JANE ROBINSON and TUULA PARDOE, AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO THE CARE OF COSTUME AND TEXTILE COLLECTIONS. London: Museums and Galleries Commission, 2000. 50 pages, softcover, $8.00. Available from Publications Officer, Resource, 16 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AA. ISBN 0-948630-95-7.
This guide is intended for the use of museum personnel who have responsibility for the care of costume and textile collections but who may not have had training in this field. It includes basic information on maintenance, storage, and display techniques, with an introduction to the principles of caring for textiles and to conservation-quality materials. The publication was produced by the Scottish Museums Council and published by the Museums and Galleries Commission (United Kingdom). The authors are presumably Scottish textile conservators.
The subject of this book is very large, and the authors acknowledge that there have been some sacrifices in both breadth and depth. Inevitably, there are some omissions that will limit the book's usefulness. Nevertheless, they have produced a valuable resource with a great deal of helpful information that should be clear to nonspecialist readers.
The book is well illustrated with clear line drawings, amply notated. The authors also provide distinctions between basic practice and best practice, allowing small museums with limited resources to work toward the goal of best practice. They include a section at the end about how and when to contact a professional, and there are cautions throughout the text when an expert's help is recommended. Also throughout the text are helpful references to information in other sections of the book. In addition, there are references to two other Museums and Galleries Commission publications, Standards in the Museum Care of Costume and Textile Collections (1998), and Levels of Collection Care (1998). This book was designed to be used with these publications; they were not available for review, and readers who do not own these publications may be frustrated by the references.
The book begins with an introduction to textile care that sets out some basic principles, including protection, support, handling, and respect for the object. These principles are appropriately conservative and form a good background for the chapters that follow. The introduction to conservation-quality materials is very brief and contains some questionable information about buffered acid-free materials. It might have been helpful to mention the damage that can be caused by materials that are not conservation quality so readers will understand the importance of this section. More detailed instructions for preparing fabrics would also have been helpful, as would more information about suitable barriers for wood and wood products.
The chapter on collections maintenance covers the workspace and equipment, housekeeping, checking and monitoring, materials and supplies, handling, packing, moving, rolling and unrolling, labeling, cleaning, and mending. For the most part, the authors are again careful to keep things simple and conservative; the section on public access to textiles contains very good cautions. Some of their recommendations, however, may be overwhelming for the staff or volunteers of a small museum, such as an annual check of the condition of each textile against the condition recorded in the catalog information. There is no discussion of condition in this book, and without some guidance in how to assess condition and how to record it, this check would be difficult, even onerous. The last segment of this chapter, “Dealing with Separations,” gives excellent advice for when and how to reattach separated parts of a textile.
Chapter 3 discusses storage of textile and costume collections, addressing flat textiles, rolled textiles, framed and mounted textiles, costume garments in boxes, hanging costume garments, and costume accessories. Again the authors provide detailed and helpful information and illustrations, and there are useful charts on various aspects of hanging costume storage. There are a few omissions that will make things difficult for the inexperienced staffer, such as the lack of directions for box storage of large flat textiles and for making padded hangers. Some of the techniques do not appear to provide complete support and protection, such as the storage recommendations for parasols and shoes.
The fourth chapter deals briefly with display techniques for flat textiles as well as costumes. Although the authors recommend consulting a textile conservator when making decisions about displaying textiles or costumes, they do give information on several display techniques. Recommendations for environmental conditions are extremely cursory, and there is no discussion of limiting display duration. It might have been better to leave this chapter out of the book, as ill-advised use of the techniques presented could result in damage to a collection.
The last chapter of the book contains information on finding specialist help. The book also has three useful appendices: a glossary, a bibliography, and a suppliers list. These sections are oriented toward the United Kingdom and are of limited use to readers in other countries.
The scope of this book is enormous, and any attempt to cover these topics in a publication of 50 pages will inevitably result in some omissions or cursory treatments. The authors have done a very good job of providing as much information as possible in this limited format. The topics covered are ones that are most often introduced in a workshop format, where demonstrations and hands-on practice provide details that line drawings and written descriptions cannot. It would be difficult for any book of this length to serve as the sole means of instruction in these techniques, but for those who already have some training, this book will be a valuable resource.
- Deborah Bede
- Stillwater Textile Conservation Studio, LLC
- 196 Old Warner Rd.
- Bradford, N.H. 03221
MICHELE R. DERRICK, DUSAN STULIK, and JAMES M. LANDRY. INFRARED SPECTROSCOPY IN CONSERVATION. Science Series: Scientific Tools for Conservation. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Trust, 1999. 320 pages, softcover $75.00. ISBN 0-89236-469-6.
This book is an easy-to-read guide to the use of infrared spectroscopy for the analysis of materials from cultural property. For any conservation professional wanting to own a well-written and informative guide to one of the most important tools in conservation analysis, this book is a “must have. ” Designed primarily for conservation scientists, this book is also a valuable tool for students and scientists in the fields of archaeology, architecture, art conservation, chemistry, forensics, materials science, and microscopy. For the conservator who requests analysis in support of treatment or to understand the technology of artifacts, this book would be an important addition to his or her library.
The book discusses the theory and practice for examining microscopic amounts of complex samples of aged materials found in objects, including paintings, furniture, sculpture, and archaeological fragments. It is a good mix of theory, history, and practice, with an emphasis on practice. The case studies at the end provide rich examples of how infrared spectroscopy can be used to answer a variety of questions—and not just ones dealing with materials identification.
There are six chapters covering the history of infrared spectroscopy, infrared absorption theory, sample collection and preparation, infrared analysis methods, spectral interpretation, and case studies, and at the end of each chapter there is a short summary. Also included are two appendices, one containing a list of selected infrared spectral collections and digitized spectral libraries, and the other containing some infrared reference spectra of aged art materials. In addition to the appendices, there are glossary and supplier and reference sections.
The first chapter is a brief and engaging jaunt through the history of infrared spectroscopy. Most interesting is the discussion on the development of Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). This chapter provides a perspective on the development of this modern conservation analysis workhorse and is a nice synopsis of history leading to modern FTIR techniques. As an organic chemist interested in the history of science, I particularly liked the flow chart showing significant historical events.
The history of infrared spectroscopy leads nicely into a discussion of the theory of infrared spectroscopy. The authors masterfully distill complicated theory into clear and concise basics. They describe the way in which light in the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum interacts with molecules to provide useful information about molecular structure. The beauty of this chapter is that the authors do not oversimplify the material. The chapter gives enough details for the reader to gain a good understanding of the theory of infrared spectroscopy such as selection rules, group frequencies, modes of vibration, and degrees of freedom. It also discusses the range of information that can be obtained from different regions in the infrared spectrum, such as far, near, and mid-IR.
Chapters 3 and 4 are the “nuts and bolts” of sample handling and collection of infrared spectra. For anyone wanting to learn the technique of infrared spectroscopic analysis of museum materials, these chapters are loaded with practical information. Chapter 3 describes sampling techniques and also provides practical information on the “dos” and “don'ts” of sample handling—for example, how to avoid contamination of precious samples. Even for someone who has been using infrared spectroscopy for years, I found the tips on sampling tools, especially how to make your own, enormously useful.
Another important contribution in this chapter is the discussion on sample acquisition and preparation techniques. The emphasis on the preparation of paint cross sections reveals the authors' bias for the study of paintings, but they also cover sample handling of other types of solids, as well as liquids and gases, and include examples of where conservators might encounter less common sample types.
The most important contribution of this chapter is a discussion of sampling design. In this section, the authors provide important strategies for collaboration between the scientist and the conservator. The authors compare commonly used techniques to provide readers with appropriate analytical approaches, define the “first-choice” methods for different sample types, but, most important, list a series of questions that should be asked even before a sample is taken. This strategy allows the conservator and scientist to optimize communication, which should maximize the information obtained from IR analysis or, for that matter, any analytical method. This chapter should be required reading for anyone who is requesting or performing infrared analysis on museum artifacts.
Chapter 4 covers a broad range of infrared analysis methods from classical transmission (or absorption) measurements to specialized techniques such as ATR (attenuated total reflectance, also known as IRS, internal reflection spectroscopy) and DRIFTS (diffuse reflectance) experiments. Some theory is included with the discussion of each method so readers can better understand the information obtained by these techniques. Numerous tables are included that compare sample preparation methods, window materials for holding samples during analysis, and correction programs for spectral variations when using different methods. Throughout the chapter the advantages and limitations of each method are discussed. The text descriptions are accompanied by numerous figures comparing spectra obtained by different methods and pictures of these accessories. For those of us who are visual, these help to clarify the discussions.
Overall, this chapter provides good coverage on the many accessories and methods for the analysis of a wide array of sample types. Increasing interest in infrared spectroscopy in industry has resulted in the introduction of new infrared accessories. While this book was upto-date at the time of publication, the tremendous growth in the number of new tools for IR analysis in the past couple of years makes some of the discussion in this chapter slightly out of date. While the principles on which these new tools are based have stayed the same, new accessories are being introduced with smaller sample areas and sample viewing modes that approach those of IR microspectroscopy (e.g., Durascope). Anyone looking to acquire such accessories would be well advised to read this book. The information found here could help cut through the “hype” one often encounters when talking with vendors about their new products.
