JAIC 2002, Volume 41, Number 3, Article 7 (pp. 291 to 304)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 2002, Volume 41, Number 3, Article 7 (pp. 291 to 304)

BOOK REVIEWS



BOOK REVIEWS

MARK CLARKE, THE ART OF ALL COLOURS: MEDIAEVAL RECIPE BOOKS FOR PAINTERS AND ILLUMINATORS. London: Archetype Publications Ltd., 2001. 158 pages, softcover, $35. Available from Archetype Publications, 6 Fitzroy Square, London W1T 5HJ; +44 207 380 0800, Fax: +44 207 380 0500; info@archetype.co.uk. ISBN 1-873132-72-7.

The Art of All Colours is an introduction to, and checklist of, the vast number of texts written about artist's materials and techniques during the medieval period, with a cutoff date of circa A.D. 1500. While the title implies that only medieval texts are described, earlier ones are included in the discussion because of their importance as the basis for so many of the later texts. Many of these texts are fragments, some are copies of earlier texts, and some are collections of the various fragments. The purpose of the book is to make sense of all these fragments, to sort out which texts are original and which are copies (and of what), and to provide the reader with locations where these texts can be found. The wide range of material includes texts in Latin, Greek, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, German, French, English, and other languages too numerous to list.

The book begins with an introduction describing how it is organized and then proceeds directly into a description of the texts in question. The first texts to which Clarke refers, such as Thompson's Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting and Cennini's Il Libro dell'Arte, are the most well known and widely read and also the most easily accessible to the average reader. Clarke suggests that these books should form the basis for a further exploration of other recipe books. Clarke then proceeds to describe the content of many of the texts listed in the book, and he provides explanations of various aspects of these texts that are often extremely confusing to readers. Because so many of the texts vary in their use of terms—for example, the many names used for red pigments such as vermilion—it is difficult to compare the texts and the recipes included in them.

The rest of the book consists of a checklist of the various texts, and then a variety of indices. The checklist presents all the sources to which the author refers along with the locations of the sources, listed alphabetically by city and country. The indices following the checklist include a cross-referenced index of the names of treatises and authors most commonly used, the first phrases or “incipits” of the texts (which is the method most commonly used to identify them), and other helpful indices.

Clearly the author's intent with The Art of All Colours is to create as thorough and useful a reference as possible, beyond the standard books most people are familiar with and that form the usual starting point for the study of medieval techniques and materials. The impressive amount of research is apparent to anyone who opens the book and could scarcely be duplicated by any but the most determined scholar, although it should be noted that the author declares in the introduction to the checklist that he has not seen all the manuscripts himself. The material should be a great resource for conservators, conservation scientists, art historians, and artists looking to learn more about materials and techniques of the period.

Of particular interest is the discussion of how the various texts were transmitted through the ages. Passing from country to country, and even from the various continents, the recipes for artist's materials and techniques were handed down in a variety of formats. As Clarke describes it, most of the artist's texts and treatises of the medieval period were in fact compilations of texts stretching as far back as classical Roman and Greek times and encompassing Arabic and Byzantine texts as well. One example Clarke cites, the Leyden Papyrus, was a well-traveled text indeed: parts of it appear in the Liber sacerdotum, which was an Arabic compilation translated into Latin around the 10th century; parts show up in the Mappae Clavicula, which dates in Europe from around A.D. 800; and parts are also in a treatise by Eraclius written in Italy in the 10th century.

It is fascinating to chart the geographic course of these recipes over time and also interesting to note that they were often transmitted in books that were not necessarily meant for artists alone. Clarke cites the fact that many of the texts listing techniques or materials were actually written for alchemists or were perhaps parts of medical texts. This fact, Clarke notes, may explain why there are many discrepancies between terms or definitions, as the texts may have been written by nonpractitioners of the arts, or the authors (especially alchemists) may have deliberately desired to keep certain techniques secret.

Perhaps the one frustration one finds in reading The Art of All Colours is that it serves as a tantalizing view of what further research and publication could contribute to the field. Although Clarke states at the outset of the book that “it is not the purpose of this book to reproduce or discuss the content of recipe books in any detail” (p. x), the more one delves into his book, the more one wishes that Clarke had done precisely that. Clarke describes many of the most important texts and treatises and then quotes fragments from them, giving the reader a glimpse of what they might contain. In some cases, such as the herbal On Materia Medica written by Dioscorides in the first century A.D. (which he describes on pp. 44–46), Clarke provides a long list of topics with their locations within the text. After reading the list, one wishes one had the full text at hand, and especially the time to locate it and read it.

The almost concurrent publication of Leslie Carlyle's Artists' Assistant reinforces this view of Clarke's book. Almost four times as long as The Art of All Colours, Carlyle's book fleshes out the skeletal format Clarke gives with longer entries and very detailed descriptions of the various materials and techniques. It is true that the period covered in The Artists' Assistant is a mere 100 years (whereas Clarke covers the entire medieval period up to A.D. 1500) and has a more manageable amount of information to convey. And Clarke himself writes that his book is a “chapter” and that he hopes to produce a longer, more complete study in the future. One certainly hopes that Clarke will indeed continue with this work, as such a study would be warmly welcomed.

The one other problem with The Art of All Colours is its rather confusing format. In the first portion of the book, research about how and where the texts were produced alternates with excerpts from the actual texts. But sections such as “Translating Technical Terminology” would be perhaps more useful at the beginning rather than halfway through the chapter, as they would serve to clarify many points that emerge while reading. One feels a need to keep referring back to previous sections to understand terms or theories.

The checklist and indices that follow the first chapter are also difficult to interpret, especially at first reading. While there is a key given just before the checklist begins, the number and variation in the abbreviations take quite some time to understand. Perhaps those more familiar with methods of manuscript cataloging will recognize the different abbreviations, but for others there will necessarily be a steep learning curve before the entries become comprehensible. And there is one index that remains absolutely undecipherable to this reviewer— “Concordance with D. V. Thompson's ‘Trial Index.’”

