ART MATTERS: NETHERLANDS TECHNICAL STUDIES IN ART. The Netherlands: Waanders Publishers, first issue 2002. 39.95 single issue.Available from Waanders Publishers, Postbus 1129, 8001 BC Zwolle, The Netherlands. ISBN-90-400-8728-8.
The 2002 issue of Art Matters is the first of a journal that, according to an editorial, is to focus on “the material history of art works in collections in the Netherlands” for an audience of “the international community of museum curators, conservators, and academics concerned with the field of technical art history and … the interested public.” Publications in the journal are meant to “examine and study the objects in an interdisciplinary manner” as in the American pioneer conservator George L. Stout's phrase, “the three-legged stool.” All artworks discussed must belong to the “Dutch cultural heritage” (p. 5). The authors and editors of this volume are apparently all Dutch or living in the Netherlands. There are eight articles in this first issue: five are concerned primarily with paintings conservation issues, one with polychrome terracotta sculptures, one with silver plaquettes, and one with a decorated ethnographic mask. There are also three book reviews, all related to paintings conservation. I was one of the outside reviewers for the article on Camille Corot's painting box.
Each of the eight studies contains art-historical, scientific, and technological data about the work in question. The five on paintings conservation discuss the attribution of a triptych by the Master of the Antwerp Adoration that is missing its central panel; the still, unsolved problem of craterlike holes apparently caused by lead soap formation in 17th-century grounds and paint layers; the techniques of many different paintings by Gerrit Dou (particularly useful if one is holding the catalog of the recent Dou exhibition to provide illustrations of works discussed); a thorough discussion of the techniques of Jan Vermeer, focusing particularly on early works; and a rediscovered painting box originally belonging to the French artist Corot and containing six small Corot paintings, but later used by the Dutch artist Matthijs Maris. In the other three studies, the silver alloy of five plaquettes made by the Flemish silversmith Mathias Melin is analyzed; some amazingly realistic painted 16th-century portrait head sculptures by Johan Georg van der Schardt are examined with breathtaking colorplate illustrations; and the unexpected pigments on a large parasollike hat from the Bismarck Archipelago are discussed.
The thesis for the journal is apparently the collaborative effort of the three groups of multidisci-plinary professionals. The specialties for the 14 authors are not precisely identified, but from their institutional affiliations listed in the front and the back, it appears that 6 are probably conservators, 5 are scientists, 2 are art historians, and 1 is both an art historian and a paintings conservator. A balance of professional perspectives has clearly been attempted in the journal's first issue.
The usefulness of the eight articles is uneven.Some seem rather elementary in their approach, not unlike conservation graduate program student papers, without a depth of knowledge of comparative works either art historically or technologically speaking.A search of Art and Archaeology Technical Abstracts Online reveals that there is a wide spectrum of experience among the authors represented in this journal. Some have never published works that have been abstracted, while others have authored almost two dozen conservation publications that have been abstracted.This range is generally reflected in the depth of the studies. The articles by the more experienced authors, such as on the techniques of Dou or the Corot painting box, convince the reader that the subject is important and the knowledge relayed is authoritative.The article on the triptych works dutifully and in a believable way through the process of the multidisciplinary analysis and attribution concerns of two unknown wings of a triptych missing the central panel, but the minor importance of the object and the ultimate anonymity of the artist leave readers with no more than an elementary exercise in scholarship, though admirable in its collaborative design. The analysis of the silver of five plaquettes ends with the rather obvious and elementary conclusion that “important information [regarding] metal can be obtained with XRF analysis” (p. 29). There seemed to be no useful comparative analytical data and only outdated references for this study. One wonders why the subject was even chosen for a scholarly journal publication. In the case of the Bismarck Archipelago “ritual umbrella mask,” there were no discernible conclusions or synthesis and no comparison with any other ethno-graphic colorants. There were long paragraphs of analysis of red, blue, and white pigments that were found to deviate from traditional materials and to contain barite; this finding was described as “surprising” but never explained. Does it indicate earlier importation of Western materials than previously known? How does this finding compare with other studies of similar artifacts? We are not told. But many of the colorplates are excellent and are accompanied by lengthy charts of analysis.
Due to the many high-quality color photographs and good paper, the first impression made by this journal is one of excellence and high expectations. However, further study results in some disappointment. One ends with the sense that the journal is overdesigned and underedited. The table of contents is buried in the cover design with no page numbers. The often spectacular colorplates have no measurements or dates on them. The marvelous 16th-century poly-chrome sculpture heads could be 6 in. or 6 ft., for all the reader can tell. It is sometimes difficult to connect the captions with the related plates. Little Mondrian-like white lines and gray boxes interspersed am
ong the photographs are simply confusing. There are no identifying headers or footers of the name of the journal, the date, or the article titles, as is customary in scholarly journals. The photographs, though high quality, are often so small they are nearly illegible. We are to see a “hatching technique” in a detail photograph of a Dou portrait (fig. 16, p. 68), but I could not find it, even using magnification. The all-important photograph explaining how the most unusual hat-parasol “mask” was worn by the Sulkas is reproduced in so small an image that it is difficult to decipher (fig. 3, p. 80). There are a number of typos—“form” rather than “from” (footnote 28, p. 31),“Old woman Pealing apples” (p. 74),“light orang brown” (p. 96). Footnotes may not note the location of the sample or technique of analysis but may simply continue the discussion as one might do in working laboratory notes (footnote 40, p. 96, continued on p. 102). Footnotes often have confusing grammatical mistakes in addition to typos: “This is conform with De Mayerne's advise” when the footnote was in reference to “Kühn's identification of the binding medium” (footnote 47, p. 98). What we needed was a reference to the Kühn article in question. The sections of the text have puzzling headings. A section that describes how Vermeer generally did not do underdrawings during the time he was influenced by Michelangelo da Caravaggio is misleadingly entitled “preliminary composition sketch” instead of “Italian influence” or “lack of underdrawings,” which would have described the paragraph more aptly (p. 98). Another heading called “The context” is used for a basic walk-through of ground, underpaint, paint layer, and pentimenti, although “context” generally would be taken to mean art-historical relevance (p. 98).
