.C. 20006.
The Directory of Hand Stitches Used in Textile Conservation is a compilation of 39 hand stitches currently in use within the field of textile conservation. Originally available in loose-leaf format, the second edition of this publication is an easy-to-use spiral-bound reference organized in three sections. The first section, “Textile Conservation Processes and Appropriate Hand Stitches,” classifies and lists the 39 stitches according to their textile conservation applications. The second section is a page-by-page directory illustrating and discussing each stitch, while the third section provides a list of stitching-related references.
The product of a long-term project undertaken by the New York City-based Textile Conservation Group (TCG), The Directory of Hand Stitches Used in Textile Conservation is intended as a reference for conservators and conservation educators. The TCG's goal was to produce a record of the stitches used in textile conservation, with the idea that the compilation would contribute to the development of a standardized textile conservation stitching terminology, thereby facilitating communication among conservators and clarifying written documentation.
Based on a review of the literature and contributions from TCG members, The Directory of Hand Stitches Used in Textile Conservation compiles and presents the results of a survey conducted by the TCG's Study Group on Threads and Stitching Techniques. An example of the survey instrument and specific details of the project's design are not included in the directory; however, the introduction states that the survey was conducted only among the TCG's United States membership. The directory does not claim to represent the textile conservation field at large; rather, it is offered as a preliminary inventory of stitches with the hope of drawing attention to the importance of stitching within textile conservation and of encouraging others to continue this work.
The first section of the directory, “Textile Conservation Processes and Appropriate Hand Stitches,” organizes the stitches by application in a comprehensive compendium of 20 categories outlining the many and varied stitching situations encountered when conserving textiles. The categories range from temporary stitching through stabilizing, reinforcing, securing, joining, and mounting, to attaching linings, dust covers, and backings and securing Velcro headings. The 39 stitches are listed, as appropriate to each category, along with a page number indicating the location of the stitch within the directory portion of the publication. This section is designed as a resource to aid conservators in investigating the range of possible stitching techniques appropriate to specific textile conservation tasks.
The directory portion of the publication begins immediately following the first section, with a single page being devoted to each of the 39 stitches included. The stitches are presented alphabetically by their most commonly used name among the responses gathered in the survey. Alternate names, when applicable, are also listed. Each stitch is illustrated by a line drawing clearly diagramming how the stitch is worked. When the face side of a stitch is different from the reverse, the reverse side of the stitch is also illustrated. For the less visually inclined, written directions expanding upon the diagram follow each illustration. Comments regarding most stitches are offered after the written directions. The focus of the comments varies. They may discuss the advantages of a stitch or explain the rationale for using a particular technique, the incorporation of knots, for example. How a stitch functions or is typically used may also be described. Special considerations, such as instances when tension control may be especially important, may also be offered, along with recommendations for appropriate thread size or warnings as to when a particular stitching technique may not be appropriate to use. Possible uses, stated as categories in the “Textile Conservation Processes and Appropriate Hand Stitches” section, are listed for each stitch following the comments. When similar stitches exist, these are then noted along with the page number of their location within the directory.
The final section of The Directory of Hand Stitches Used in Textile Conservation is a bibliographic listing of 25 references. These references include general needlework and sewing publications as well as textile conservation-specific materials. The textile conservation references are important and will be especially useful to those seeking further study of the principles that inform conservation stitching, as this topic is beyond the scope of this publication. Julia Swetzoff, one of the three chairs of the TCG's Study Group on Threads and Stitching Techniques, is careful to state in her introduction that the appropriate application of each stitch included in the directory is the responsibility of the individual conservator. The reader is cautioned that stitch selection and execution are part of a larger whole in the process of conservation care and treatment. A disclaimer page further emphasizes that the directory is not intended as a “how-to” textile conservation manual. It warns that techniques for executing hand stitches in conservation may differ from the techniques used in other disciplines of needlework and that the condition of an artifact is important in determining how stitches are applied. The disclaimer further states that the inclusion of a stitch in the directory is not a professional endorsement or recommendation for its use.
Although many stitches are recorded in The Directory of Hand Stitches Used in Textile Conservation, it is indeed not an all-inclusive compendium. I am aware of several stitches used by tapestry conservators that are not in the directory, and I am sure, as are the compilers of the directory, that there are more.
In spite of its not being an exhaustive collection representing the experience and practice of textile conservation as a whole, The Directory of Hand Stitches Used in Textile Conservation is well organized and clear. It concisely presents the stitching information gathered in a cross-referenced format that can serve as a model for those inspired to expand upon and continue this work. The directory can also be used as a standard for stitching terminology when precise communication is critical and as a source for ideas when a fresh approach to stitching is sought. Most important, The Directoryof Hand Stitches Used in Textile Conservation contributes to the published body of conservation knowledge, something essential in our development as a profession.KathleenKiefer20 Camilla Ave. Dracut, Mass. 01826SHINMAEKAWA, ED., OXYGEN-FREE MUSEUM CASES. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 1998. 83 pages, softcover, $30. Available from Getty Trust Publications, 1200 Getty Center Dr., Ste. 500, Los Angeles, Calif. 90049. ISBN 0-89236-529-3.
This book is part of the respected Research in Conservation series and thus has much to live up to. It consists of seven chapters devoted to the preservation of organic materials in oxygen-free environments and is based on a project to preserve the royal mummies in Cairo.