The most detailed section in this chapter shows the authors' bias for IR microspectroscopy, which is the most expensive of the IR methods. The most interesting application of IR microspectroscopy described in this section is sample mapping, a technique of great utility for binding medium analysis of paint cross sections or for samples that are not homogeneous.
For laboratories thinking about purchasing infrared equipment, this book gives little indication of the relative costs of some of these techniques. Indeed, few museum laboratories can afford to own an instrument to perform IR microspectroscopy, but they might still benefit from owning an instrument with an IRS accessory. Although the authors mention other techniques such as photoacoustic or thermal IR analysis, it would have been useful to have some specific key references devoted to these methods in the section on “Additional Reading. ”
Chapter 5 is the capstone of infrared analysis, the interpretation of IR spectra. Even for the experienced analyst, this is the step that often presents the greatest challenge. The authors cover all the important factors that can lead to successful spectral interpretation. They point out the importance of looking at the plot formats and urge caution in comparing spectra with different formats. They discuss both qualitative and quantitative analysis as well as identification of materials used in art and art conservation.
The most useful tools in this chapter for the interpretation of IR spectra are the flow charts. Included are an identification scheme for the systematic interpretation of IR spectra, a scheme for the identification of natural organic materials based on the position of the IR bands, a flow chart for the identification of natural resins, and a flow chart for the identification of synthetic polymers. To my knowledge, there is only one other infrared spectroscopy text that uses a flow chart to aid in the interpretation of infrared spectra (D. L. Pavia, G. M. Lampman, and G.S. Kriz Jr., Introduction to Spectroscopy [Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Co., 1979]), but it is only for identification of major functional groups in the spectrum. I applaud Derrick, Stulik, and Landry for creating these tremendously useful charts.
Most conservators think of infrared analysis as being useful only for identification of sample materials. Chapter 6 on case studies provides informative examples of ways in which infrared spectroscopy can be applied to the study of art and conservation materials. The case studies show that, in addition to identification of materials, infrared spectroscopy is useful for stratigraphic microanalysis of multilayered materials, evaluation of the condition of a material, and monitoring of chemical reactions.
In appendix 1, the authors give key sources for spectral libraries and indicate that each instrument manufacturer also has such databases available. It is a terrific source of spectral library information. While appendix 2 gives a limited number of reference spectra relevant to conservators and conservation scientists, each spectrum is accompanied by a brief description of the material as well as a list of synonyms. Source information has been given along with a list of the characteristic absorption bands, appearance, sample provenance, and analysis conditions. I particularly like descriptions of the materials and find them a nice feature; however, the reader should be aware that this information is rarely supplied in commercial spectral libraries.
A glossary of useful terms in infrared analysis appears at the end of the book. Most useful is the list of suppliers and a brief description of what each supplies. With this list, anyone could put together a fully functional infrared spectroscopy laboratory and be able to perform the experiments discussed by the authors. The authors have also included an excellent reference section that should be enormously useful to those needing specific applications to their own work.
I personally think that this book would be highly useful in graduate-level organic spectroscopy courses but absolutely required in the graduate programs in art conservation, archaeology, architecture, art conservation, forensic science, materials science, and microscopy. The book is highly readable and covers the practice of IR spectroscopy difficult to find in other infrared spectroscopy texts. The authors' emphasis on sample acquisition and preparation is excellent, and any analytical chemist will tell you that sample preparation is everything. The authors most definitely emphasize sample preparation in a way that few other spectroscopy books do.
This book is a wonderful contribution not only to conservation science, but to allied fields. It joins other important texts on scientific tools for conservation (M. F. Striegel and J. Hill, Thin-Layer Chromatography for Binding Media Analysis [Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 1996]) and is both informational and instructional. No one doing infrared spectroscopy should be without it.
- Judith J. Bischoff
- National Park Service
- Department of Conservation
- P.O. Box 50
- Harpers Ferry, W.Va. 25425-0050
ANITA QUYE and COLIN WILLIAMSON, EDS., PLASTICS: COLLECTING AND CONSERVING. Edinburgh: NMS Publishing, 1999. 52 pages, softcover, $19.95. Available from Woodstocker Books, 234 Meads Mountain Rd., Woodstock, N.Y. 12498, (800) 669–9080. ISBN 1-901663-12-4.
This book is a marvelous introduction to the many aspects of objects comprised wholly or in part of plastics and found in collections and is aimed at the concerns of those who are caring for plastics collections. The editors have brought together many of the leading figures in plastic in the United Kingdom. Each has written a readable and excellent overview in his or her area of expertise. Chapter topics include plastics in context, identification of plastics, caring for plastics, and degradation of plastics. In a book packed with useful information, highlights include an excellent section on collecting. Sylvia Katz addresses the many concerns that affect the value and the market for collectibles, and indeed all art. She has presented an outstanding overview of an area with which many conservators are unfamiliar.
As is always the case with any complex subject, which “plastic” certainly is, some accuracy has been lost due to the need to present the information concisely. For the conservator, a bit more caution would have been desirable, of course, in the details of the actual care of plastic artifacts. But the editors are to be applauded in clearly differentiating between the goals and desires of collectors and the concerns that apply to museum collections.
Separate sections in the chapter on caring for plastics address the practices of collectors and museums. As would be expected, collectors are likely to be more aggressive and less scientific in treating artifacts. This reviewer was told a possibly apocryphal cautionary tale from collecting circles in which the first owners of compact discs applied a “preservative” silicone oil coating to the then highly expensive recordings, reducing the plastic to jelly! Even if wildly exaggerated, this story serves to illustrate the catastrophic results possible when applying a presumably innocuous substance to plastics. The irreversibility of many treatments on plastic forces difficult decisions for the steward of these materials, and treatment is fraught with surprises, especially with aged plastics.
This reviewer has some concerns about this section on care. For example, the inclusion of certainly irreversible epoxy among possible adhesives fails to note that epoxy, while curing, is an exceptional solvent for many plastic materials. The section on care for collectors does recommend caution and testing. However, detergent and lighter fluid, both mentioned in the section in cleaning by collectors, can have spectacular deleterious effects that may not be immediately apparent. Similarly, commercial polishes, which may contain alkaline or other active chemical agents, can be too harsh for some materials, especially when aged. The importance of acid-free materials in storage is recommended, but the authors do not mention that this tissue should be nonbuffered, as many plastics and rubbers degrade more rapidly in an alkaline environment.
This book is full of “Britishisms,” from trade names (Perspex for Plexiglas or Lucite) to “cotton buds” for cleaning. While this may bring momentary confusion to the American reader, the intent is clear and should not present insurmountable problems. The photographs that illustrate the book throughout are noteworthy, particularly those showing the lurid details of degrading plastics. This book is a highly recommended addition to the bookshelf of any serious “plastic person. ”
- Sharon Blank
- 3435 Ocean Park Blvd. #112
- Santa Monica, Calif. 90405
MARY M. BROOKS, ED., TEXTILES REVEALED: OBJECT LESSONS IN HISTORIC TEXTILE AND COSTUME RESEARCH. London: Archetype Publications Ltd., 2000. 160 pages, softcover, $47.50. ISBN 1-873132-32-8.
Textiles Revealed is a collection of articles whose common thread is the importance of object-based textile research. Edited by Mary Brooks, head of Studies and Research at the Textile Conservation Centre, University of Southampton (formerly at Hampton Court Palace in affiliation with the Cour-tauld Institute), the book is dedicated to Karen Finch, the center's founder and a seminal figure in the field of textile conservation. The variety of articles and academic traditions synthesized within this collection will be a welcome addition to the libraries of a range of professionals, including textile conservators, historians, and scientists. Textiles Revealed illuminates the potential of object-based study for unveiling the historical and cultural significance of textiles, and the comprehensive scholarship of its distinguished contributors pays tribute to Finch's vision for the field of textile conservation.
Twenty articles by predominantly British contributors are divided into sections titled “Hidden Meanings,” “Meaning from Fragments,” “Clinging to Tradition,” “Revealing Textiles,” “Evidence of Maker and Making,” and “Analysis and Preservation. ” An introduction, notes on the contributors, and an annotated bibliography of Karen Finch's published writings are included. A brief synopsis clarifies the theme of each section and summarizes the accompanying articles. Contributions include 11 articles by textile conservators, 7 by textile historians, and 2 by conservation scientists. Artifacts cited range from 1stcentury C.E. archaeological fragments discovered at Masada to 1960s men's nylon shirts manufactured in the United Kingdom, although the majority are northern European textiles dating from the 16th to 19th centuries. Numerous black-and-white photographs and illustrations are supplemented by a central section of color images.
The authors and articles highlight the legacy of Karen Finch and the Textile Conservation Centre (TCC). The collection's central theme mirrors Finch's guiding premise for the center's graduate training program: A comprehensive understanding of the material and cultural importance of textiles is critical for developing appropriate conservation treatments. The vast majority of the authors have trained or taught at the TCC (including the author of this review), and two articles document the center's development and work. Although there are attempts to broaden the collection's perspective, the articles primarily reflect the authors' experience with northern European textiles designed for the political, social, or religious aristocracy. Despite its emphasis on comprehensive scholarship, the book is more accurately characterized as a collection of studies from distinct academic disciplines rather than an interdisciplinary approach to object-based research, with some important exceptions.