We do indeed need more publications that are readily accessible to and readable by “the international community of museum curators, conservators, and academics concerned with the field of technical art history and … the interested public,” such as Andrea Kirsh and Rustin Levenson's book Seeing Through Paintings (2000), Ernst van de Wetering's Rembrandt: The Painter's Workshop(1997), or any of the Art in the Making series from the National Gallery, London, that combine excellence in technical art history, inperson observation of works of art, and well-edited, user-friendly language. Art Matters is a noble effort, but this first issue would be, I think, confusing and of arguable interest to most curators and to the public.With the exception of articles on Dou, Vermeer, and Corot, the art or the issue addressed in this new journal is generally unfamiliar, and a strong case is not made for the importance of the works discussed or the findings.The highly technical article on lead soap formation, which offers unanswered questions and references to research published elsewhere, would be, I think, confusing to curators and members of the public.The chief editor, Erma Hermens, was also the editor for an excellent, elegant, scholarly, well-edited and-illustrated publication of 22 papers: Looking through Paintings: The Study of Painting Techniques and Materials in Support of Art Historical Research, in 1998. I hope she can bring that excellence to Art Matters for future issues.
- Joyce Hill Stoner
- Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art
- Winterthur Museum
- Winterthur, Del. 19735
SHIN MAEKAWA and KERSTIN ELERT. THE USE OF OXYGENFREE ENVIRONMENTS IN THE CONTROL OF MUSEUM INSECT PESTS. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2003. 172 pages, softcover, $60. Available from Getty Publications Book Distribution Center, P.O. Box 49659, Los Angeles, Calif. 90049-0659. ISBN 0-89236-693-1.
The theory of using anoxia for the treatment of insect problems in museum collections is attractively simple: hold an infested object in a low-oxygen atmosphere for a week or so, and the pests are safely and effectively eliminated, without hazard to object or operator. The basic materials appear relatively inexpensive, and the process seems low-tech enough to be within reach of practically anyone. As an alternative to toxic fumigants, and even freezing in some cases, the advantages are clear.
In actual practice, however, the technique is anything but simple. Oxygen levels 75 times lower than normal air can be difficult to obtain and even harder to maintain for the required exposure period of 10‐15 days. Small, leak-free, vapor-barrier bags may require a modicum of skill to create, but the chance of success falls exponentially with enclosures of increasing size. Oxygen absorbers can be tricky: they can heat up, release humidity, or exhaust themselves prematurely. Compressed gas tanks can be cumbersome, and the dry gas requires precise humidification. Temperature, and even more so relative humidity, plays a critical and often misunderstood role in the efficacy of the treatment. But the final insult is the realization that it is impossible to tell in the end if a pest control treatment has actually been successful.
Given these impediments, it is obviously crucial that any anoxic treatment be conducted impeccably at every step of the way.Yet like any new approach, there is always a fair amount of learn-as-you-go involved, and this has no doubt limited the broader adoption of this important technique. Now there is a road map that makes things enormously easier.
Unlike most previous literature that has focused on technical research and insect mortality factors, The Use of Oxygen-Free Environments in the Control of Museum Insect Pests is stated to be “practical rather than theoretical and specific rather than general.” It follows, and builds on, prior Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) publications in this area, especially Inert Gases in the Control of Museum Insect Pests by Charles Selwitz and Shin Maekawa (1998), which was a broader compendium on the subject. Unlike that publication, which also discussed carbon dioxide and argon fumigation and included numerous case studies from other institutions, this recent publication focuses strictly on nitrogen anoxia (loosely speaking, oxygen concentrations under 0.3%). And unlike previous research reports, this publication sacrifices the-oretical discussions in favor of presenting, in exhaustive detail, the nuts and bolts and step-by-step directions for the practical application of the technique.
Chapter 1 briefly summarizes the theory of fumigation in low-oxygen atmospheres and discusses the influence of oxygen concentration, relative humidity, and temperature on insect mortality. Because of the stated practical nature of the book, these critical details are presented in only a few concise paragraphs. But this conciseness may prove to be somewhat of a shortcoming if a reader has no previous background, especially if a treatment needs customization. For example, it has been shown that the lethal exposure time increases with oxygen levels above 0.5% (and is useless above 1%), and a decrease in temperature or increase in relative humidity can dramatically alter efficacy. Without a clear grasp of these variables and how they might be manipulated, it would be difficult to successfully compensate for the variety of conditions one could encounter. The details are there, but only if a reader pays close attention to the statistics and summaries in the chapter's final paragraphs.
Chapter 2 introduces the methods and materials of anoxia, including the wide terrain of commercially available oxygen barrier films and heat sealers, oxygen absorbers, oxygen and relative humidity monitors, and leak detectors. A few dozen laminate films of various compositions are discussed (some of which are currently unavailable, and at least one of which is a shrink-wrap foil of questionable utility), and the text gives helpful details on the selection of films for specific applications.The discussions of oxygen monitors and leak detectors similarly range from the least expensive to models costing several thousand dollars. Manufacturers, catalog numbers, price, and comparative benefits are included for all materials and supplies discussed. And if the range of selection and prices seems overwhelming, in later chapters specific recommendations are conveniently listed for each of the four detailed anoxia protocols.
Chapters 3 and 4 discuss small-and large-scale anoxia operations respectively. Small-scale anoxia uses oxygen absorbers, and the chapter details the various commercially available types and their application and includes tips for the control of relative humidity during their use. Large-scale anoxia typically uses an external nitrogen source to displace atmospheric oxygen in a flexible tent or rigid chamber.The chapter discusses a variety of nitrogen sources and humidification strategies to condition the dry gas and goes on to discuss the fabrication of large anoxic enclosures, the use of commercial fumigation “bubbles,” and the modification of existing rigid chambers for use with anoxia (including details about leak-testing the various enclosures).