The Art of All Colours is a valuable resource for scholars and conservators seeking to learn more about materials and techniques used by artists in the medieval period, and it will undoubtedly serve as a starting point for many other research projects. One certainly hopes that Clarke will follow through with his suggestions for fleshing out the many ideas that are presented in the book as topics for further study, such as a glossary of all the technical terms found in the texts in their various languages.

  • Lydia Vagts
  • Lydia Vagts Fine Art Conservation
  • 574 Boston Ave.
  • Medford, Mass. 02155

JOHN SLAVIN, LINDA SUTHERLAND, JOHN O'NEILL, MARGARET HAUPT, AND JANET COWAN, EDS., LOOKING AT PAPER: EVIDENCE AND INTERPRETATION. Symposium Proceedings, Toronto 1999. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute, 2001. 262 pages, paperback, $50. Available from the Canadian Conservation Institute, 1030 Innes Rd., Ottawa, Ont. K1A 0M5, Canada. ISBN 0-660-18571-7.

Attending a symposium affords a chance to learn, from some very remarkable people, what they are doing that is new and different, and it can prove invaluable in terms of professional growth and development. Discovering something new and different is especially likely when an event is organized that highlights the discovery of knowledge through collaborative study. The proceedings of “Looking at Paper: Evidence and Interpretation,” a symposium held at the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario, May 13–16, 1999, reports on the diverse research of some the world's most respected conservators, curators, historians, and scientists and will be of interest to anyone working with paperbased collections. Twenty-six articles, as well as the transcripts of two workshops, report on studies into the origins of paper, motivations for its use by artists and writers, and techniques for object authentication.

Although the symposium was organized by Toronto area conservators in cooperation with related organizations and institutions in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, Looking at Paper is not about treatment methods. Rather, the focus is on the physical examination of paper where such expert analysis proves critical to understanding important historical events and trends, artists, writers, architects, or valued cultural collections. For example, most articles, including “A Technical Revolution in Papermaking, 1250–1350” by Richard L. Hills and “The Lithographs of James McNeill Whistler: Methods of Identifying Lifetime and Posthumous Impressions” by Harriet K. Stratis, assemble historical evidence through literature review, professional consultation, and the use of primary documentation to make a case. Findings are then verified (or disproved) with key physical evidence using techniques such as fiber analysis or studies using light— hence,“looking at paper.”

Certainly the research methodologies, survey techniques, data, key resources, and further details have been recounted in a style that is authoritative and erudite, offering new ideas and new perspectives that can assist with understanding the object at hand. Some are downright fascinating, especially the introductory presentation, “The White Art: The Importance of Interpretation in the Analysis of Paper” by Peter Bower, and his follow-up lecture “Beating the Forger: Case Studies in Forensic Paper Investigation.” Bower is a paper historian and forensic analyst well known to the conservation community for his many articles published over the years in the Paper Conservator. He has an expansive approach to mining information resources; the notes are extensive (as are those for most essays in Looking at Paper); and dozens of colleagues have been acknowledged, further lending import to the value of collaborative study. Fundamental to the success of Looking at Paper is the importance of having recognized the complementary roles shared by curators, historians, papermakers, artists, codicologists, scientists, and conservators in understanding, caring for, and making accessible these cultural collections.

There are several excellent articles outlining the manufacture and use of historical papers that makes Looking at Paper a must for any reference collection. In particular, I refer to “The Role of China Paper in Nineteenth-Century French Printmaking” by Kimberly Schenck (and its appendix by Debora D. Mayer); “Academic Studies of Académies: The Search for French Academy Paper” by John Krill; and Lois Olcott Price's authoritative “From Sketch to Presentation: A Study of Drawing, Tracing and Specialty Papers Used by American Architects.” These authors have worked to identify and codify the types of paper used by artists and architects and to further define why such paper would have been selected. Perhaps the most challenging is the article by Claire Bustarret titled “Paper Evidence and the Interpretation of the Creative Process in Modern Literary Manuscripts.” Bustarret, a specialist in modern codicology, explores the writer's process of composition through examination of a range of evidence, including the choice of paper, concluding,“It seems that paper still has a lot to teach us about how we write” (p. 93). The author leads us to an area definitely in need of further research: physical descriptions of industrially produced papers.

Modern industrial papers and modern works of art certainly did not have the attention that antique papers enjoyed at this symposium. Anne F. Maheux, conservator of prints and drawings at the National Gallery of Canada, provides a less detailed but informative introduction to the challenge of caring for modern works of art on paper. More practical is a project discussed by Judith Walsh and Marian Peck Dirda in “An Introduction to the National Gallery of Art's Paper Sample Collection,” which describes their efforts to document papers used in artist's work by collecting manufacturer samples. When the article was submitted, the authors had more than 2,000 items, primarily from the 20th century, representing more than 90 companies from 30 countries. I applaud their efforts, and those of several other contributors, in working to make such data available in electronic format, even via the Internet to allow remote access.

Unless you are passionate about paper and love the minutiae of close scrutiny, you may find some of the articles in Looking in Paper a bit mind-numbing. There are at least half a dozen articles in which the historical evidence is proved by reporting the endless details of extensive analysis of hundreds of fibers or sketches or watermarks. Still, such findings can be truly useful, so perhaps it is here that we find value in the publishing of such proceedings. To make a serious contribution to any profession, it is important to publish the results for further examination. Often have I attended conferences and marveled at the vision, the disclosures, and the insights as presenters flip through slides and graphs, but often I am left wanting the details. There is certainly enough descriptive information of research methodologies in Looking at Paper to scrutinize conclusions and follow up with further research. Several of the authors have gone to great lengths to organize their data in tabular form and to submit quality reproductions of key examples to support their conclusions, and these are appreciated.