Mary Brooks's thoughtful introduction provides a conceptual framework for the collection, highlighting the cultural riches revealed by material textile studies. The section “Hidden Meanings” explores this framework, beginning with Karen Finch's article on the philosophy and development of the TCC, a previously unpublished paper presented at the 1989 Joseph Columbus Tapestry Symposium at Washington's National Gallery of Art. Dinah Eastop, the center's research coordinator, offers a complex anthropological structural analysis of the multiple and competing histories of textile artifacts. Case studies illustrate the implications of preserving these conflicting meanings, including the display of an 1815 coatee that simultaneously symbolizes British military might at the battle of Waterloo and the violent suppression of labor unrest in St. Peter's Fields, Manchester. Conservator Sherry Doyal briefly notes the cultural perspectives of indigenous peoples and their desire not to preserve certain aspects of their material heritage.
“Meaning from Fragments” pieces together textile histories from incomplete evidence. The section includes an unfinished article on stylistic similarities among Anglo-Saxon embroidered textile fragments by the late Donald King, one of the most influential textile historians of the postwar period. Janet Arnold, the late pioneer in the scholarly study of historical dress, documented the reconstruction of 16th-and 17th-century English and Italian court garments based on studies of fragmentary remains. Conservator Jenny Bond offers technical notes on difficulties encountered in the recreation of a missing set of 18th-century English buttons.
In “Clinging to Tradition,” costume conservator and curator Katia Johansen's article on 17th-century Danish court garments is a stellar contribution in a section exploring fossilized textile practices. Johansen's detailed interdisciplinary study of exotic garments variously referred to as “japonische,” “indianische,” or “persianische” reveals that they were made by Danish court tailors inspired by traditional Turkish, Russian, and Polish costume and worn by King Frederik III for thematic tournament processions. Curators Aagot Noss and Joanna Marschner document traditional Norwegian hairdressing styles and 19th-century Japanese oriental and occidental court dress traditions.
“Revealing Textiles,” a section that considers the value of conservation-based research, includes historian Santina Levy's article on the survival of a collection of 16th-century textile furnishings at England's Hardwick Hall. Conservators Danielle Bosworth and Barbara Heiberger provide overviews of European tapestry repairs and costume conservation at the Museum of London. TCC staff members Amber Rowe and Alison Lister explore barriers to understanding textile artifacts as well as Karen Finch's legacy of motivating her students to “interrogate” objects. Linda Eaton contributes a well-written review of light and textile displays, highlighting the practical application of recent illumination studies at Winterthur's Henry Francis du Pont Museum and Gardens, where she has served as a conservator and curator.
Detailed observational studies of shoemaking and sewing threads in “Evidence of Maker and Making” are invaluable for both textile historians and conservators. June Swann, former keeper of the Boot and Shoe Collection at the Northampton Museum, provides a fascinating overview of the construction, alteration, and reuse of footwear. Conservator and historian Philip Sykas's original and meticulous research on sewing threads provides an accurate means for establishing the date of sewn constructions as well as distinguishing among original work, alterations, and restoration. Wendy Hefford offers a study of “double work” in a set of 17th-century Mortlake tapestries.
“Analysis and Preservation,” which presents two articles by conservation scientists, completes the collection. Ágnes Timár-Balázsy, a world-renowned expert in historical dye analysis and a beloved teacher of conservation science, reviewed the history of dye identification prior to her recent death. Anthony Smith emphasizes the need for an interdisciplinary approach to the chemical analysis of historic and archaeological textiles.
Shortcomings in Textiles Revealed include a few articles that are narrowly focused observational studies lacking meaningful analysis or are brief overviews with limited content development. Several are reviews of past work rather than new contributions, although they are welcome in a field where there is a paucity of published material. These reviews are also important contributions to the history of conservation. The collection reflects the relatively narrow perspective inherent in a group of professionals with similar training documenting a limited range of artifacts. Many papers reflect traditional academic divisions between historians, conservators, and scientists rather than interdisciplinary research. The most successful articles cross these intellectual boundaries, providing cultural interpretations of material analyses and considering the implications of conservation practices for historical interpretation.
Textiles Revealed is best understood as an homage to Karen Finch and a generation of textile specialists who have been central to the development of the Textile Conservation Centre. The importance of the TCC as the preeminent center for textile conservation research and education should be underscored. Karen's legacy is a rich learning environment where historians, scientists, and conservators collaboratively study a wide variety of archaeological, ethnographic, and historic textiles. Textiles Revealed attempts to capture this milieu, although it would have benefited from the broader international perspective that the center's faculty, students, and case studies actually represent. The TCC's new institutional relationship with the University of Southampton, with collaborative links to graduate programs in textile history, art and design, archaeology, chemistry, and environmental science, offers the potential to address the need for truly interdisciplinary research and publications among textile scientists, historians, and conservators. Textiles Revealed is an important first publication for the newly established Textile Conservation Centre at the University of Southampton, merging its distinguished scholarly heritage with original textile research.
- Nancy Buenger
- Chicago Historical Society
- Clark St. at North Ave.
- Chicago, Ill. 60614
FRANCES PIQUé and LESLIE H. RAINER, PALACE SCULPTURES OF ABOMEY: HISTORY TOLD ON WALLS. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 1999. 116 pages, softcover, $24.95. ISBN 0-89236-569-2
The title of this book serves perfectly to describe its contents. It is a book about the history of the Fon, the kingdom of Dahomey, and particularly the wonderful palace structures and sculptures in the capital of Abomey, situated in what is now the Republic of Benin on the coast of West Africa. Readers hoping for a publication primarily about the conservation of the palace sculptures, which might be the initial expectation as the book is published by the Getty Conservation Institute in its series Conservation and Cultural Heritage, will be disappointed. This pronouncement is only a simple fact and is not meant to detract from the value of this book, which is considerable.
Indeed, at first it is a little hard to figure out exactly who the intended audience for this publication might be. My first skim through the book left me puzzled in this regard, so I went in search of a statement that might explain its aim, looking in the places where such assertions are usually made—the introduction or the back cover blurb—but to no avail. Eventually I located it in a one-sentence, small-print paragraph, placed above the Library of Congress data on the back of the title page, explaining that publications in this series are aimed at providing “information in a popular format. ” This seemingly secretive statement, whose location and small size can be read almost as if it were a confession, needs to be more obvious, such as on the back cover. This is an excellent popular format book, and it ought to declare its intent more forcefully and obviously and thus do itself more justice.
The book begins with introductory chapters that give great overviews of the cultural and social history of the region. Next are chapters explaining the layout, construction, and function of the royal palaces and the basrelief art that was the focus of the mid-1990s field project that this book evolves around. There follows a short chapter on the actual conservation of the sculptures, and then sections that bring the subject matter into contemporary focus with descriptions of the role of the Historic Museum of Abomey and the living tradition of bas-relief art in the region. At the end are a suggested reading list and acknowledgments to all those involved with the field project and the publication. The book is dominated by a huge number of illustrations, most in color, and it includes many fascinating historic photographs and engravings. The text is a straightforward narrative account of its stated subject matter, meant to relay basic information without the weight of academic discussion.
I was a little disappointed to see another commentary tucked away behind the title page—an easily missed, yet rather important, editorial note concerning the development of the book's manuscript. The publication carries the names of two well-known conservators as the primary authors, with contributions by Jérôme C. Alladaye, Rachida de Souza-Ayari, and Suzanne Preston Blier, all scholars of various aspects of Benin history and culture. The note explains that the individual texts written by the authors and contributors were merged to form a single manuscript. While accepting that this book is a general interest publication, and therefore seeing the need to keep the style of the text consistent and flowing from start to finish, I was left wondering exactly which of the contributors provided what information. The suggested reading list supplies several references to Blier's published work and so provides the reader with clues as to her field of study, but there is no such help with regard to the remaining two contributors. While not trying to detract from the obviously extensive work put into this volume by the primary authors, Piqué and Rainer, nor doubting their certain knowledge of the area, one is led to suspect by the detailed and heavy emphasis on cultural and political history that the book was not written primarily by two conservators. A little more indication of the exact input by the contributors would have been of interest. I would simply like to have known more about the contributors beyond their titles and affiliations listed in the acknowledgments section.
The chapter on the conservation of the sculptures is clearly and simply laid out. The goals of the treatment are well-stated, the principal problems and deterioration processes present, and the methods used to assess, record, and finally treat the bas-reliefs are all described. There is mention of analysis of the original paint layers and similar scientific investigations that were carried out, but, as noted already, there is no detailed technical information included in the text. The logistical problems of working with such large and very heavy objects are well-described, as are the practical problems of working in parts of the world where conservation is less well provided for than most of us are used to. Emphasis is placed on the involvement of local technicians and craftsmen in the field project, and it is gratifying to see their obviously important role so well-documented. As alluded to earlier, one might have expected to see more conservation content in this book, but, given its apparent audience, this publication strikes the right balance between its technical and nontechnical content.