Chapter 5 is the heart of the handbook: a step-by-step, detailed guide to implementing each of the anoxia protocols, from small to large scale. It starts with a short section on choosing the appropriate protocol, then takes each one from initial setup all the way through to completion, including object preparation, enclosure fabrication, basic calculations, tips on efficiency and cost saving, and troubleshooting. When the discussion necessitates a lengthy digression, for example on calculating the amount of oxygen absorber or silica gel needed, the text points to a more in-depth appendix. Each protocol section ends with a concise list of the required equipment and supplies, including vendor and part number. Throughout, numerous illustrations and photographs help support and clarify the text.
Appendix 1 gives further specific details on leak testing, gas humidification, gas-tight connectors, and oxygen absorber and silica gel calculations—the kind of information that may have unnecessarily complicated the main discussion but is essential nonetheless. Appendix 2 is a “Technical Addenda” that goes into oxygen absorber chemistry and reaction speed and a section on determining an enclosure's leak rate. The remaining appendices offer a table of conversion factors, a list of manufacturers, and very brief outlines (more checklists, really) for the protocols of chapter 5. Granted, the subject is both broad and complicated, but it may have been less confusing if some of these details had been better integrated with similar discussions in the main body of the book.
This flaw points to one of the few drawbacks in this comprehensive and immensely practical hand-book: the complex but slightly different demands of each protocol tend to necessitate a fair amount of page flipping. The information is all there, but its very detail and scope make organization and presentation understandably complicated. There is still a fair amount of general theory that must be absorbed, but the specific working details are so well delineated as to virtually ensure success with this important, but ultimately simple, pest eradication technique. And as a companion volume to prior GCI publications on the subject of modified atmosphere applications, this book will be a welcome addition both for those wanting to get started with the technique and for those already employing it.
The publication, which is large-format perfect bound, also includes a CD containing the entire book in PDF format.
- John Burke
- Oakland Museum of California
- 1000 Oak St.
- Oakland, Calif. 94607
BETTY M. HAINES, SURFACE COATINGS FOR BINDING LEATHERS. Northampton, England: Leather Conservation Centre, 2002. 23 pages, paper-covered pamphlet, $18.50. ISBN 0-946072-07-8.
This pamphlet discusses research undertaken on various liquid and paste formulations of leather dressings that can be applied to new or old binding material. After initial comparisons by book conservators, a number of formulations were thoroughly researched.
In the introduction, the author states that it is customary “to apply a coating … to protect [the leather] against soiling and impart a pleasant sheen and handle,” and that the coating “needs to form a continuous and flexible film” that meets certain requirements.Among these requirements are “chemical and physical stability” and that the coating be “relatively firm and not tacky,” impart a “minimum change in the color,” and “be easily removed.” In the past, “waxes, or a mixture of oils and waxes” have been used, “but oils merely lubricate … and waxes tend to crack and craze.” Therefore, based on current knowledge and information, waxes should be blended with acrylic polymers to obtain the best “film forming” characteristics.The author also states, however, that the addition of acrylic polymers requires the use of polar solvents, which “can have an adverse effect on leather.”
During the initial tests, one group of book conservators applied 12 different commercial products to new leather. Those products included Marney's Conservation Dressing, Earnshaw's Liquid Shoe Polish, Earnshaw's Shoe Cream, and various Stahl Acrylic Emulsion formulations, such as SC7400. (It should be noted that SC6000 was replaced by SC7400 in 1996 to meet British Health and Safety Standards. Since then, this new formulation has been supplied under the original name—SC6000.Although SC6000 was tested in 1979-80 British Library trials, the new, modified formulation has not been thoroughly and scientifically evaluated.Some practical tests on the new formula were conducted, and the results were essentially similar to those in 1979-80 on the product having the old name SC6000. Therefore, we will continue to use the SC6000 name.) At the same time, another group applied the same products to 18th-and 19th-century leathers. Based on the observations from these two groups, five products (plus three new products) were chosen for “further, more exhaustive, laboratory evaluation.”
In the laboratory, all eight products were applied to samples of new leather, and the results were compared. After artificial aging for 12 weeks at 40°C and at 75% RH, tests were conducted, including permeability to water vapor and atmospheric pollutants, and pH.The results showed that “all of the coating products met the (stated) requirements” and that it is up to the individual book conservator to choose the product most suitable for a particular application.
The last part of the pamphlet briefly examines the application of the coatings to aged and scuffed bindings. Of all the coatings that were tested, no single dressing could be recommended because various problems were observed when each product was applied to leathers that were scuffed or suffering from red rot. In further research for this section, three alternatives were evaluated. These include some products that are familiar to many of us, such as Renaissance Wax and Klucel G, but in these tests, the Klucel was mixed with SC6000. The researchers also tested a mixture of neutral shoe polish and candelilla wax.
While the author may see some value in testing various commercial shoe polishes and creams, conservators need to have a good understanding of the products that we use regularly, and it is well known that commercial and consumer products such as those that were tested tend to change at the discretion of the manufacturer to satisfy the mass market. Products that are used in conservation need to be fully understood and specifically designed to meet our needs without the concern that changes could be made to the formulation.
The introduction includes a statement about polar solvents and their adverse effect on leather. The section on coatings for aged leather also states: “Blending wax with a film forming acrylic had seemed a suitable way to produce the ideal dressing, but the presence of polar solvents is necessary …, and these (solvents) appear to have an adverse effect on badly deteriorated leathers.” It appears that almost every product that was tested utilizes a polar solvent.
It would seem that any research being done today should be directed at finding a leather treatment that does not contain polar solvents.
While I can understand and appreciate the need to accelerate the aging on products that were examined in this study, I would also like to see reexamination of the same accelerated-aged items after they have naturally aged for some years. For a product to be appropriate for conservation use, it must demonstrate stability in real time, as well as when it is artificially aged.Therefore, I wonder if there are any plans to follow up (maybe every 10 years?) on the products that are recommended.
There was also a comment that “none of the acrylic coatings can be recommended for routine use by untrained volunteers in the refurbishment of old bindings” unless the scuffed areas are sealed with a “cellulose based dressing … but this complicates the refurbishing treatment.” It would seem that taking this precaution is certainly not a problem for a trained person, if this technique is proven to work.
