The critical evaluation of past conservation methods—the materials and treatment methods chosen and the premise behind a given approach—is a valuable part of the evolution of the conservation profession. As conservators, we often look forward to the next project or newest material, but it is just as important professionally for us to look backward. An examination of past treatments and how they have fared provides historical information about our field and its approaches, observations regarding the natural aging of materials, and specific examples of treatment consequences. In this light, the evaluation of past treatments was suggested as a topic by the Objects Specialty Group Publications Committee as the theme for a second special issue of JAIC.
Two of the articles in this issue assess treatment methods that borrow ideas and materials from other fields or specialties. Carrlee provides a critical review of low-temperature pest management (“freezing”) for ethnographic artifacts. Kronthal et al. address the application of BEVA 371 adhesive to repairs in skin and leather. Alternately, a review by Chapman and Mason of the consolidant Paraloid B-72 and its application to stained glass presents a look at properties of a familiar conservation material as applied to a specific substrate.
Three of the articles deal with the consequences of historical treatment methods and draw on the particular opportunities presented by the evaluation of collections and their archival records. Drayman-Weisser reviews treatments applied to painted Limoges enamels, and Gänsicke et al., in two articles, review preservation measures applied to excavated Egyptian materials, both in the field and by previous museum caretakers. Paterakis describes the conditions of copper alloys at the Athenian Agora, where environmental factors along with previous treatments contributed to observed alterations. Neiro offers a practical solution to the previous widespread use on ceramics of an adhesive with limited aging properties.
Finally, two authors examine how conservation decision making has changed in the recent past. Greene traces the condition of a single important object through field and collection records, through her own treatment 20 years ago, and through intervening treatments, to evaluate the success of the applied materials, methods, and philosophy. Portell reviews the need to evaluate prior repairs, considering historical importance along with physical performance.
No single issue of JAIC can address the totality and complexity of past treatments to objects. However, it is our hope that these 10 articles in a single reviewed volume will offer valuable contributions to this important subject. Ideally, this issue will serve as a starting point for readers who may wish to look back at past treatment materials and methods in light of recent developments.
—Objects Specialty Group Publications Committee: Ellen Pearlstein, Lisa Bruno, Leslie Ransick Gat, Elizabeth Hendrix, Won Yee Ng