The vast number of pictures used in this publication is undoubtedly one of the strongest and most striking aspects of the book. For those readers who have never seen photographs of the mythical female warriors of Africa, better known as Amazons, this is a good place to find them. As they stared back at me from the page, surrounded by the text that describes the dark and often violent society in which they lived, I could not help but be reminded of a favorite quotation: “Well-behaved women rarely make history. ”This book brings a lot of life to the story of this fascinating part of Africa, particularly through its illustrations.
The importance of this book obviously is not in reporting some major development in conservation method or theory but lies in firing up general interest in cultural heritage preservation, and in particular this example of African heritage. The book meets this goal very well. It will be of little interest to conservators looking for treatment information, but for many—especially those of us who have worked in the field, particularly abroad—it is a nice reminder of how challenging, yet enormously satisfying, such work can be.
As someone who has worked extensively in such situations and now teaches conservation in South Africa, I can say with certainty that this type of book serves an enormously important role in bolstering the cause of cultural heritage preservation in countries such as Benin. The fact that such a book was written about their heritage and efforts to preserve it helps confirm to the Beninese, as well as to visitors, the importance with which their heritage is viewed. This kind of publication can be a real inspiration and source of pride, especially for students in such countries, where, we hope, they will find cause to become the caretakers of their culture in the future. For this reason alone, it is no less valuable a book than a more weighty technical publication. With this thought in mind, my review copy will be going to the library of the institute in South Africa where I teach and where I know I will consequently face many tough questions from my students. It is obviously a book that took a lot of work and effort to produce (not to mention the undoubted cost associated with any publication stuffed so full of wonderful illustrations that it rivals an issue of National Geographic). It is worth a spot on any conservator's shelf of books of general interest.
- J. Claire Dean
- Dean and Associates Conservation Services
- 3438 NE 62d Ave.
- Portland, Oreg. 97213
PAUL N. BANKS and ROBERTA PILETTE, EDS., PRESERVATION: ISSUES AND PLANNING. Chicago: American Library Association, 2000. 360 pages, softcover, $78 (ALA members $70.20). Available from American Library Association, 155 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, Ill. 60606. ISBN 0-8389-0776-8.
This book is a guide to the practice of preservation for the field of librarianship. Presenting one specialty to the many other specialties of librarianship is a purpose of American Library Association (ALA) publications, and this work fulfills that goal.
The component essays are concise expositions by authoritative presenters: “Defining the Library Preservation Program Policies and Organization,” by Carolyn Clark Morrow; “Preservation Programs in High-Use Library Collections,” by Sara R. Williams; “Preservation Program Planning for Archives and Historical Record Repositories,” by Christine Ward; “Programs, Priorities, and Funding,” by Margaret Childe with the assistance of Laura J. Word;“Planning for Preservation in Libraries,” by Jutta Reed-Scott; “Issues in Digital Archiving,” by Peter S. Graham; “Environment and Building Design,” by Paul N. Banks; “Collections and Stack Management,” by Duane A. Watson;“Preservation Management Emergency Preparedness,” by Sally A. Buchanan; “Library and Archives Security,” by Richard Strassberg;“Exhibition Policy and Preparation,” by Roberta Pilette; “Selection for Preservation,” by Carolyn Harris;“The Conservation of General Collections,” by Jan Merrill-Oldham and Nancy Carlson Schrock; “Commercial Library Binding,” by John F. Dean; “Preservation Microfilming and Photocopy,” by Eileen F. Usovicz and Barbara Lilley;“Special Collections Conservation,” by Eleanore Stewart; “Digitization for Preservation and Access,” by Paula de Stefano; and “Preservation of Information in Nonpaper Formats,”by Eleanore Stewart and Paul N. Banks.
The editors and contributors have made this ALA publication a success by illustrating that preservation in libraries and archives is not realized through unilateral actions of preservation workers. The book demonstrates that preservation management is achieved by the objectives of all departments of the collecting institution.
As examples, Morrow and Graham in their respective contributions define preservation topics in terms of institutional mission:“Without the existence of a preservation policy that represents institutional consensus, the preservation program will be seen as competing with collection development and access programs, instead of being an integral part of both” (Morrow, p. 4). Regarding digital archiving, Graham says, “Nothing makes clearer that a library is an organization, rather than a building or a collection, than the requirement for institutional commitment for electronic information to have more than a fleeting existence” (p. 104), and “To grapple with the ephemerality of electronic information is to answer the abstract question of why we are librarians” (p. 111).
This book takes the premise of interdepartmental influence of preservation one step further. The narratives directly address departmental librarians with preservation accountabilities, providing them with concise guidelines that would be useful even in the absence of an established preservation department. In the same mode, the work provides scripting for preservation workers to bring to agendas of other library departments.
Another editorial objective was to encompass, in a balanced manner, three areas of library and archives preservation. These are “care of materials of artifactual value, preservation management of paper-based collections of primarily informational value, and the still largely uncharted management of information in the new media. ” That balance is well-achieved. The component essays can also be allocated under somewhat different subheadings. There are seven items on planning, tactics of persuasion, funding, and infrastructure design; eight items on methods and routines of a working program; and three items that discuss “issues” or challenges to preservation. The issues items fulfill the promise of the subtitle, “Issues and Planning. ”
I have identified the three issues essays as Harris on selection, Graham on digital archiving, and de Stefano on digitizing for preservation and access. These contributions focus on clarifying the mandate for preservation and therefore speak to the more political and cultural issue of preserving the preservation function itself.
The topic of selection at first would appear to fall into routine, and Harris defines the routine process, effectively covering identification and criteria for decision making at the item and collection levels. Beyond this stage, selection is posed as both a crucial process and a challenge for the wise allocation of preservation services.
The material selected for preservation is a smaller portion of endangered collections that are thus dese-lected, and even the items selected may require “reselection” by preservation staff. Another complicating factor of selection is that it can operate out of sync with the magnitude of preservation processes, either beyond or far short of capacity. Also problematic is the synchronization of collection development goals with preservation policy and method. Harris addresses these issues well.
Graham on digital archiving actually deals with the very process of knowledge transmission. He discusses the tasks of medium preservation technology preservation, and intellectual or content preservation in the environment of electronic collections, but his focus is on the commitments to the process of responsible transmission. In this context, he sketches the organizational, fiscal, and institutional commitment needed. He makes the case that the library community is the only one dealing with the issues that must be faced in combination if digital archives are to be preserved. This is a challenging prospect that he expresses very well.
De Stefano on digitization for preservation and access presents another challenge by repositioning the negotiation between preservation and access. In the context of electronic information, “the relationship between preservation and access becomes more than reciprocal—it becomes almost synonymous. ” This repositioning of functionality toward preservation of access suggests a new integration of previously “very different sets of activities. ”
On balance, this publication—spanning program planning, methods of practice, and prospects for management of future challenges—is unprecedented. Like a snapshot of the World Wide Web, it is fairly aweinspiring. For me, it confirms the depth of experience and research and the longtime germination that have enabled this snapshot of the field of library and archives preservation.
While this work is dedicated to Carolyn Harris, it is also a tribute to Paul Banks, who died shortly after its publication. His contribution on “Environment and Building Design” is a masterful exposition that exemplifies his ability to direct the library community to efficient and decisive action. Banks's contribution, coauthored with Eleanore Stewart, on “Preservation in Nonpaper Formats” defines whole new sectors of the field of library and archives preservation.
Editors Paul Banks and Roberta Pilette have provided the portal and assembled the component works into a very appealing flow. Although most librarians may choose to use this book as a reference tool, any use will convey a cohesive, cooperative, and interactive field of preservation to the librarian. It is also likely that this work will shift the librarians' perception of the field from one requiring negotiation of preservation and access to a more positive perspective of a service unit aimed at the preservation of access.
- Gary Frost
- University of Iowa Libraries
- 615 6th Ave.
- Coralville, Iowa 52241
SHERELYN OGDEN, ED., PRESERVATION OF LIBRARY AND ARCHIVAL MATERIALS, 3d ed., rev. and expanded. Andover, Mass.: New England Document Conservation Center, 1999. 412 pages, hardcover $50. Available from NEDCC, 100 Brick-stone Sq., Andover, Mass. 01810. ISBN 0-963-4685-2-9.
Preservation of Library and Archival Materials is a hefty tome of more than 400 letter-size pages. Its physical presence readily conveys a work of comprehensive magnitude. The compilation of this manual appears to have been an undertaking of considerable effort. The volume is divided into six major sections:“Planning and Prioritizing,” “The Environment,” “Emergency Management,” “Storage and Handling,” “Reformatting,” and “Conservation Procedures. ” Each section addresses a series of topics, initially conceived as individual leaflets. Many of these texts were authored by New England Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) staff and consultants and first published as a unit in 1992. The leaflets were originally produced for NEDCC's broad community of clients—private individuals, libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies in North America and abroad. They were created and revised to speak to the need for knowledge and advice that NEDCC has sought to fulfill since its founding in 1973. In the preface to this 1999 revised publication, readers learn that since it was originally published in 1992, demand for this manual has been great—close to 6,000 copies have been sold or distributed. Why then further review?