The term “film forming” is used for coatings for new as well as old leather.It seems to me that in some cases, there may be a need for a product that will penetrate deeper to consolidate and bind the leather fibers together.
One section discusses the removal of the coating. While it can be easily done with a known product, especially one that is relatively new, the topic does raise the issue that in many cases we have no idea what type of dressing was previously applied to the leather. Therefore, should we systematically remove all previous coatings before applying a new product? Would this removal inadvertently cause a problem?
The most interesting part of this publication is the discussion about the “red rot cocktail” developed by Glen Ruzicka at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia. This concoction of equal parts of SC6000 and a 5% solution of Klucel G in ethanol was developed out of sheer necessity for something to meet the center's particular needs. This “red rot cocktail” was first used in 1998, and Ruzicka is planning to reexamine the leather-bound books that were treated with it. While this cocktail was developed somewhat empirically, it did seem to impress the researchers at the Leather Conservation Centre and certainly warrants further investigation.
The research conducted by the Leather Conservation Centre and presented in this pamphlet is of great importance to the field of bookbinding conservation.This publication confirms the need for further research to meet the ongoing difficulty of dealing with aged and deteriorated leather.
The reviewer regrets to inform you, the reader, that Betty Haines died in November 2003 before she had an opportunity to see these comments.
- Bill Minter
- William Minter Bookbinding & Conservation
- 4364 Woodbury Pike
- Woodbury, Pa. 16695
RICHARD PRIKRYL and HEATHER VILES, eds. UNDERSTANDING AND MANAGING STONE DECAY. Prague: Karolinum Press, Charles University, 2002. 368 pages, hardcover, $12.25. Available from Richard Prikryl, Institute of Geochemistry, Mineralogy and Mineral Resources, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, Albertov 6, 128 43 Prague 2, Czech Republic, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. ISBN 80-246-0453-1.
This book is the result of the Stone Weathering and Atmospheric Pollution Network (SWAPNET) conference held in May 2001 in the Czech Republic. Twenty-six chapters, divided into eight sections, were selected from the papers presented at the conference to make up this volume.
The first section has only one article, “Damage Diagnosis at Stone Monuments—Weathering Forms, Damage Categories and Damage Indices” by Bernd Fitzner and Kurt Heinrichs. Some very minor criticisms could be made, such as using the term “micro-biology” in table 1 rather than “biosciences” to correspond to the other names used, such as geosciences and material sciences.The article continues the sequence that was initiated by the authors' 1995 seminal publication.This reviewer has had the opportunity to read most of them, and the present installment is the most clear, concise, and complete one published so far.
The second section, on “Non-Destructive Testing” has three articles.The first is by Dawn Nicholson on “Quantification of Rock Breakdown for Experimental Weathering Studies.”The article is very interesting but rather confusing for someone not already familiar with nondestructive testing (NDT) methods. It is organized in such a way that careful attention is required to understand the logic behind the presentation. Nonetheless, a good section on measurement accuracy and potential sources of error, a topic not usually so well described in other NDT papers, is extremely useful. Finally, the discussion on experimental results from laboratory weathering cycling is very clear, while showing the complexity of weathering processes and their quantification.
The article on “Permeation Properties of Building Stone: The Autoclam Permeability System” by Mark Russell et al. presents the modifications introduced to the Autoclam Permeability System developed at Queen's University of Belfast. The original apparatus was designed to determine permeation properties of concrete, and the article describes the modifications necessary to make it useful for a range of different stone types.
The last article in this section, “Using Electrical Conductivity for Assessing Chemical Residues in Stone” by Maureen Young, presents a good methodology for soluble salt control upon cleaning. However, its poor layout makes it difficult to read. For example, figure 2 on page 88 precedes table 2 on page 89, which actually gives the data that are plotted in figure 1 on page 87.
The third section deals with “Experimental Weathering and Field Exposure Studies” and contains four articles.Thomas Bidner et al. explore “Stone as Sensor Material for Weathering”and suggest the use of specific stones to evaluate resistance to different weathering factors.They conclude, after a very thorough field testing program and analysis, that Baumberg calcareous sandstone can be considered the best material to evaluate deterioration by chemical attack from gaseous air pollutants as well as for biological attack, while Laas and Sterzing marbles are more appropriate for evaluating damage from frost-thaw cycling.
Of equally high quality and thoroughness is the article by Alice Turkington et al. on “The Effect of Block Retreat on Subsurface Temperature and Moisture Conditions in Sandstone,” which studies the influence of surface sheltering when a part of it is recessed from the overall surface.The authors make a key statement about stone deterioration: Moisture migration in stone is perhaps the most crucial control on the nature and severity of decay processes and is directly dependent on temperature conditions (p. 125).
The last two articles deal with exposure studies. “Experience with Long Term Experimental Exposure of Building Stones: A 70 Year Study in the Czech Republic” by Richard Prikryl and Irena Dudková is interesting both from a historical perspective and as an example of an ambitious human endeavor to study nature. The authors note the study's failure to foresee problems (i.e., the public taking the samples) and the ongoing developments in analytical methodologies making the original methodology obsolete and, in many cases, incompatible.
The fourth section, “Limestone and Marble Weathering Studies,” is the longest, with seven articles. The title of the first one, “Rapid, Asymmetric Weathering of a Limestone Obelisk in a Coastal Environment: Telscombe Cliffs, Brighton, U.K.,” by David Robinson and Cherith Moses, describes its content. An obelisk constructed of Portland stone, generally recommended as a high-quality building limestone, deteriorated at an extremely fast rate when exposed to a marine environment with salt spray. The article highlights that the elements to which the stones are exposed affects their durability, a fact that in many cases is still not taken into account during the selection of stones for new buildings.