The workshop transcriptions were an interesting addition to these proceedings. I suspect it was incredibly labor-intensive to capture the conversation between participants and instructor, but worth the effort: the banter is positively fascinating. While the contributors (profiled at the end of Looking at Paper) are undoubted experts, the caliber of the attendees was very nearly their equal, judging from the sophistication of the discussion. “Examining Western Papers: A Workshop with Peter Bower” (part 3 in a series he prepared for this symposium) and “Examining Oriental Papers: A Workshop with Akinori Ōkawa” are a testament to what can be gleaned through collaborative study; both are well worth reviewing. Even at 37 pages, I read “Western Papers” through, and appreciated the selected bibliography provided in its appendix.

Very few scholars study (or publish) in one discipline anymore. Physicists working at the molecular level are trying to figure out if they can use biological material to engineer computing technology (i.e., “nanoscience”). Collaboration is key in order to ensure, or try to ensure, that all the facts have been assembled and expertly considered. It is apparent from Looking at Paper: Evidence and Interpretation that distinguishing one discipline from another is becoming increasingly difficult, and maybe not de rigueur. Here we have experts such as Peter Bower, and many others like him, working where subjects intersect, with consequences impossible without embracing the many diverse areas of research. Consider this: conservators working with the physical evidence (sometimes at the molecular level) trying to figure out if they can use historical evidence to reveal the artist's intent (i.e., “conhistocodiforensocuratorial scientist”?). Well, maybe not, but what we're learning is still pretty amazing.

  • Karen E. K. Brown
  • Preservation Librarian
  • 196 Old Warner Rd.
  • Bradford, N.H. 03221
  • University at Albany Libraries—LE 310
  • State University of New York
  • 1400 Washington Ave.
  • Albany, N. Y. 12222

MARGOT WRIGHT, ED., BARKCLOTH: ASPECTS OF PREPARATION, USE, DETERIORATION, CONSERVATION AND DISPLAY. London: Archetype Publications, 2001. 117 pages, softcover, £19.50. Available from Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, A210 Fowler/Box 951510, Los Angeles, Calif. 90095; or Archetype Publications, 6 Fitzroy Square, London, W1T 5HJ, UK; www.archetype.co.uk. ISBN 1-873132-82-4.

On December 2 and 3, 1997, the Conservators of Ethnographic Artifacts (CEA) held a two-day workshop on barkcloth at the Royal Albert Museum in Exeter, England. Barkcloth: Aspects of Preparation, Use, Deterioration, Conservation and Display contains the eight papers presented at a seminar held immediately following this workshop. It is the second publication in a series resulting from CEA seminars. The papers in this publication are intended for conservators and curators working with barkcloth collections. They cover a wide range of topics, including technology and manufacture, methods of surveying a collection, invasive and noninvasive conservation treatments, display techniques, storage options, and current scientific research.

In this publication, Len Pole briefly introduces techniques of barkcloth manufacture in Ghana. Sherry Doyal presents results from a survey of the African barkcloth collection undertaken at the Exeter City Museums. Vincent Daniels addresses current research at the British Museum regarding the deterioration of New Zealand flax. Rowena Hill presents an excellent summary of barkcloth manufacture, use, and deterioration in Papua New Guinea based on her six years of fieldwork in the region. She also contributes a case study of a badly damaged barkcloth from Oro Province, Papua New Guinea, including its conservation treatment and a 10-year follow-up report. Morwena Stephens summarizes the varied barkcloth elements of a Tahitian chief mourner's costume from the collection of the Royal Albert Museum. Emily Johnson discusses the deterioration and deacidification of a Samoan tapa at the Manchester Museum, including a detailed study on the effect of pH on barkcloth colorants and the various deacidification systems that may be used in barkcloth treatment. T. Rose Holdcraft gives an overview of the Pacific barkcloth collection at the Harvard Peabody Museum, focusing on the collection's history, its exhibition over time, and a summary of a recent grant-funded conservation treatment project. Finally, Christine Murray and Emily Johnson explain the noninvasive conservation treatment, rehousing, and storage of barkcloths at the Manchester Museum.

Because the articles were initially written as oral presentations, they differ significantly in style, length, and subject matter. For example, the three-page article by Daniels introduces an ongoing research project on deterioration but contains a surprisingly small amount of data, while the articles by Hill and Holdcraft are lengthy and attempt to incorporate several disparate topics. In contrast, Murray and Johnson, Doyal, and Stephens contribute short articles that remain focused on a single topic. Lastly, the lengthy article written solely by Johnson is thorough, detailed, and focused. This article is the closest in content and quality to what one would expect to find in a peer-reviewed journal. Many of the articles raise more questions than they answer, but this publication does present an honest cross section of the current information available on the subject matter.

Since this publication results from a seminar on a very specific yet globally important topic, one would expect to see articles presented by representatives from institutions with the largest barkcloth holdings. Unfortunately, nearly all of the authors in this publication are from the United Kingdom. This geographic bias does not seem to affect adversely the quality of the information presented, however, especially since Hill and Pole write accounts of their field research in Papua New Guinea and Ghana respectively. Such direct contact with materials becomes increasingly important as conservators get closer to fully understanding barkcloth and its deterioration. First-hand accounts of materials, methods, and manufacture are essential to understanding how barkcloth behaves in museum collections. In her article, Hill includes several tables of information collected from years of experience with makers of barkcloth in Papua New Guinea. One such table outlines colorants used on Papua New Guinea barkcloth, and another summarizes sources of inner bark, use, and decoration. Pole, while providing limited text, includes some exceptional photographs of manufacture in Ghana. These photographs demonstrate effectively how barkcloth manufacture in Africa differs from manufacture in other areas of the world.