The term “leaflet” carries an ephemeral, informal connotation with an assumption that leaflets may be periodically updated. But once leaflets are compiled, edited, published, bound, and situated on one's reference shelf, their combined presence takes on greater significance. (The 1992 edition was issued as a loose-leaf binder.) The physical placement of this volume on the shelf undoubtedly provides reassurance that the answers to most questions lie somewhere within its pages. Locating that precise answer is not, however, ensured because no index is included. The result is a volume that is less useful than anticipated.
Because the compiled leaflets were conceived independently, leaflets often refer to other leaflets in the same volume. Sources cited in one leaflet's bibliography are inexplicably omitted from another leaflet on a similar or related topic. For example, the William Lull and Paul Banks citation for Conservation Environment Guidelines for Libraries and Archives does not appear until the bibliographic section on light, although its primary topic is HVAC. And two adjacent leaflets by Paul Conway contain much of the same information. Guidance in some leaflets contradicts what is found in other leaflets. Two different leaflets offer contradictory advice on whether to freeze photographs during salvage. Two other leaflets offer conflicting advice about whether to roll paper objects face in or face out.
NEDCC's logo appears on the front and spine of the volume's binding and adjacent to the heading of each of the volume's 50 leaflets. NEDCC's pervasive influence is evident in the volume's introduction, where readers with questions about application of information are encouraged to contact NEDCC staff before trying other preservation professionals. Mention of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) is deferred well beyond several references to NEDCC or other regional conservation centers. AIC is first cited as a source for survey consultant referrals on page 15. Its reference in “Sources of Information” (p. 53) appears without annotation, thereby limiting its usefulness for those who may yet be unfamiliar with the organization and its services. The most egregious instance of AIC's absence occurs in “Emergency Management Supplies and Services,” where AIC is not listed at all, in spite of a full listing of regional centers (p. 182).
The manual unfortunately contains no citation to some of the most recent publications, potentially of great use to those working with library and archives materials. Lacking are references to any of the related publications produced by the Canadian Conservation Institute, such as Jean Tetreault's tremendously informative Coatings for Display and Storage in Museums (1999). Notice of the National Park Service Division of Conservation's CD, Exhibit Conservation Guidelines, an update to Toby Raphael's 1991 Conservation Guidelines: Design and Fabrication of Exhibits, is also omitted. Internet resources mention the Library of Congress and Harvard University, but fail to mention the National Archives or AIC.
The intended audience for this large work remains unclear, even as described by the volume's title. Library and archives preservation offers its practitioners the principal challenge of negotiating a “delicate balance between preservation and access. ” Because materials situated in libraries and archives are expected to be used, the “handling” factor plays a major role in contemplating appropriate preservation options. Because paper is the predominant substrate in these collections, individuals in both types of repositories share an interest in the condition of the macrostorage environment, the stability of materials used to house holdings, technologies for capturing intellectual (as opposed to artifactual) content for access, and steps toward basic emergency preparedness.
Differences between libraries and archives are notable in ways in which they acquire, arrange, describe, process, and provide access to materials. Unlike librarians, archivists deal with groups of records whose significance rests with the association of one record to another. Along with this important relationship among records, each archives record is unique. In this respect, archives may have more in common with museums than with libraries. From the archivist's point of view, a sound discussion of preservation naturally occurs within the context of a particular archives function. This is not always assumed in a library setting, where complete volumes may exist in multiple copies and where concern for access often dominates.
Beginning with its initial section on “Planning and Prioritizing,” the manual faces its first hurdle in attempting to communicate specific planning information to diverse groups perhaps broader in scope than the leaflet's originally intended audience. For example, writing on “Preservation Assessment and Planning,” Margaret Child clearly directs her comments to staff working in a research library. Her leaflet focuses on collection sampling of library materials, where materials are not unique and may likely be found in more than one location or repository.
Archivists will be confused by a discussion on determining value because criteria established for libraries—e.g., Research Libraries Group (RLG) Conspectus—are not readily applicable to archives. Archivists looking to acquire additional assistance by contacting those sources recommended—conservation regional centers, their state library, or a library with a preservation administrator—will not likely match expertise to need. Those scrutinizing the leaflet's bibliography for readings on archives preservation find that only 4 of the bibliography's 22 citations are nonlibrary based. Of those 4 citations, 3 are more than a decade old.
The choice of reference material cited in the leaflet on “Preservation Planning: Select Bibliography” (p. 27) also illustrates difficulty in defining an audience. Resources presented on archives do not fairly represent the field's preservation literature. Only a handful of references (out of nearly 40) directly address archives, and annotations listed barely distinguish the truly essential (e.g., Mary Lynn Ritzen-thaler's Preserving Archives and Manuscripts ) from the more ineffectual. Sources for further information about archives preservation can be found in a number of journals that are perhaps not familiar to those who routinely rely upon library preservation literature. There are, for example, no citations for the American Archivist, the journal of the Society of American Archivists, though it devoted an entire issue to preservation in 1990, produced a preservation resource review in 1991, and has included a number of articles pertaining to preservation over the last decade. It is unrealistic to expect that the individual with limited experience in preservation will possess the incentive and skill needed to tailor advice directed toward an allied profession to his or her own use.
From the outset, audience identification is one of the manual's more difficult tasks. For example, registrars' records, associated more with museums than with libraries or archives, are discussed in the context of emergency preparedness, with no mention of vital records common to all institutions. Descriptions of lacquer, ivory, and metals included in a leaflet on “Disaster Planning” also seem aimed more toward a museum than an archives or library audience. In her discussion of remedial preservation, Child promotes deacidification, reformatting, and conservation treatments. This categorization does not fit the priorities of archives, where deacidification would not likely warrant classification independent from conservation treatment. Clearly knowing your targeted audience and understanding how best to address its needs are fundamental to any publication's success. Odder still is Child's notion of conservation treatment facilities: “A few large research libraries and museums have a conservation laboratory and trained conservators in-house” (p. 10). In fact, conservation treatment facilities can be found in archives or historical societies in many states, including California, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin, as well as the National Archives in both the United States and Canada.
Many of the leaflets were designed for allied professionals or individuals with a limited background in preservation. And although the manual's intended audience is not expected to have had preservation training or exposure to preservation, leaflets in the “Conservation Procedures” section outline selected conservation treatments that require experience and knowledge to carry them out safely and effectively. Covered are the surface cleaning of paper, repairing paper artifacts, relaxing and flattening paper by humidification, and how to do your own matting and hinging. Results of these treatments, when performed by an unskilled practitioner who has received grounding in neither technique nor application, may be disastrous.
Statements such as “If they are dealing with acidic paper, it can be deacidified either item by item or by sending it to a vendor of mass deacidification treatment” (p. 9) are simplistic and misleading. Rarely does this recommendation appear with a caveat explaining that deacidification is not appropriate for blueprints, coated papers, works of art, items with soluble or alkali-sensitive media, or objects not needing treatment in the first place (e.g., see p. 297). This caution is especially apposite for an archives audience historically wary of sanctified “routine” treatments such as lamination or ethylene oxide fumigation that today are no longer advocated. In her excellent article “Mass Deacidification: Considerations for Archives” (Abbey Newsletter 23, nos. 7–8 : 97–100), Norvell Jones outlines why mass deacidification is fraught with complexities for archives materials. Stable storage enclosures, an optimally controlled macroenvironment, and reformatting options would be more plausible preservation alternatives for the archivist.
I disagree with Sherelyn Ogden, who as editor has also authored a number of the manual's leaflets, that “Surface or dry cleaning can be safely carried out by a novice” (p. 359). The text does caution that, “While the technique may be used on book pages, manuscripts, maps, and other documents, it should not be used on brittle newspapers, bookbindings, book edges, photographs, or intaglio prints. ” Describing the use of eraser crumbs or an eraser block, the leaflet warns that these are not suitable for use “on pastels, pencil, charcoal, watercolors, or other media that are not firmly bound to the paper or that may be lifted or erased by abrasives,” nor on “artifacts with hand-applied coloring” (p. 359). A novice may not, however, be able to make the necessary materials identifications to choose the appropriate treatment. The leaflet never specifies when such techniques would be appropriate, as is crucial for an audience of individuals without previous preservation experience. Without adequate training or supervision, how will the nonconservation professional know that fibers may be abraded through aggressive surface cleaning, know when media are lost, or know how to avoid irregular cleaning effects?
Other leaflets offer differing levels of advice about what a novice might achieve. In her discussion of “Guidelines for Library Binding,” Ogden recognizes the level of dexterity and expertise required for mending artifacts. “Although the use of Japanese paper and starch paste repairs is a standard conservation procedure, the need for such repairs, which require a high degree of skill, signals the need for conservation binding rather than library binding” (p. 356). But in contrast, the reader of the leaflet “Repairing Paper Artifacts” receives no counsel as to what skills may be needed and is not made aware that this is a meticulous task whose mastery will occur over time with repeated practice.