The next three articles deal with marble.The first, by Albert Jornet et al., studies “Bowing of Carrara Marble Slabs: Comparison Between Natural and Artificial Weathering.” The authors find that this complex phenomenon does not occur systematically, but that the position of the anchoring system on the top and bottom of the slabs correlates well with the deformation, although not with its extent. Emanuela Pera and Luigi Burlini study a related question in their article on “Elastic Properties of Selected Italian Marbles,” specifically Carrara from the Lorano quarry, Candoglia from either the Madre or the Cornovo quarry, and Crevola-dossola from either the Palissandro or the Bardiglio quarry. Among their interesting conclusions are that a marble with crystals randomly oriented in the crystal-lographic fabric will behave isotropically when subjected to thermal cycles, but local grain boundary stresses will develop. On the other hand, a marble with crystallographic-oriented calcite grains will suffer an anisotropic expansion without developing local stresses. The last article, “The Differences of the Ultrasonic Velocity of the Two Marble Portals of Schloss Tirol-South Tyrol—A Case of Weathering or of Material?” by Arno Recheis et al., describes how ultrasonic velocity measurements, coupled with other analysis, was used to determine the origin of the marble employed in the two portals of a castle dating from the 12th century.
The last three articles of this section deal again with limestone. Of these, the most interesting one is “Weathering of Limestone Cladding above the Waterproofing Layer: Salt Action Due to Previous Restoration of the Colonnade (Lednice-Valtice Area)” by Richard Prikryl et al. It is a good case study analyzing limestone deterioration induced primarily by a treatment with water glass and possibly enhanced by the presence of the original water-proofing layer in the monument. The paper reports that artificial stones (cast stone using fragments of limestone bound together with either calcium caseinate or lime) did not show as much deterioration as the natural limestone (presumably the artificial stones were not treated with water glass) except for localized vandalism or corrosion of the iron reinforcement.
The fifth section, “Rocks and Their Weathering within the Bohemian Cretaceous Basin,” presents four articles. The first two address the geomorpho-logic development of the sandstone that formed such features as the towers in the so-called rock cities found in the basin of the title. The third paper, by Jiri Zvelebil et al., reports on “Partial Results of Monitoring of Stability Deterioration on Pravcice Rock Arch, NW Bohemia.” The Rock Arch is an important landform that developed in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park. With a span of over 26 m, a height of 16 m, and a beam 2.5 × 8 m wide, it is the biggest natural rock arch in Europe. Seven years of monitoring the joints' displacement suggests that a final collapse is possible under certain conditions. However, further and more systematic monitoring is necessary to be able to foretell the future stability of this natural monument. The last paper in the section, “Chemical Weathering of Clay-Rich Sandstone Matrix: Control and Case Studies” by Jana Soukupová et al., describes the mineralogical composition of neoformed phases of sandstone as a result of environmental conditions. The crusts formed on these sandstones are mainly composed by gypsum and ammonium or potassium-rich alums, suggesting that deposition of air pollutants is the most important cause of the crust formation, and that the aluminum originates from the decomposition of the clay matrix. It is shown that halloysite decomposes much faster than kaolinite under the same leaching conditions due to its lower crystallinity and particle size.
The section titled “Case Studies and Conservation Experience” has two articles: “Corrosion and Restoration of Travertine and Granite in the Freedom Monument (Riga, Latvia)” by Inese Sidraba et al. and “Monitoring of Stone Sculptures and Reliefs in Bethlehem near Kuks (Eastern Bohemia, Czech Republic)” by Peter Kotlík and Viktor Heidingsfeld. These sculptures and reliefs in Bohemia were carved from a sandstone with a quartzitic binder (of the Cenomanian Age) in the early 18th century. Although the sandstone is of high quality and has excellent resistance to weathering, it is prone to cracking in various directions. The article describes the studies and monitoring carried out between 1993 and 1995 and the preventive measures (installation of shelters over the sculptures) implemented in 1998. The authors come to the important conclusion that conservation intervention should be kept to an absolute minimum (e.g., removal of lichens and mosses is useless) until water sources, the main danger to the stone, have been controlled.
The section on “Atmospheric Studies” is composed of two articles.The most interesting one is “Photocatalytic Oxidation of NOx Gases using TiO2: A Surface Spectroscopic Approach” by James Dalton et al.,describing the laboratory studies carried out to confirm that the oxidation of gaseous NOx to NO3-on the surface of powdered TiO2 (the anatase variety) on a silica support is more effective when the titanium dioxide is exposed to ultraviolet light. The experimental procedure is not well described, and many questions remain unanswered, such as the rate and efficiency of the conversion. The authors mention that TiO2 has recently been incorporated into concrete paving blocks currently on trial in the inner cities of Japan and England. However, no justification regarding this scaling up from laboratory experiments on powders (all the references cited deal with either nanocrystals or aqueous suspensions) to powders incorporated into concrete is presented.
The final section contains three papers. Christopher Andrew, in “Perception and Aesthetics of Weathered Stone Façades,” discusses the effect that cleaning has on the visual character of buildings. The main criticism that can be made of this article is that cleaning is discussed as an aesthetic option, not as a means of eliminating damaging surface materials, the key reason for such an intervention in the case of a historic monument.As a minor criticism, in Figure 3 the key to the different curves in the graphs contradicts the text.
The article by Asher Shadmon has the provocative title “Stone: What Is in a Name? Interdisciplinary Implications—An Overview,” but the text does not quite meet the title's promise.The paper deals mainly with standards (CEN, ISO, and ASTM) applied by the modern stone industry. It discusses the terminology, testing, and assessment of durability used for the selection of new stones, especially in today's market globalization.
The last paper, by R.Welton et al., describes “A Visual and Chemical Study of the Phycological Effect on Mineral Chips.” The authors systematically study the formation of algal biofilms on seven different mineral surfaces (ranging from calcite to feldspars, quartz, and siderite) in trying to understand the contribution of the organisms to the deterioration of these minerals. This study shows—among other important conclusions regarding surface etching, calcium ion extraction, and movement within the cells—that biofilms form locally and eventually expand over the surface of the mineral.
The quality of the 26 articles is very uneven, possibly the result of trying to keep to the multidis-ciplinary approach of the conference. This aim is desirable if an interdisciplinary exchange is to be developed, but to turn this book into a coherent publication, the editors should have tried to bridge the interdisciplinary gaps. For example, why is the nomenclature developed by Fitzner and Heinrichs not considered to be within modern standards? How does the development of morphostructural reliefs on a geological scale relate to the deterioration of the stone surface on a building? Is our knowledge of stone deterioration actively being used in modern construction? The example given by the limestone obelisk at Brighton suggests no.