In addition to first-hand accounts of barkcloth production, there are many other elements in these articles that should not be missed. Doyal and Holdcraft include samples of the forms used in their respective surveys. These forms provide a jump-start for anyone undertaking a survey and are an excellent example of how to carry out a detailed barkcloth assessment. The authors also discuss ways to maximize a collection survey, by either working the survey into a future exhibition or using it to collect information for a grant. Discussing the exhibition of barkcloth, Stephens shows a diagram of a mount in which each element of a costume is supported individually. When fully assembled, the mount gives an accurate impression of the costume as worn. Murray and Johnson artfully explain the difficulty of rolling barkcloth artifacts and discuss various aspects of humidification and storage.

Hill and Johnson each provide valuable information on conservation treatment procedures. Hill tested various combinations of repair materials and adhesives for barkcloth treatment, and she summarizes these results in a concise table. Even more useful is her current-condition assessment of a barkcloth object that she treated 10 years ago. She provides a valuable lesson about the durability of treatment materials over time and encourages conservators to revisit aging conservation treatments—a policy that every conservator should enact.

Johnson also presents valuable conservation treatment information. Her study on the effect of pH on colorants has implications for those considering invasive barkcloth treatments that involve washing or deacidification. Her article has a superb literature review of previous barkcloth treatments and tackles some tough ethical questions regarding the benefits of, or justification for, deacidification. She also provides instruction on preparing a magnesium bicarbonate solution on a large scale (adapted from originators of this method, H. D. Burgess and A. Boronyak-Szaplonczay) and on titration procedures to determine the concentration of such solutions.

The articles in Barkcloth: Aspects of Preparation, Use, Deterioration, Conservation and Display are useful additions to the body of knowledge currently available on barkcloth. One of the benefits of this type of publication is that it gives authors a venue for wide distribution of their information, even if the articles are not necessarily of the same quality as those found in peer-reviewed journals. Here curators, conservators, and research scientists have published their newest ideas regarding barkcloth, from nascent research ventures to detailed technological information derived from years of intense study. The articles vary markedly in content, level of detail, and quality, but as a whole they accurately demonstrate the state of barkcloth study today. In general, there is little technical information published on barkcloth. Most of the information now available describes manufacture and use. Few publications describe conservation, deterioration, or display. Therefore, conservators doing technical research on barkcloth or working with collections first-hand will benefit from this book. Even those with only a mild interest in barkcloth will find the publication to be approachable and useful.

This publication owes a great debt to editor Margot Wright. When not editing for CEA, Wright is senior curator of conservation at the Marischal Museum, Marischal College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland. She also edits for the Scottish Society for Conservation and Restoration and is newsletter editor for the ethnographic working group of the International Council of Museums Committee for Conservation.

(It should be noted that this reviewer is mentioned in connection with research on the deterioration of barkcloths discussed in Holdcraft's article, “Research, Exhibition and Preservation of the Barkcloth Collections from the Pacific in the Harvard Peabody Museum.”)

  • Joel L. Thompson
  • Conservator of Textiles and Objects
  • Chicago Historical Society
  • Clark St. at North Ave.
  • Chicago, Ill. 60614-6071

DAVID WATKINSON AND VIRGINIA NEAL, FIRST AID FOR FINDS. 3d ed. London: Rescue/UKIC Archaeology Section, 1998, reprinted 2001. 100 pages, hardcover binder, $28. Available from Archetype Publications, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, A210 Fowler Building, Box 951510, Los Angeles, Calif. 90095. ISBN 1-87165628-1.

First Aid for Finds is a basic sourcebook of information to help archaeologists and conservators successfully recover and store newly excavated archaeological objects (“finds” in the United Kingdom). First written by David Leigh and others and published in 1972, this work has been published in new editions two times and reprinted with and without revisions several times as well. The volume under review, the third edition (reprinted with minor revisions in 2001) was written by David Watkinson and Virginia Neal. There is also a Japanese-language edition under way. The multiple editions and reprintings speak to the book's usefulness to both archaeology and conservation.

This book gives enough practical information to safely excavate and store objects during and directly after excavation for individuals who may not have conservation training and experience. Conservation treatment is not covered except in minor ways. While the book gives some basic information about preservation and deterioration, it does not attempt to give a deep understanding of these issues. It is focused on getting objects safely out of the burial environment and packed so that they can be analyzed and treated at some point in the future.

The current edition, housed in a hard plasticcovered four-ring binder and printed on a waterresistant paper, is a larger format than the previous edition, with a larger, easier-to-read font. Some figures (updated by Nick Griffiths) have been simply redrawn, and others are completely new interpretations of previous illustrations. These changes make the book easier to read yet retain the strengths of the previous format that made it a tough, flexible book structure for use under difficult field conditions. I can testify to the toughness of my personal copy of the previous edition, which survived a dousing and mold outbreak when the facility where it was stored caught fire.

The book is divided into sections that cover the following broad topics: planning for excavation, excavation and decay, packing, metals, inorganic materials, organic materials, and lifting. There is a lot of packing information included in the sections on particular materials (such as copper alloys or leather) as well. A carefully written glossary and list of UK suppliers (with acknowledgment that suppliers can quickly go out of date) are also included.

This book focuses very consciously on the care of objects recovered in the prevailing burial conditions of northern Europe (usually somewhat damp and often waterlogged). However, most of the techniques are easily adapted to conditions found worldwide. Enough detail and explanation are given that readers should be able to evaluate which techniques and materials can be used in any particular situation. Some American readers may find unfamiliar vocabulary (polythene vs. polyethylene; industrial methylated spirit), but in most cases the glossary provides illumination.

A minor flaw is that the 2001 revisions are simply added in as an additional two-sided page (xiii and xiv), probably for cost savings. However, it is likely that the new information (some very specific and all very useful) will be missed by the reader thumbing through for information on a specific topic.