The concept of oxygen-free storage and/or display is not, of course, new, but what the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) realized is that to be useful in a developing country, displays should be maintenance-free, requiring no electrical or mechanical devices. A hermetically sealed case with an inert gas filling was the only feasible answer.
Chapter 1 is a brief overview of the whole project. Chapter 2 is a review of previous use of anoxic environments and a brief discussion of the behavior of cellulose, proteins, dyes, and pigments under these conditions. Chapter 3 presents new experimental work in which the behavior of various species of insects and micro-organisms in nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide containing 0.1% oxygen was studied as a function of temperature and RH. The preferred gases were argon and nitrogen at a temperature of 30°C and an RH of less than 50%. Elsewhere in the book the optimum RH is put at 45%.
Chapter 4 describes the evolution and construction of the GCI hermetically sealed case that is designed to need no maintenance for 10 years. The cases are now in use in Cairo and the process of in situ manufacture, with all its attendant difficulties, is recounted in Chapter 5. In all it took five years from the delivery of the prototype showcase to the installation of the first 15 mummies.
This book is full of “lessons to be learned.” It is frank about difficulties—especially from the Egyptian side—but it is also a warning about the difficulty of introducing “high-tech” solutions in what is essentially a “low-tech” environment. The “proof of the pudding,” however, will be to see how well the cases perform. The first 15 should still be working well and we look forward to a follow-up report on the project.
Finally, it must be said that the book is a very useful compilation with comprehensive bibliographies for each chapter and a very useful index. It would have been better, however, if it had been planned and written as a continuous narrative rather than as chapters contributed by various authors. It reads like a collection of articles, which it is, but would be more user-friendly as a multiauthor monograph in which the lead authorship had been assumed by the project director.AndrewOddyDepartment of Conservation British Museum London WC1B 3DG, UKNANCY E.RICHARDS and NANCY GOYNEEVANS, NEW ENGLAND FURNITURE AT WINTERTHUR: QUEEN ANNE AND CHIPPENDALE PERIODS. Winterthur, Del.: Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 1997. 514 pages, hardcover, $90. ISBN 0-912724-38-2.
This book is a continuation of the Winterthur Museum furniture catalog tradition established in the 1950s and 1960s by the well-known books of Joseph Downes and Charles Montgomery. The primary differences are that this book focuses on furniture from a specific region, New England, and that the descriptions of the pieces have been vastly expanded. Not only is there a comprehensive stylistic description for each piece of furniture, but also there are construction descriptions and condition descriptions for each as well. As an added bonus, these latter two descriptions are written by a conservator.
This book is not designed for entertaining reading. It is a catalog meant for reference or scholarly perusal. Each of 225 pieces of furniture from the Winterthur Collection is represented by one or more black-and-white photographs with accompanying descriptions. Objects are grouped into sections by furniture type—seating furniture, bedsteads, tables, and so forth. Each grouping has a brief introduction, but this is the extent of more global evaluation or commentary. The individual pieces of furniture clearly are meant to stand alone, a printed version of an art museum exhibition.
Perhaps the most interesting section is the final one, “Case Studies.” Several pieces of furniture illustrated and described are of questionable authenticity. The reader can follow the logical process of evaluating each piece based upon provenance, design factors, construction methods, workmanship details, and alterations with time. Even with all our advanced technological tools and techniques, for many pieces conclusions must still fall into the “probably” category. Scientific evaluation of historic furniture lags far behind other areas of scientific investigation. Conclusions still come down to personal interpretation based more upon experience and a trained eye than on other evaluative tools. Some of the pieces in the “Case Studies” section are determined to be honest early reproductions, while others are severely altered originals, and one or two may even be outright fakes.
The detailed descriptions for each piece typically include a visual description and evaluation, inscriptions or marks, construction, condition, dimensions, materials, exhibitions, publications, provenance, and accession history. While extremely thorough, the depth of description seems to have several flaws. First, there is neither a glossary of terms nor diagrams of furniture types with part names identified. Each conservator, curator, dealer, and collector has his or her own vocabulary for describing parts of furniture. This reviewer is unfamiliar with some of the terms used in the book, or personally uses terms to mean something different from the authors' intentions. As a result, some of the detailed construction or alteration descriptions are difficult to follow.
Second, many of the descriptions of condition seem more like a full-blown condition report than limited, relevant information supporting the photographs and other descriptions. This reviewer finds comments about a split here or there, or a loose part, or nicks and gouges, to be superfluous. These types of condition features are not perceptible in the photographs and do not affect the visual interpretation of the object. More helpful are the comments about changes to the finish, replaced parts, and alterations that might otherwise be misinterpreted if not identified.
The photographs are excellent black-and-white images with a slight sepia tone. None are in color, with the exception of the book cover. Ironically, the cover points out another shortcoming of the book: the lack of the incredible richness and fullness that color photographs provide for wooden objects. Clearly, cost was a factor in this decision, but this reviewer would find the book significantly more interesting and helpful with color photographs. It seems a shame that the thousands of hours of effort invested in the creation of the volume were not so rewarded.
In summary, New England Furniture at Winterthur is a significant improvement over its predecessors in many ways, primarily with vastly enhanced descriptions of each object. Serious scholars of furniture will want to have their own copy. Those with an occasional or passing interest in furniture should at least peruse the book to be aware of the resources it offers for future reference.Marc A.WilliamsAmerican Conservation Consortium, Ltd. 85 North Rd. Fremont, N.H. 03044