As yet another “stone conference” book, this volume differentiates itself from others only by its practically flawless production. Its multidisciplinary approach, with no attempt to link the papers together, makes it an impractical book, since the reader must make the effort to bridge the interdisci-plinary gaps, thus belying the ambitious title of Understanding and Managing Stone Decay.
- A. Elena Charola
- Graduate School of Fine Arts, Historic Preservation
- 115 Meyerson Hall, University of Pennsylvania
- Philadelphia, Pa. 19104-6311
HAFTHOR YNGVASON, ed., CONSERVATION AND MAINTENANCE OF CONTEMPORARY PUBLIC ART. London: Archetype Publications in association with Cambridge (Mass.) Arts Council, 2002. 154 pages, softcover, $25. Available from Americans for the Arts, 1 East 53rd St., New York, N.Y.10022. ISBN 1-873132-78-6.
This publication consists of the postprints of an international conference organized by the Cambridge Arts Council in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The conference, held in October 2001, aimed to fill a void in the field of contemporary public art management. Few successful models upon which conservation and maintenance programs for contemporary art can be fashioned have been published. Within the museum context, one can consult Modern Art: Who Cares? (Amsterdam: Instituut Collectie Nederland, 1999) and Mortality Immortality? The Legacy of 20th Century Art (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 1999). As with these prior publications, presentations collected in the Cambridge postprints consider the issue from a variety of perspectives: artistic, critical, philosophical, and practical.The contributors present both successful and unsuccessful experiences, and the five appendices provide useful documents to be consulted and borrowed from. While the intended users of this publication are those concerned with commissioning, making, and maintaining public artworks, those who will benefit the most are arts administrators trying to develop effective practices to meet the needs of their particular localities. Artists may also find the discussions and case studies relevant during their creative and contractual processes. Conservators who are involved with surveying and conserving contemporary public art will find some useful technical advice and in this dialogue may also gain insight into the complex role of the conservator.
The conference organizers could not have predicted the catastrophic events that took place in New York City and Washington, D.C., one month prior to the meeting in Cambridge. The tenor and significance of that time remain evident in several of the essays in the collection.
The editor of the postprints, Hafthor Yngvason, director of public art for the Cambridge Arts Council, collected and organized the conference proceedings into four thematic sections. Many perspectives are represented, including those of art critics, artists, arts administrators, conservators, technicians, philosophers, lawyers, and politicians. Most of the examples discussed are programs that grew out of Percent for Art initiatives begun in the 1970s and 1980s. Unfortunately, few of these ambitious programs made provision for future maintenance of artworks. The effects of years of neglect, vandalism, and deterioration have often been the need today for costly conservation efforts. Going forward, many arts agencies are now developing programs to more efficiently maintain and care for the art in their charge. Starting from the premise that contemporary art in the public realm poses preservation challenges that are often different from those encountered with outdoor monuments of earlier periods, the most successful approaches found in this compilation are interdisciplinary.
The first of the book's four sections, “Materials, Maintenance, Change, and Community,” is the most theoretical and philosophical. Several broad concepts are approached from a variety of perspectives. Art critic and administrator Patricia C. Phillips sets the tone with a discussion of the rhetorical use of materials. Phillips's case studies show how fragile, ephemeral, or diminishing materials transform in the environment over time and thereby poetically and esthetically refer to and comment on ecological, historical, and cosmological forces. The concept of “maintenance” is taken beyond its mundane, preservation-minded meaning by Mierle Laderman Ukeles, a conceptual artist whose work has included “maintenance” as an aesthetic component since the late 1960s. “Maintenance” in both senses, preservation and artistic, is taken up again in the paired essays of Judy M. Jacob, a conservator of stone monuments, and artist Wendy Jacob. These writers are linked by their concerns with the destructive, constructive, and metaphorical roles of nature in public art.Judy Jacob's lucid summary of types of biodeterioration will be instructive to nonconservators.The next two essays, by artist Judith F. Baca and conservator Glenn Wharton, respectively, present instances in which community involvement in conservation efforts and conservation decisions is of fundamental importance. Baca describes the history of “community-participatory” murals in Los Angeles that, since the 1970s, have been made and maintained jointly by artists and communities.Today Baca spearheads the initiative to secure contracts for the care and preservation of these artworks for the artists and communities. Baca also exhorts conservators not to disregard the accumulated expertise garnered over many years—seeing what works and what does not—of these artist/producers. Wharton's essay describes his dilemma in conserving a historic Hawaiian sculpture when the artist's intent and community interpretation were at odds. In this case, the community decided to vote to determine whether to restore the surface of the sculpture as intended by the 19th-century sculptor or to repaint it naturalistically, as had been the community's custom for decades. This section ends with a panel discussion about questions of temporality and permanence and during which some assumptions are questioned. Since the presentations are not necessarily in the same order as they were originally given at the conference, some comments in the panel discussion refer to issues not yet raised. These inconsistencies cause minor irritation in an otherwise carefully structured book.
The second section, “The Peculiarities of Public Art—Six Conservation Case Studies,” offers experiences of conservators, technicians, and administrators from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Most of the examples are compellingly and intelligently reasoned.Essays by Julie Boivin of Montreal on a work by Rose-Marie Goulet, by Patricia C. Fuller of Boston on Richard Fleischner's MIT courtyard, by Helen Lessick on an earthwork by Robert Morris in Washington State, by Laura S. Griffith and John Carr on a work by Martin Puryear in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, and by Alison Bracker of the United Kingdom discussing Alison Wilding's work all make the case for the artists'involvement not only in siting, fabrication, and maintenance of their work, but also in questions of future change in the setting and in the work itself. When the unforeseen arises and repair or refabrication of a work is necessary, the collaborative process among artist, agency, conservator, and public proves essential. A troubling exception to the standards of collaboration and thoughtful consideration presented by the above contributors is the account of the disas-sembling and refitting of Requiem for the Twentieth Century, a 1996 work by Nam Jun Paik, in the collection of the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, Massachusetts. Museum preparator Bradford Gonyer uses terms like “it was decided” instead of outlining the thought processes behind the decision to alter the physical components of this work. In this case, the motivation for alteration seems less preservation and more DeCordova's desire to make an inherently delicate sculpture exhibitable in an inhospitable, outdoor setting.The artist's intent for this piece is not discussed except, by inference, when it is referred to as a “maquette” for a larger work (now in a South Korean collection) that Paik exhibited in 1997 in Munster, Germany. Paik's input in the treatment of Requiem is not mentioned except in relation to his approval of updating video components, a relatively standard approach in museum practice.