Section 1,“Planning for Conservation,” discusses how conservation can be included in the initial planning and structuring of an excavation project. Using recommendations from the British Institute of Field Archaeologists and English Heritage, this section discusses how a conservation presence can be built in, depending on the goals and financial parameters of the project. It lays out the responsibilities that a conservator can take on and also describes the important concept of “levels of conservation” that allow for differing amounts of time and money to be spent on objects depending on their importance and preservation needs.

Section 2, “Excavation and Decay,” describes what happens to materials when they are buried. Two useful tables help the reader identify what kinds of materials can be expected to be found, depending on the burial environment (i.e., acid, neutral, or alkaline).

The next section, “Packing Finds for Storage,” gives a broad overview of why good packing is needed for preservation. It also details the materials and techniques that are especially useful for packing archaeological objects. A number of illustrations add to the information provided in the text. The very specific information, such as types of markers to use, exactly how to punch holes in polyethylene bags to prevent condensation, and how to determine the correct amount of silica gel needed to create a desiccated environment (among a wealth of other details), is what make this book a very useful resource.

The sections on “Metals” (iron, copper, silver, gold, lead, tin, pewter, and zinc),“Inorganic Objects” (stone, mosaics, ceramics, wall paintings, and glass), and “Organic Objects” (waterlogged wood, textiles, leather, bone, antler, ivory, and horn) give enough information about structure, identification, deterioration, and specific packing techniques for each material to enable objects to be identified and safely stored according to their needs. The tables listing the appearance of corrosion products of different metals are very useful, and the bulleted lists of dos and don'ts for each type of material make it quick and easy to find information on specific topics.

The final section, section 7, covers the lifting of fragile objects. The examples given are based on techniques published elsewhere, and the original sources are given. Enough detail is included, however, so that careful personnel using just the information supplied in this book can carry out the methods. Bowing to the fact that consolidation is sometimes necessary and often carried out by nonconservators, the authors have included a section on consolidants that clearly explains the difference between emulsions and dispersions on the one hand and resins in solution on the other (a distinction that is important to understand and often not clearly presented in the casual recommendations that can be found in print and on the World Wide Web).

I have used the second edition of this book regularly since its publication. It is an extremely useful field resource for conservators when encountering a material with which they are unfamiliar and gives enough background to safely remove and store it. It is a good reference to recommend to interested archaeological colleagues. It is also a useful resource for developing training materials in the classroom and on-site. The additions and improvements in the new edition expand on its previous strengths and can be recommended to conservators and archaeologists looking for a basic resource to use in the field. Much of the strength of First Aid for Finds comes from how it has been updated and improved over the years. Numerous authors and editors have provided expertise and experience. Rescue—the British Archaeological Trust and the Archaeology Section of the United Kingdom Institute for Conservation—(with help from others) should be applauded for generously supporting its evolution over four decades.

  • Jessica S. Johnson
  • Senior Objects Conservator
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • Cultural Resources Center
  • 4220 Silver Hill Rd.
  • Suitland, Md. 20746

MAXINE K. SITTS, ED., HANDBOOK FOR DIGITAL PROJECTS: A MANAGEMENT TOOL FOR PRESERVATION AND ACCESS. Andover, Mass.: Northeast Document Conservation Center, 2000. 179 pages, hardcover, $38. Available from NEDCC, 100 Brickstone Square, Andover, Mass. 01810-1494; 978-470-1010; Fax: 978-475-6021; ISBN 0-9634685-4-5.

Despite the common view that publications about digital projects tend to be short-lived in a field that changes so rapidly, Handbook for Digital Projects offers a lasting contribution. The book is not timeless, but it is successful in achieving its narrowly defined goals of providing guidance (not technical solutions) to managers of scanning and digital conversion projects and informing readers about the broad range of considerations in digitization projects from capture to storage to access.

The publication is the result of four years of research and curriculum development (funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities [NEH] and the A. W. Mellon Foundation) for the Northeast Document Conservation Center's School for Scanning. Its essential message is that digitization for its own sake is clearly shortsighted. Managers should take time at the outset to define the scope, goals, sustainability, and metrics of a pending project. And then they must be well informed about the complexities justifying a project, when and how to begin, integrating preservation, selecting material, maintaining standards of quality, developing infrastructure, and providing access to the end product. To begin a project, managers must be able to answer: Why do it? What do you want to produce? And what will you do with the products?

The chapters of the handbook cover these topics in varying degrees of detail. Chapters 1–3 discuss the components of justification, rationale, and overall project management. The introductory chapter 1 emphasizes that a project must be meaningful to the mission of the institution and complement the institution's other goals. In addition, chapter 1 underscores the importance of beginning a project only if the institution is prepared to provide long-term care for and access to the newly produced digital collections. Chapter 2 summarizes “responsible custody” as it relates to digital assets, including storage and migration concerns to preserve something for a clear purpose. Chapter 3 discusses the considerations for planning the project management—from identifying stopping points, structuring workflow, and defining measurements of success to planning staff roles, systems, technical specifications, metadata, costs, ownership, and management.

Chapters 4 and 8–10 are equally detailed in their overview of other project concerns. Chapter 4 covers the selection of material and suggests devising a process for nomination, evaluation, and prioritization. Chapter 8 recommends methods for selecting vendors and avoiding common pitfalls that may ensue. Chapter 9 is focused on digital longevity and the importance of clear decisions regarding the storage of digital material. And chapter 10 argues that our reliance on digital material, especially images, is flawed and that we should be motivated to overcome the shallowness, inconsistencies, and unreliability of digital material.

Chapters 5 and 6 discuss the topics of legal and technical issues, not in detail, but they provide cursory reviews and identify resources. Chapter 5 is a general discussion of the implications of copyright on access and a list of resources for more information. Chapter 6 is a very brief overview of terminology and concepts related to digital images (resolution, pixel depth, color, and processing).