Descriptions of other conservation treatments or choices lead the trained conservator to question how a nonconservation professional could be expected to understand such considerations as paste consistency in preventing tide lines or the injudicious use of tacking irons (even if not placed in direct contact with the object). Or, for example, how will the nonprofessional recognize the dangers posed by water-sensitive media when humidification occurs in a system that obscures direct observation? And because readers likely lack sufficient background, they will not be aware of all of the issues surrounding so-called “archival” pressure-sensitive tapes. Will the prospective reader recognize that such supplies are not suitable for use on any material of enduring value because of questions of unfavorable aging and/or difficulty in removal?
Even when training is carried out under the direct supervision of a conservator, problems may arise. Where does the reader turn when difficulties develop and no one is present to observe the result or help remedy the problem? While conservation action within the context of libraries and archives may certainly be warranted, be helpful if performed appropriately, and be personally satisfying for the practitioner, performing conservation treatments is not, by and large, the best use of an archivist's or librarian's time. There are always too many other relevant duties to be accomplished by nonconservation staff—work that does not potentially jeopardize the collection.
The most successful library and archives preservation publications aimed at nonpreservation professionals address practical information useful in repeated applications. The manual's section on “Conservation Procedures” might have been significantly more helpful had it focused on the “why” rather than on the “how-to. ”Archivists and librarians looking for guidance when called upon to evaluate conservation treatment proposals would reap enormous benefits from understanding treatment options without actually attempting to perform these tasks themselves.
Acknowledging the language of one's intended audience demonstrates goodwill and enhances credibility. “Archives” is not traditionally used as a verb (“to archive”) or a gerund (“archiving”). “Archives” always has an “s” (not “archive”)—especially when addressing archivists of paper-based collections. Other forms of the term “archives” have been adopted and proliferated by an electronic “technical” community, much to the consternation of those who have worked in archives for years. If you think this point trivial, consider how conservators respond (cringe) when labeled “conservationists. ”
Choices in terminology addressed to the archives preservation community lack clarity and definition. The persistent allusion to that vague quality known as “archival” permeates this manual, like so much of the preservation literature aimed at the nonprofessional. We find references to “archival-quality enclosures,” “boxes from archival suppliers,” “archival paper,” “archival cardboard,”
“archival-quality materials,” “archival folders, “archivally acceptable paper,” “archival-quality board,” “special archival tape,” “archival plastic,” “archival purposes,” and “not archival. ” In reality,“archival” refers to records housed in an archives. It does not speak at all to quality. Instructions to use “archival” materials leave the reader sorrowfully bewildered as to what specific attributes make a product suitable for use in a particular preservation context. Like its relatives “preservation quality” and “museum quality,” these imprecise “feel-good” terms intimate, but do not clarify, favorable characteristics.
Imprecise language is particularly disconcerting when it may adversely affect human health. For example, disaster recovery teams need sufficient information beyond “wear gloves and a respirator” (p. 127) so that they know why and what this precaution will entail. And when vendor sources for potentially dangerous fumigants such as ethylene oxide are listed, further explanation of potential hazards is warranted. One would want to accompany recommendations for the use of lead weights by a discussion of methods that could be employed to prevent contamination. Using the methylethyl ketone (MEK) “rub test” on baked enamel and powder coating shelves require more safety instructions than to use “in a well ventilated area and appropriate preventive measures must be taken” (p. 258), even if printed in boldface. Statements such as “should be used with caution and appropriate safety measures observed” (p. 257) may inadequately express caution to an audience otherwise inexperienced with chemical products.
To effectively convey information about “best practice” to nonpreservation personnel is a formidable task for the entire conservation community. Foremost, conveying this information requires providing upto-date, accurate, and appropriate guidance. Nowhere is this guidance more important than when conveying information that affects health and safety. “Emergency Salvage of Moldy Books and Paper” does not always provide enough information for individuals to safely handle moldy materials, and it sets out “conventional wisdom”that does not always apply.
Although the leaflet encourages contacting a professional if questions arise, neither industrial hygiene sources nor references to AIC are listed. Depending on its size and severity, a mold outbreak will demand different remedies. Yet some of the information provided here is simply inaccurate. For example, fans recommended for circulating the air are to be discouraged because once mold has appeared, an increase in ventilation would potentially redistribute spores, possibly to areas that had not been affected. Preconditioned, dehumidified incoming air and negative-pressure high efficiency particle air (HEPA)–filtered outgoing air are needed to avoid contamination of other spaces and speed drying.
The statement “It is a good idea to consult your doctor before wearing a respirator to work with mold materials” (p. 203) misquotes another source and does not adequately describe the steps required before a respirator can be safely used. A doctor first needs to ascertain that an individual is physically fit to wear a negative-pressure respirator. Approval from a medical professional and a proper fittest (not simply a “fit-check”) are required by law before donning a respirator. A full-or half-mask respirator with HEPA cartridges, Series P, P100 under 42 CFR Part 84, is warranted. Respirators are cleaned at the end of each work period, inside and out, with wipes designed for this purpose, not periodically as suggested.
There is no description of the steps required to isolate contaminated materials used during the cleaning process, such as gloves, vacuum cleaner bags, or other trash. Vacuum cleaner bags are best changed in a glove bag, outdoors, or in a still contaminated space, away from the collections area with the operator wearing full protective gear. The “changing area” will then need to be vacuumed as soon as the replacement bag is installed, and both bag and filters sealed before being discarded.
Recommendations on the use of Lysol are also incomplete. The text does not specify which product manufactured by Lysol, a brand name that appears without trademark, is desired. Current formulations of Lysol spray or liquid no longer contain orthophenolphenol. By pointing to the usefulness of material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for acquiring specific product ingredients (or simply reading a product label), a reader could learn that ethanol is now Lysol's major ingredient. This solvent's effectiveness in eradicating or potentially catalyzing mold begs further consideration. Killing mold is not enough; it must be removed. And it is very difficult to remove all traces of mold from porous materials—such as paper that may already be weakened by mold damage—without compromising object integrity. Beth Patkus suggests the use of baking soda if musty odors remain in the space itself (exclusive of materials). It is, however, conceivable that odors result from enzymes that have not been eliminated. In this case, baking soda will not likely be effective in reducing an odor problem.
Throughout the manual, the term “standards” is used to convey a level of authority that simply does not exist. For example, Child talks of upgrading the environment to conform to national standards but does not say what they are or list their parameters. In “Temperature, Relative Humidity, Light, and Air Quality: Basic Guidelines for Preservation,” Ogden encourages readers to “maintain preservation standards”but then states that “authorities disagree on the ideal temperature and relative humidity for library and archival materials” (p. 70). She notes, “Where economics or inadequate mechanical systems make it impossible to maintain ideal conditions, less stringent standards may be chosen for summer and winter” and “seasonal standards should be as close to the ideal as possible” (p. 70).
In “Monitoring Temperature and Relative Humidity,” Patkus cites National Information Standards Organization's (NISO) 1995 report and refreshingly instructs her readers that these are not standards but useful guidelines (p. 77). But when discussing light, Ogden (p. 71) and Patkus (p. 102) refer to a “standard”limit for ultraviolet radiation, and these references can be misleading. Seventyfive microwatts per lumen was the level suggested by Gary Thomson in The Museum Environment (1986), based on the ultraviolet output of a tungsten bulb, which he noted does not need ultraviolet filtering. But any discussion of measuring the potential damage of ultraviolet radiation needs to emphasize that light levels will factor into the measurement of ultraviolet because it is the proportion of ultraviolet in light that is being measured. The combined readings of illuminance and those of ultraviolet are used to calculate exposure and total damage. For example, a source of 100 microwatts per lumen at 10 footcandles actually results in fewer microwatt hours per square foot damage than 50 microwatts per lumen at 100 footcandles for the same length of time. An imposed “limit” of 75 microwatt per lumen is not helpful here; you still need to know how much ultraviolet damage is of concern and what means and expense are needed to reduce it.
One of the most useful means of communicating information is through standards. Standards emerge from standards-setting bodies and result from rigorous review and agreement by many interested and involved parties. Standards are indispensable to us because they can effectively convey a degree of precision that may be otherwise ambiguous. Often standards are confused with guidelines or best practices. Any organization or institution can create its own recommended guidelines. But neither guidelines nor best practices carry the acknowledged authority or agreement implicit of standards.
Gary Albright is to be commended for his leaflet on “Storage Enclosures for Photographic Materials. ” He at last clarifies, for the layperson, the difficulties of using the term “acid-free”—it fails to indicate whether the product is alkaline or neutral—and specifies the use of existing standards. Unfortunately, with recent changes in nomenclature, standards names and numbers provided are not nearly as useful now as when the publication was first issued. But this leaflet is certainly an excellent step in the right direction. Albright advocates that materials used in conjunction with photographs pass both the Photograph Activity Test (formerly ANSI IT9.16-1993, now ISO 14523:1999) and the ANSI standard for Filing Enclosures and Storage Containers (formerly IT9.2-1998, now ISO 18902:2001). Note: The ISO nomenclature will be used for the remainder of this review. These standards are directed toward supplies that may be safely used for storing photographic materials but would be aptly applicable to paper-based items as well.