The book's third section, “The Owner's Challenge,” is one of the most useful in its detail and scope.The reader will find descriptions of public arts programs from different parts of the United States serving different constituencies and functioning under varied governances and budgets. Models for inventorying widespread collections, assessing conditions, and funding of maintenance and conservation programs are presented. Hafthor Yngvason of the Cambridge Arts Council, the book's editor, writes from the administrator's perspective. Donna Williams offers her on-site experiences as a contract conservator for the Los Angeles County Metro Art Program, while Ralph Wanlass describes his duties as Metro Art Program conservation technician. Chris Manke describes the Wisconsin Percent for Art Conservation Initiative, and Rae Atira-Soncea outlines Wisconsin's versatile collection management database. Michele Cohen, director of Public Arts in Public Schools of the New York City Board of Education, outlines her program, with which this writer has had personal experience as a contract conservator. Gregory W. Frux, a conservation project manager, offers the concept of “requirements contracts” to fund preventive treatments as well as emergency interventions. One topic that might have been given more attention in this publication is that of deaccessioning public artworks. A rare mention of this difficult subject is found in Carol Snow's essay where, from her perspective as project manager of conservation and maintenance for the Cambridge Arts Council, she presents some guidelines that might be used when considering such an action. Even at the outset of a commission, rather than inhibit an artist's creative freedom by restricting the types of materials used, Snow suggests that a limited life expectancy be discussed beforehand so a “dignified end” may be implemented.
The book's fourth section,“Issues in Contemporary Public Art Conservation,” provides further instructive experiences. It is here that Los Angeles conservators Leslie Rainer, Chris Stavroudis, Donna Williams, and Aneta Zebala outline the daunting task they undertook of locating, categorizing, and assessing city-owned wall murals and present some of the methods they found to be useful. Their testing of antigraffiti coatings is particularly noteworthy. They also underscore the necessity of seeking out the artists of these works, a theme mentioned by Baca in the first section of this book. Conservator Rika Smith McNally presents a thought-provoking debate concerning the purpose of conservation review of an artist's methods and materials prior to the fabrication of a commissioned public artwork. Tin Ly, Broward County, Florida, public art administrator, picks up where Snow left off in the previous section and acknowledges the “life span” of a public artwork, while Michele Cohen, of New York City's Public Art in Public Schools, requires artists to warrant the quality and condition of their “permanent” work of art. Artist Ritsuko Taho simply asks for “a balance between good maintenance and free creation” (p.118). It is left to the reader to weigh the arguments of these diverse viewpoints.
Funding, and the lack thereof, is also taken up in this last section of the book by Jack Becker, founder of Public Art Review, a journal that conducted a survey on funding strategies used by arts programs around the United States. Susan Nichols, director of Save Outdoor Sculpture! (SOS!), focuses on private fund-raising strategies. Attorney Andrew D. Epstein provides the final contribution to this section. He outlines the protections of the Visual Artists Rights Act of the Copyright Act of the U.S. and provides three sample contract provisions that specify rights and obligations of arts agencies and artists.At the end of his essay, Epstein states, “In all events, the agreement should obligate the public art authority to treat the artist and his or her work with respect” (p. 129), an obligation that all those involved in the care of contemporary public art, or any art, for that matter, should take to heart.
The five appendices at the end of the book provide a variety of helpful resources. First, there are two lists of materials and how they have fared in the difficult outdoor environments of the Los Angeles transit system and Broward County, Florida. The Wisconsin Arts Board provides three helpful contributions: the Conservation Initiative Proposal, the Documentation and Conservation Record form, and the Art Subject Thesaurus used in its database. The final appendix contains guidelines provided to the custodial staff of New York City schools by Public Art in Public Schools. Although this reviewer was a contributor to the paragraph on painted murals, nevertheless it remains appropriate to point out the overall educational value of these guidelines.
Hafthor Yngvason and the Cambridge Arts Council have done a service for those dealing with issues of preservation of contemporary art. By publishing this collection of essays and broadening the scope of the discussion to artworks in the public realm, they have enlarged and made accessible the current body of knowledge and have provided successful models and valuable resources.
- Harriet Irgang
- Rustin Levenson Art Conservation Associates, Ltd.
- 544 West 27th St.
- New York, N.Y. 10001
ELIZABETH PYE, CARING FOR THE PAST: ISSUES IN CONSERVATION FOR ARCHAEOLOGY AND MUSEUMS. London: James & James, 2001. 232 pages, softcover, $40. Available from James & James (Science Publishers) Ltd., 8-12 Camden High St., London NW1 0JH, UK; +44 20 7387 8558; Fax: + 44 20 7387 8998; www.jxj.com. ISBN 1-902916-10-7.
This book was written for a general audience as well as conservators and other museum professionals. Though not easy reading, it is largely free of jargon and should be of considerable interest to conservators in all specialties, not only archaeological conservation.The most serious flaw in the book, in fact, is the disastrously misleading title. Many, though not all, of the examples cited relate to archaeology and archaeological conservation, and there are sections throughout the book that focus on these areas.The book as a whole, however, deals with issues fundamental to the practice of conservation and relevant to all conservators. It would be a shame if conservators in art-related fields assumed on the basis of the title that there was nothing of interest to them.
Chapter 1, “Archaeology, Museums and the Heritage Industry: A Context for Conservation,” provides an introduction to recent changes in both archaeology and museums and discusses the challenge of new audiences and new points of view.The chapter touches on the illicit trade in antiquities and the problems of excavated objects, and it is a good introduction to these subjects for people with a back-ground in art rather than archaeology.