Chapter 7 presents a series of case studies that are informative but short and nontechnical. In varying degrees of detail, they review:

  • printed text/manuscript projects. The recommendation is made to weigh the quality and cost of digitization options.
  • photograph projects. Among other topics, the author suggests that (1) cataloging, more than technology, is essential; (2) the master file should be archived, but not used; (3) subjective quality control and evaluation (fidelity of a digital file) are problematic for image and metadata; and (4) costs of maintenance and outsourcing should not be overlooked.
  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR) projects.
  • maps and oversized document projects. This case study reviews the problems of capture (choosing an intermediate format), storage (file size and metadata structure), and delivery (file size).
  • microfilm projects.
  • cooperative projects. The author advises cooperative projects because of benefits in reducing costs, securing funding, sharing expertise, and adding visibility.

Three notes about the contents of the handbook require mentioning to qualify the reader's expectations. First, the book emphasizes scanning and conversion almost exclusively, and there is little consideration of material that is “born digital”; second, the book is not a source of technical solutions, but rather a set of guidelines for managers; and third, it does not promote a singular point of view because it is a compilation of presentations from a variety of authors.

That said, the strength of the handbook is its deliberate focus on general requirements and broad considerations for digitization projects. Rather than describe the successes and failures of specific projects, the publication describes the principles that apply to all models of digitization projects. And because the best models may not yet have emerged, the guidance of the book continues to be relevant.

  • David Sturtevant
  • Head of Collections Information and Access
  • Marla Misunas, Collections Database Manager
  • Thom Sempere, Visual Resources Manager
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • 151 Third St.
  • San Francisco, Calif. 94103

MIRIAM CLAVIR, PRESERVING WHAT IS VALUED: MUSEUMS, CONSERVATION AND FIRST NATIONS. Vancouver, B. C., Canada: University of British Columbia Press, Museum of Anthropology Research Publication, 2002. 320 pages, hardcover, $95. Available from UBC Press, www.UBCPress.ca. ISBN 0-7748-0860-8.

In the early 1980s the author experienced a professional dilemma when the museum collections she was expected to protect were requested for use in traditional cultural dances and ceremonial events involving a potential risk of damage. Clavir uses comparison to explore the perspectives of museum conservators and First Nations individuals as they pertain to preservation. The source of these perspectives is derived primarily from interviews with supportive information from publications and presentations. The book does two things: (1) it explores the values of professional conservators; and (2) it presents indigenous voices on the important topics in ethnographic conservation.

This book is the publication of a dissertation submitted for the doctor of philosophy in museum studies degree that Clavir received in 1998 from the University of Leicester, England. While dissertations are traditionally written for committees and the work represents a display of acquired knowledge, this book also represents an honest communication of ideas. The case study focuses on particular individuals from a defined region (British Columbia). Almost 30 First Nations individuals were interviewed over many years. A chapter near the end of the book, devoted to preservation in New Zealand, offers some comparison and contrast to the Canadian example.

The book is basically divided into two parts. Part 1 explores the background of museum conservation practice, and part 2 provides text representing the thoughts, perspectives, and concerns of the First Nation (indigenous) people in Canada. The final chapters provide additional excerpts from the interviews and highlight the direction that current conservation thinking is taking.

Part 1 of Preserving What Is Valued is devoted to the conservator. In chapters 1 and 2 (62 pages), the author defines conservation and discusses the origin of the profession, the role of science in the discipline, the scientific (rationalized and systematized) nature of making ethnographic collections for museums, and the growth of ethics and values in the conservation profession. Clavir points out a common belief that “from a conservator's perspective, the objects contain knowledge in their very fabric and should be preserved intact so that this knowledge can be gleaned either now or in the future” (p. 28). She further states,“Many conservators, while agreeing on the importance of the information, believe in the immediate value of preserving objects as an end in itself” (p. 28). A large portion of part 1 examines the role of conservators in museums and their responsibilities to the objects they hold, the concept of single-standard, subjective judgments, and professional values. While acknowledging the influence of “cultural significance” in the conservation process, the author defers to a more simplistic definition of the conservator to illustrate her thesis that conservators and indigenous people view the practice of preservation from completely different perspectives. The role of the traditional conservator is defined as one that extends the physical life of an object.

Part 2 explores the perspectives of indigenous people. Chapter 3 examines a range of written and publicly available quotations related to the concepts of preservation and museums. Tables are used extensively in this chapter to contrast the object-focused viewpoint of traditional museums and the culturefocused viewpoint of First Nations. The author indicates that First Nations believe that they own their heritage and that this concept makes the care of objects housed in urban museums difficult.

Chapter 4 provides a cultural background for the First Nations people of British Columbia. A map of the language areas illustrates the distribution of indigenous people and the words they prefer to call themselves. This chapter concludes with several personal narratives that illustrate what it was like to grow up as a First Nations person in British Columbia.

A compilation of interviews and conversations about what preservation means for First Nations individuals is provided in chapter 5. More than 100 pages of primarily narrative text, some photographs, and figures are used to illustrate and diagram the different perspectives of preservation by museum conservators and indigenous people. Words like “visible” and “invisible,” “tangible” and “intangible,” “things” and “traditions,” and “history” and “identity” are used frequently. While the narratives are somewhat repetitive, they are collectively engrossing to read. One example that illustrates the resentment that many First Nations people feel states,“The idea that heritage should be preserved because it is of value to the entire world … it's still ethnocentric, because it can be what someone decides everybody else should value, and is often disrespectful”(p. 123). While many topics are addressed, the concept of preserving how something is meant to be is not. Perhaps most important is the recognition that perspectives (on both sides) can change over time and so, too, can the recommendations.