It is puzzling that Odgen does not highlight the usefulness of the storage enclosure standard (ISO 18902:2001) for housing paper-based materials in her leaflet,“Selection of Suitable Quality Storage Enclosures for Book and Artifacts on Paper. ” Here Odgen does a good job of explaining to the reader that it is necessary to know all components of storage materials, and she offers cotton as an example; 100% cotton rag will not be a suitable substrate or desirable housing material if sized with an acidic agent.
After explaining that the permanent paper standard, ANSI Z39.48-1992, establishes criteria for paper intended for publications, it would have been helpful to note that ANSI Z39.48 also applies to photocopy paper onto which information would be reformatted. It is baffling that ANSI Z39.48-1992 continues to be recommended “as a guide in the selection of papers for use in storage materials” (p. 269) when a storage enclosure standard, ISO 18902:2001, is available.
Odgen's leaflet appears earlier in the manual than Albright's and while it is true that we relied on the permanent paper standard for storage enclosures when nothing more useful was available, I can now see no reason not to direct the reader to ISO 18902:2001 for housing both photographic and paper-based materials. A reader interested primarily in paper who never thinks to consult Albright's text on photographs will not learn of the more recent and relevant storage enclosure standard. And this is regret-table, because ISO 18902:2001 not only considers papers suitable for storage enclosures but includes inks, adhesives, and plastics—elements entirely absent from the permanent paper standard.
Odgen's statement that there are “different standards for storage enclosures for photographic materials” (p. 269) and papers seems to needlessly complicate a process that the storage enclosure standard could simplify. Until a more specific paper-stor-age enclosure standard is developed, ISO 18902:2001 is a useful specification for enclosures that will house photographs as well as paper. Materials such as blue-prints, cyanotypes, color photographs, or albumen prints, considered “alkali-sensitive,” may be safely housed in alkaline enclosures so long as they do not come into direct contact with moisture or are exposed to high relative humidity (above 60%). Alka-line enclosures will last longer than their neutral counterparts, and uniform enclosure specifications for papers and photographs help minimize staff confusion. If moisture is of concern, enclosures in which pH neutral materials (pH 7.0 not to exceed pH 8.0) may be used in direct contact with objects. Neutral paper-housing materials are recommended for natural science specimens and ethnographic proteinaceous collection materials (e.g., leather, skins, fur, feathers, birds, mammals, silk, and wool), as well as for an array of record substrates from which proteinaceous specimens (e.g., fingerprints or DNA) may be collected.
Many of the manual's most useful writings are leaflets that focus on large-scale facilities and managerial issues that have serious implications for preservation. Odgen poses a helpful discussion of process in “The Needs Assessment Survey”(p. 13) She deftly clarifies the pros and cons of selecting in-house and outside personnel to conduct a survey. Rebecca Thatcher Ellis writes clearly and convincingly on “Getting Function from Design: Making Systems Work” (p. 89) when embarking upon building projects, particularly emphasizing environmental controls. Karen Motylewski offers a good review of “Protecting Collections during Renovation” (p. 211). Nick Artim produces an excellent summary in “An Introduction to Fire Detection, Alarm, and Automatic Fire Sprinklers” (p. 129), and Jan Paris captures major facets of “Choosing and Working with a Conservator” (p. 129). (The material in these last publications had previously appeared elsewhere in print.) Despite minor errors in some of its details, “Digital Technology Made Simpler” by Paul Conway (p. 333) is an engaging read. Richard Horton's description of how to measure a book, found in “Card Stock Enclosures for Small Books” (p. 277), is well-done and of potentially good use in determining a volume's accurate dimensions for a protective enclosure. Leaflets that focus on administrative practices, emphasizing preventive measures, help librarians and archivists do the greatest good for the benefit of whole collections. It is here that this manual is at its best.
Preservation of Library and Archival Materials is a difficult volume to digest because it is so uneven in the consistency of information presented. The problem of identifying its intended audience leads one to question information included and ignored. The overall stylistic choice of imprecise words combined with directives such as “should” and “must” affect content. Although the extensive use of imperatives that appear throughout the text might be relegated to preferences of style, these admonitions ultimately do affect content. Thirty-four “shoulds” on page 127 are by any measure excessive; some leaflets have more than 20 “shoulds” per page. (While they appear more sparingly than “shoulds,” “musts” are also far too common.) When an inexperienced reader perceives all recommendations to be given with uniform urgency, we do not convey gradations of judgment, indispensable to the conservation professional routinely engaged in preservation decision making.
As the concept of preservation journeys beyond the confines of the conservation laboratory, conservators will have an increasingly greater influence on overarching administrative functions within the institution. The words we choose to present information about preservation philosophies, actions, or supplies can become as critical as the specifications they carry. Conservators are working diligently to defuse the notion that they make life for nonpreservation staff more difficult or that they only decree measures impossible to realize with resources allocated. In fact, conservators are focusing more and more on ways in which we can accomplish a great deal in the interests of preservation—safely, effectively, and economically.
While uneven in the quality of its parts, Preservation of Library and Archival Materials offers an instructive survey as to the broad issues facing custodians of paper-based holdings at the end of the 20th century. Although this reviewer judged many of its leaflets to be either too general or derived from disputed philosophies, there is much to be learned from this vast undertaking. The authors of these leaflets are to be commended for providing a foundation from which further discussion and clarification can develop.
As conservators, we are ultimately responsible for explaining preservation philosophy and practice in simple, straightforward, and unintimidating ways. By standardizing terminology, we have an opportunity to make an enormous impact on a growing body of conservation knowledge. Consistent prose will result in clear and useful information. Effective communication pleads for a well-defined vocabulary, designed to minimize ambiguity and reduce the likelihood for misinterpretation. May we become as skilled in this enterprise as we are in our approach to conservation treatments.
- Hilary A. Kaplan
- Georgia Department of Archives and History
- 330 Capitol Ave.
- Atlanta, Ga. 30334
KATHRYN GILL and DINAH EASTOP, EDS., UPHOLSTERY CONSERVATION: PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE. Oxford and Woburn, Mass.: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2001. 209 pages, hardcover $89.95. ISBN 0-7506-45067.
Upholstery Conservation: Principles and Practice, part of the Butterworth-Heinemann's series on conservation and museology, includes 11 chapters by 12 authors, edited by Kathryn Gill and Dinah Eastop, who also contributed chapters, an introduction, and appendices. The American and British authors are, for the most part, practicing textile or upholstery conservators; the co-authors for one chapter include a furniture curator and a metals conservator. It should be said at the outset of this review that I have worked with three of the authors, Derek Balfour, Nancy Britton, and Elizabeth Lahikainen, and consider them and Gill as my mentors in upholstery conservation.
Gill and Eastop solicited contributions to illustrate the range of issues and approaches in the small but developing subspecialty of upholstery conservation. As they state in the introduction, “This book does not aim to be comprehensive nor to advocate one practice over another. Rather it is an attempt to demonstrate how conservation principles have been applied recently to the documentation and treatment of upholstered objects” (p. 1). Each chapter is a case history or study illustrating a different problem for treatment (part 1, chapters 1–8) or documentation (part 2, chapters 9–11). In addition to the editors' introduction, a foreword by Peter Thornton and a dedicatee's foreword by Karen Finch describe the development of upholstery conservation. Three appendices, one by Gill, one by Sherry Doyal, and one by Gill and Doyal, provide examples of formats for documentation of upholstery.
The treatment case histories range from a 17th-century bed (“Reconciling Conservation and Interpretation: Strategies for Long-Term Display of a Late Seventeenth-Century Bed,” by Nancy Britton) to a 20th-century chair and footstool (“The Ernest Race ‘Heron’ Chair and Footstool, Designed c. 1955: An Example of Conserving Foam-Filled Upholstery,” by Kathryn Gill). Elizabeth Lahikainen's chapter discusses the treatment of 18th-century chairs (“Ethafoam Treatments for Two Eighteenth-Century French Chairs”). The remaining five treatment chapters describe 19th-century upholstered objects. “Developments in Untacked Reupholstery: The Denon Chairs Project,” by Derek Balfour, Simon Metcalf, and Frances Collard; “Preserving a Mid-Nineteenth Century Decorative Scheme: Conserving the Morant Suite in the Octagon Room, Raby Castle,” by Lesley Wilson; “Documentation and Conservation of Carriage Trimming: The Treatment of a 19th-Century Carriage Interior,” by Nicola Gentle; “William Burges' Mermaid Chair, c. 1870: Conserving Both Original Materials and Later Adaptations,” by Sherry Doyal and Dinah Eastop; “The Lawrence Alma-Tadema Settee, Designed c. 1884–85: The Challenges of Interpretation and Replication,” by Kathryn Gill. In the following discussion, the accepted American terms are used, with the British terms found in the book in parentheses.
The treatment chapters thus encompass most of the periods seen in upholstery conservation. The treatments also include most of the issues and many of the solutions used in contemporary conservation. Three case studies involve the preservation and treatment of both underupholstery (understructure) and show covers (top covers), while two involve preservation of the underupholstery and creation of some new presentation fabrics. A sixth treatment case study discusses stabilization of original underupholstery and creation of new reproduction show covers and trim.