Chapter 2, “Conservation Examined,” discusses why conservation is needed, defines terms such as “conservation” and “preservation,” and presents the ethical and theoretical basis for conservation. It is also a basic introduction to the subject. Some of the photographs, such as figures 3 and 4, do not adequately illustrate the points being made.
Chapter 3, “The History of Conservation,” provides a general review of conservation, including the development of materials science. One section is specifically on archaeology. The examples given are not limited to archaeological objects.
Chapter 4,“The Meaning of Objects,” presents the concepts of “authenticity,” “integrity,” “significance,” “artist's intent,” and “context.' It also discusses the concept of conservation as causing change or even damage at the same time as it adds to the survival of the object. The problems of dealing with human remains and looting are also covered. This discussion is not limited to archaeology; it is a good introduction to conservation for students and others, although it is somewhat repetitious.The illustrations are much better than in other chapters; both figures 7 and 8 (a Roman mummy portrait and a Greek lexicon) are very relevant to the issues under discussion. Jargon is something of a problem in this chapter. The terms “conceptual integrity”and “conceptual significance”do not seem to be an improvement on just plain “integrity” and “significance,” nor is it clear why the author sometimes uses the two terms interchangeably. “Conceptual significance” seems to be nothing more than a way of saying “cultural significance,”and in a previous section Pye clearly associates “integrity” with “authenticity.”
Chapter 5, “Changes in Materials and Objects,” covers the processing of raw material, the construction of artifacts, and the processes of deterioration. The roles of water, light, temperature, and pollutants (another good photograph here) in deterioration are discussed. The concept of “inherent vice” and the problems of dealing with previous treatments are also presented. Although one section deals with burial environments, almost everything else in the chapter is of general interest. The factual material has been covered elsewhere, but the discussion of differing attitudes to change, deterioration, and alteration in the appearance of objects is of value.
Chapter 6, “Issues in Practice: Assessment and Decision,” discusses conservation planning and collections management, examination, and documentation. It includes a review of various techniques for examination, which is relevant to all types of objects, though some examples relate to archaeology. In my opinion, this chapter is too long for a general introduction to its topic, and too short as a reference for a professional conservator. The discussion of the examination of objects, however, goes beyond the usual description of techniques into philosophical— and financial—issues, an addition that is both relevant and useful.
Chapter 7, “Issues in Practice: Conservation Procedures,” presents different approaches to conservation, the overlapping of procedures that are often discussed as distinct entities, and the paradox of treatment's potentially destroying information. The options of doing nothing, prevention vs. remediation, and taking a cautious approach to the removal of material are also discussed. Complex decision making, processes of consolidation and repair, and loss compensation are all touched upon, while different approaches to restoration (good photographs of the Sutton Hoo helmet, medieval boots, and 17th-century tiles, which would stimulate discussion of issues in loss compensation) and the use of replicas are discussed.There are a great many archaeological examples, but the subjects are all of general interest and should be particularly useful to students.
Chapter 8, “Working Relations,” explores the relationship between conservators and others who share responsibility for the care of objects.The role of conservators as advocates for objects is discussed, as well as recent changes in the management of sites and museums.The problems that arise from the view of conservation as a “service” (therefore academically inferior) and the fact that it involves manual labor (which is seen as socially inferior) are also touched upon.These problems include the issues of professional identity and a public voice, the pressure to be “scientific,” and the conservators' relationship with conservation science. Only small parts of this chapter refer specifically to archaeology.All of it is of major importance to conservators and worth discussion with students who will soon encounter these problems.
Chapter 9,“The Development of Conservation: Professionalism, Training, Research,” discusses the role of apprenticeships, craft training, and practical skills in conservation work and the need to balance science and the humanities.This chapter defines what conservators do.As the author is British, it inevitably has a UK bias in terms of education, conservation training, and the definition of “conservation” as a profession. However, recent discussions in the United States relating to certification have touched on many of these issues.
Chapter 10,“Communicating Conservation,”presents important issues such as the need for public support and possible means of attracting it as well as the problems of public controversy (with a lot of nonar-chaeological examples). It also discusses cultural tourism and what we may be able to learn from environmental conservation.Though some of the specifics may be relevant only for the United Kingdom, the issue is worldwide and has received a lot of recent attention in the United States.
The book is not easy reading.The style is heavy and the material complex and densely packed. The organization of the text is sometimes confusing and repetitive.Topics that are not adequately discussed on their initial appearance sometimes show up later in the book with a much fuller presentation. Some of the illustrations could have been more carefully chosen; others are excellent. More photographs would have been valuable, especially for nonconservators. Some of the topics (the examination of objects, for example, and agents of deterioration) have been adequately covered elsewhere, though Pye often introduces philosophical and ethical issues that are not normally part of a descriptive presentation. The value of the book lies in the fact that it brings together an amazing number of subjects worthy of thought and discussion, including the philosophical and ethical underpinnings of conservation, the idea of conservation as a profession, the training of conservators, new developments in museums that affect conservators as well as other museum professionals, and communicating what we do to the public.
In a book of this kind, it is easy to find things one does not agree with. The suggestion (p. 19) that ethnographic and historical collections can also be considered “archaeology” is absurd. It would make more sense to call all of these fields “history.” I believe that the author is trying, unsuccessfully and unnecessarily, to deal with the conflict between the title of the book and its contents.A different title would have solved the problem. There are a number of these small issues, but nothing that seriously diminishes the value of the book as a whole. It is not necessary to agree with everything the author says to use the text as the basis for serious thought and discussion.
Conservators who teach will find enough material for a year (or more) of student seminars on both philosophical and practical issues. Chapters 7 and 8 are particularly good resources for discussions of fundamental aspects of conservation. I encourage conservators, conservation students, curators, and others interested in archaeology or museums to obtain a copy and start reading. Readers are advised not to try to finish too much of it at one sitting.
- Virginia Greene
- University of Pennsylvania Museum
- 33rd and Spruce Sts.
- Philadelphia, Pa. 19104