Chapter 6 provides a subset of comparative study. The author discusses the physical integrity versus the conceptual integrity of objects with five conservators in New Zealand who have advanced education in conservation and are of Maori heritage. The chapter shares their explanations regarding the balance of these concepts in their work.

Chapter 7 summarizes the author's conclusions of the book. She states, “A decision-making process that brings together First Nations and museum staff from the beginning encourages the parties to share their knowledge and allows differing points of view to become mutually intelligible” (p. 247).

The author points out that museums are changing. While there was no relationship between museums and First Nations in the mid-1970s (when the author entered the field of conservation), there are now First Nation advisers involved in many museum projects. The premise of this book seeks to contrast the traditional and parochial principles of museum conservation with an emerging and diverse range of indigenous perspectives. Listening to these new voices is important. The book presents differences, conflicts, and problems between the viewpoints of museum conservators and indigenous people. Fortunately, many of the viewpoints presented are already historic, and this book may be most useful for critically illuminating the emerging awareness and appreciation of cultural significance in the process of heritage preservation. The author indicates that many changes occurred between the original interviews in 1994 and work on this book in 2000.

Today, many professional conservators who work in the area of ethnographic conservation are regularly working with the cultural tensions of repatriation, collaborative exhibits, and a much broader concept of cultural use than that presented by this book. Readers should also be aware that Preserving What Is Valued is based on a Canadian perspective. The viewpoints of American Indians in the United States, the impact of laws such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), and the combined experiences and perspectives of American conservators would offer substantial differences.

The author acknowledges that her focus is preservation and that other topics such as the representation of First Nations in museums, the role of preservation in repatriation, and the protection of indigenous knowledge are covered elsewhere. This presumption of narrow focus might suggest a limited readership of this book. However, the content of the narratives does focus on the issue of representation, and there is critical discussion regarding the meaning, cultural values, and cultural significance of objects. The book has something new and important to say to conservators, and it is appropriate for a wider audience that includes other museum professionals and indigenous peoples. This book encourages the reader to engage in self-reflection when there appears to be a conflict of views on preservation. A consideration and tolerance for the differing viewpoints presented in the book may change conceptions and initiate discussions that have not been possible before.

Miriam Clavir has more than 30 years of professional experience in conservation, and her longtime employment at the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology has included extensive efforts to change the relationship between museums and First Nations. Many of her views have been previously shared in presentations and articles. There is little written in the conservation literature about indigenous opinion and preservation. With Preserving What Is Valued we now have direct quotations that offer critical insight for the practice of conservation.

  • Nancy Odegaard
  • Conservator, Head of Preservation
  • Arizona State Museum
  • University of Arizona
  • Tucson, Ariz. 85721

JO KIRBY, ED., DYES IN HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY 16/17. London: Archetype Publications, 2001.222 pages, softcover, $45. Available from Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, A210 Fowler/Box 951510, Los Angeles, Calif. 90095. ISBN: 1-873132-97-2.

Dyes in History and Archaeology is a peer-reviewed journal, volumes 1–15 of which were published by Textile Research Associates in York, England. This book is volumes 16 and 17 of the journal and includes papers presented at the 16th annual Dyes in History and Archaeology meeting held in Lyons, France, in 1997 and the 17th meeting held in Greenwich, England, in 1998.

The book contains 27 articles that can be roughly divided into six categories: analytical techniques used to identify dyes, chemical characterization studies of dyes, reconstructed dyeing technologies, ethnography of dyeing technologies, history of dyes, and conservation aspects of dyes.

The first two categories are somewhat blurred, as they both include discussions of the analytical techniques used to identify and characterize dyes. The largest number of articles fall into the characterization category. Most of them discuss the application of various analytical techniques, most notably highperformance liquid chromatography (HPLC), for examining natural dyes. A wide range of dyestuffs of both plant and animal origin are addressed, including Daphne gnidium, red and blue dyewoods, madder, safflower, and orchil from plants and Tyrian purple, dog whelk, and lac lakes from animals.

Some characterization studies are concerned with basic questions such as the establishment of criteria to be used in the identification of biological sources of dyes. For example, Jan Wouters's chapter on “The Dye of Rubia peregrina” presents preliminary investigations into the chemistry of madder. By providing a more systematic approach to the dye's extraction, he is able to distinguish between different species of Rubia used as dyestuffs.

Other studies present evidence of hitherto unknown or unsubstantiated sources of dyes mentioned in the medieval technical literature. In “Yellow Dyes of Historical Importance. New Historical and Chemical Evidence on a Wild Mediterranean Dye-Plant,” Dominique Cardon and Claude Andary discuss their findings that Daphne gnidium L. was used in Spain as early as the 11th century to obtain a dark green dye for leather.

Several characterization articles deal with already well-studied dyes, most particularly shellfish purple, probably the most widely recognized of all the archaeological dyestuffs. The major chemical component responsible for the purple color in various shellfish was isolated in the early years of the 20th century by Paul Friedländer. Since then, investigations into the nature of this substance (6,6'-dibromoindigo) have been undertaken. As modern instrumentation has become increasingly more sophisticated and able to deal with very small amounts of material, minor components of the purple dye have been identified and are now being studied. In “The Synthesis and Properties of 6-Bromoindigo: Indigo Blue or Tyrian Purple?,” for example, Christopher Cooksey reports the first synthesis of one of these minor components, 6-bromoindigo, and presents its properties.