The three chapters discussing preservation of underupholstery and show covers focus on single objects. These case histories were well chosen to illustrate the complexity and challenges that treatment of even a single upholstered object can present. In the case of the “Heron” chair and footstool in chapter 1, the challenges came from the use of 20th-century foams and nonconventional upholstery methods. Gill's solution for preserving degraded foams by encapsulating samples of the foams and including them within the conserved chair, with additional samples preserved for further analysis in the object files, is a model for coping with these materials. The treatment of the William Burges Mermaid chair shows the challenges that conflicting physical and documentary evidence can present. Although the chair was presented for treatment with what was believed to be its original show cover, as treatment of the chair began a rush seat was found, which was clearly original. Being unable to prove which presentation the designer, Burges, had chosen (i.e., had he or someone soon after him added the padding and show cover?), Doyal and Eastop chose to preserve both the rush seat and the top cover. Nicola Gentle's treatment of a 19th-century carriage clearly outlines all the challenges and satisfactions of conserving these complex objects. As her treatment showed, more intervention than originally desired is frequently needed—and justified—in the treatment of upholstered objects, especially carriages. In this case, as in many cases where additional intervention becomes necessary, the change was needed to combat mold and insect damage and to accommodate the owner's desire for open display. While recognizing the loss of original construction details that such intervention causes, Gentle also notes that it can lead to further understanding of the history of the piece—in this case, that the vehicle had been built as a chariot and then rebuilt as a carriage.
Lesley Wilson's case history on the Morant suite from Raby Castle discusses “preserving a mid-nine-teenth-century decorative scheme. ” The project, as presented here, is a model for the collaboration so often required in upholstery conservation. Wilson coordinated her work with that of a textile conservator, a wood and furniture conservator, and a gilding conservator. In all, they treated six sofas and two pairs of armchairs. As in Gentle's carriage treatment, the scope of the work changed as information about condition was gained. Thus a range of treatments for the upholstery and its covers, from stabilization through application of reproduction show covers, was used. Of particular interest is that the owner wanted the furniture to withstand occasional use; he also wanted to restore period housekeeping practices. Thus, as part of the treatment, reproduction case covers (slip covers) were made based on extant but fragile covers for some pieces in the suite, and a single-sheet summary of monitoring and housekeeping needs was prepared.
Like Wilson's work on the Morant suite, Nancy Britton's work on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's 17th-century bed combined preservation of original materials with creation of reproduction elements. Her chapter in this book focuses on the reproduction elements. After examining the bed and its surviving textile elements, Britton recognized that the textile-only elements, as opposed to the textile-on-wood elements, were too fragile or fragmentary to with-stand the long-term, open display proposed. She thus set about commissioning reproduction fabric and trimmings, with the added challenge that these reproductions work well with the original textile-on-wood elements. Britton put her extensive knowledge of textile construction and manufacturing techniques to work in this project, with outstanding results.
Treatment of the Alma-Tadema settee included stabilization of original materials and the commissioning of reproduction materials. The processes described by Gill in her chapter on this treatment are more typical of upholstery conservation projects than those used for the bed, with this difference being due to the objects: the Alma-Tadema settee is more typical of objects in collections than a state bed. Gill undertook the treatment in 1991, when many of the techniques she describes for stabilization of under-upholstery and attaching new show covers were still fairly new. In the intervening decade, these techniques have been modified and improved, based on the discovery or availability of new materials. For example, Gill used acid-free board (card) covered with cotton and stapled into the tacking margin as a stitching support. Currently, a conservator might choose to use Nomex, also covered with fabric, but secured with small tacks into old holes. As in many upholstery conservation projects, some elements of the original presentation (interpretation) of the piece had to be deduced or designed, as there was incomplete evidence of the original appearance. And, as in many such projects, budget dictated some compromises, in this case silk-screening the decorative panels that had originally been embroidered. After treatment of the settee was completed, a curtain panel from the suite was acquired by the Metropolitan, giving Gill the opportunity to evaluate the interpretation of the design.
Rounding out the treatment section of the book are two chapters that describe treatments to reupholster chairs received with no original upholstery— underupholstery or covers. These two chapters present two totally different methods for the recreation of upholstery. The method developed by Balfour et al. is an additive one, in which a metal shell and new wood secondary frame were fitted, but not fastened, to the chair. The secondary frame was then used as the support for building up the upholstered form in the traditional manner. The approach described by Lahikainen and developed by at least several different conservation laboratories in the United States is a reductive one, whereby Ethafoam was cut and carved to fit into the furniture frame and give the appropriate shape of the upholstery. Both authors emphasize the need for research to determine the appropriate form (profile) for the replacement upholstery. As the editors note, and the authors would agree,“the choice of one technique over another may reflect the skills of the practitioner” (p. 3). It is a sign of the maturing of the conservation profession that two such opposing methods are seen as equally acceptable. Contrast this acceptance with the debate (to put it politely) over “stitch or stick” that raged among textile conservators a generation ago.
Part 2 of Upholstery Conservation: Principles and Practice consists of three case studies on documentation of upholstered furniture. The case studies range from 16th-century furnishings (“Seat Furniture at the Court of Henry VIII: A Study of the Evidence,” by Maria Hayward) to the 18th (“Eighteenth-Century Close-Fitting Detachable Covers Preserved at Houghton Hall: A Technical Study,” by Kathryn Gill) to the 19th (“Evidence from Artifacts and Archives: Researching the Textile Furnishings of a Victorian Bedroom at Brodsworth,” by Crosby Stevens). Taken as a group, these case studies illustrate the range of sources that can and should be called on by those working on upholstered furniture, as well as the problems of interpretation and confusion that such sources can present. It should be noted that the need for documentation and source searching is also emphasized in almost all the treatment case histories.
Three appendices complete the book. These, drawn from work of Gill and Doyal in the early 1990s, provide suggested formats for documenting upholstered pieces. For conservators of other types of objects, this section might seem trivial, but anyone who has confronted a mass of notes about the construction and condition of a multimedia, multi-layered object will appreciate these suggestions. Gill's cross-section drawings, both those in appendix 2 and in her treatment chapters, are particularly pleasing and useful. She has developed a “template” for identifying materials that is logical and organized and makes it easy to distinguish original materials and layers, marked by Arabic numerals, from modern conservation materials and layers, marked with uppercase letters.
In sum, this book draws together a diverse group of upholstery conservation projects—both treatment and documentation projects. As noted above, careful reading of the individual treatment case studies will provide a reader with a good introduction to most of the problems, issues, and methods—both research methods and treatment methods—used in upholstery conservation. There are, however, some notable gaps, such as the lack of any case studies presenting treatment options for supporting original sprung seats, a problem frequently encountered in American collections.
The documentation case histories are less useful. Hayward's study of Henry VIII's seat furniture, derived from her Ph.D. thesis, seems to have been included to illustrate what can—and what cannot— be learned or deduced from studying inventories and accounts. The extreme specificity of this study, however, especially for an American reader, makes it very difficult to follow the broader points. The book would have been stronger without this chapter. Stevens's work on the Brodsworth textiles, which at first also seems to be excessively detailed, is helpful as an example of the combination of documentary, physical and collaborative research, and interpretation that is often necessary to conserve either a single piece of upholstered furniture or a historic furnished interior. Gill's study of the Houghton chair slip (case) covers, which led to a new understanding of these pieces, provides a lesson for those who might wonder why they should spend so much time studying and documenting upholstered furniture.
Most of the contributors are British, lending the book a distinctly British flavor. For an American reader with no familiarity with British terminology for upholstery layers and fabrics, descriptions might be confusing. Indeed, this trans-Atlantic terminology confusion points out another serious shortcoming of the book: the lack of a glossary. Upholstery, like many trades, has its own specific language. Terms vary over time and by location. As conservators and curators begin to study and document upholstered furniture, it would be useful to have various terms gathered into one place, perhaps even with suggested current preferences. This book would have been the ideal place for such a glossary.
For the reader who has worked in or with upholstery conservation, much of this book will be a review. Many of the projects were done in the early to mid-1990s. While none of the treatments described are totally outdated, they do not necessarily represent the most recent practices. Many of the chapters have been published or presented elsewhere, typically at conferences or in conference preprints. Nonetheless, it is of value to have this material gathered into a Butterworth's book, which increases the chances of its remaining available. The bibliographic material, both in references at the end of each chapter and in the selected bibliography at the end of the book, is extremely valuable.
The organization of the book as a selection of projects may make it difficult for readers new to the field of upholstery conservation to understand the broader issues and goals of the specialty. The “ideal” book on upholstery conservation principles and practices would be organized by topics: history of upholstery and upholstery conservation, the goals of upholstery conservation, the types of problems and conditions encountered, the variety of treatment methods and options, etc. Of course, that would have been a much more difficult book to write. While Upholstery Conservation: Principles and Practice is not the ideal book, it is a useful one for anyone—curator or conservator—working with upholstered furniture.
- Deborah Lee Trupin
- Textile Conservator
- New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation
- Peebles Island
- P.O. Box 219
- Waterford, N.Y. 12188