Although articles in the above categories are interesting, they are quite technical in nature and most likely will be of lesser interest to most conservators than articles in the other categories. The articles dealing with reconstructing technology, for example, serve to increase our appreciation for the textiles in our collections. Cochineal dye, obtained from the dried bodies of female insects (Dactylopius coccus Costa), was the most important red dye used on textiles in Europe from the 16th through the 19th century and in Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries. Valery Golikov uses 16th-through-18th-century recipes in “The Technology of Silk Dyeing by Cochineal” to present a series of dyeings he did to determine the influence of different mordants, pH, water quality, cream of tartar, and oak galls on the color obtained. This work provides conservators with valuable information and insight into textile dyeing. Naceur Ayed and Abir Alatrache, in “Traditional Recipes for Natural Dyeing of Wool in the South of Tunisia,” have carefully worked out the recipes traditionally used in Tunisia for dyeing wool. Recipes for 33 different dyestuffs are given, with comments on their properties, such as the color obtained and lightfastness.

The history articles will also be of interest, especially to textile and book conservators. Frances Pritchard's article, “Mariano Fortuny: His Use of Natural Dyes,” presents research that confirms that Fortuny did use natural dyes on his silk and cotton fabrics. Thanks to this research, textile conservators can better understand Fortuny textiles that might come within their care. Although no information is currently available on Fortuny's use of mordants and dyeing techniques, this article may well stimulate more research on the subject. Similarly, Cheryl Porter's article, “The Colouring of Alum-Tawed Skins on Late Medieval Books,” provides insight into the coloring of the predominant covering material used in European books from the 12th to the 15th century. Analysis of a collection of books dating to the 15th century confirms the use of brazil, weld, and an indigotin to color their alum-tawed covers. Although weld was commonly used on woolen textiles in medieval times, this is the first-known instance of its being used on book covers. Also of interest was the presence of indigotin. Dyeing textiles with indigo involves immersing the cloth in the dye bath. Alum-tawed skin, however, cannot be immersed in a heated liquid, or it will become brittle. Porter concludes that the indigo therefore cannot have been applied as a liquid but rather as a pigment, supporting the use of indigo as a pigment long before it was used as a dye.

Of interest to ethnographic conservators is the series of four articles dealing with the use of colorants by indigenous people in Tunisia, Papua New Guinea, and Mali. Of particular interest to this reviewer is Rowena Hill's article on “Colorants Used in the Material Culture of Papua New Guinea.” Hill's field research was undertaken in two geographically distinct areas of eastern New Guinea: the highlands and the coastal areas of New Britain, an island off the east coast of New Guinea. The anthropological literature provides scant information on the colorants used in this part of the world, and, unfortunately, much if not all of the traditional knowledge regarding colorants and their technology will, before long, be lost. Hill's research has provided a valuable source of information for ethnographic conservators who work on material from these areas of New Guinea. Colorants from both plant and animal sources are included, along with the botanical names and as much information as she was able to collect on how the dyestuffs were processed. This article confirms what we all have undoubtedly assumed, that the indigenous people in New Guinea exploit an extraordinary range of dyestuffs. A chart listing all these colorants, their uses, the method of preparation, and the geographic area where found will be tremendously useful.

The final category of articles deals with conservation issues. The two articles in this category will be of great interest to textile and ethnographic conservators. Oliver Hahn shows in his article,“Influence of Fungicides and Insecticides on Colour Materials,” that pesticides can bring about changes in dyed materials. Both ethylene oxide and hydrogen cyanide, the two chemicals tested by Hahn, caused color changes, some of them significant, in dyed samples, and it appears that these changes are probably irreversible. Not only do colors lighten or darken when in contact with biocides, but their original dyestuff also becomes more difficult to identify. Vincent Daniels's article, “Degradation of Artefacts Caused by IronContaining Dyes,” presents research showing that both proteinaceous and cellulosic materials can be adversely affected by dyes containing iron. Cellulosics, in particular, are vulnerable to deterioration from dyes, especially since iron-bearing dyes become more acidic upon aging. As do many of the other authors, Daniels makes it clear how little research has been done on these topics. It can only be hoped that more interest in these issues will be generated by these articles and result in more research.

The final chapter in the book is an annotated bibliography of recent publications concerning the analysis and history of dyes. Coupled with the extensive list of references at the end of every article, these references will be a welcome addition to the conservation literature, especially for conservators researching specific dyestuffs or methods of dyeing.

This book has a little something for everyone: conservators specializing in books, textiles, objects, and ethnographic materials, as well as conservation scientists, curators, and people interested in technology. This variety is almost certainly a result of the diverse backgrounds of the authors: dyers, historians, conservators, chemists, biologists, and curators, all united by their interest in traditional dyestuffs. The other striking aspect of the book is its truly international scope, in terms of both topics covered and the nationalities of the authors. Clearly there is worldwide interest in the history and analysis of dyestuffs, and it is encouraging to see the interdisciplinary approach taken in so many of the articles.

The articles are short and concise, some tantalizingly so, leaving the reader eager for more information. The exciting aspect of the book is that, for the most part, these articles represent ongoing research efforts, albeit in 1997 and 1998, and there is a high probability of continued research augmenting present knowledge and producing more information about dyes.

The book has only minor shortcomings. One is the paucity of color plates, especially noticeable in a volume concerned with dyes and colors. Only nine color plates are included, bound together in the middle of the book. The quality of the few color photographs is high, making it even more lamentable that there are not more. While there are numerous black-and-white photographs within the text of the ethnographic articles, they would have been more meaningful had they been in color, especially in Hill's article on the colorants used in New Guinea.

The other shortcoming is the extensive lag between the presentation of the articles in 1997 and 1998 and their publication in 2001. This delay is the result of the retirement of the editor of the journal Dyes in History and Archaeology and the procurement of a successor editor and publisher. Now that this replacement has been taken care of, the publication of subsequent articles should occur in a more timely fashion. It can only be hoped that Archetype will continue to publish these papers in book format, not only to ensure their better and wider circulation, but also to help them become better integrated into the conservation literature where they belong.

  • Catherine Sease
  • Senior Conservator
  • Peabody Museum of Natural History
  • P.O. Box 208118
  • New Haven, Conn. 06520


Copyright © 2002 American Institution for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works