WAACNewsletter
Volume 4, Number 1, Feb. 1982, pp.9-10

Reporting from Canada

by Barbara Keyser

Eastern Canada

In September, 1981, Ottawa hosted the ICOM Conservation Committee's Triennial Meeting. The dynamism and usefulness of each Working Group varied considerably. In my own area--Paintings Conservation--I found the meetings of the Working Groups on Protective Coatings and Structural Restoration of Paintings to be the most valuable. In the former, Eddy deWitte's paper on Formulation of a Synthetic Picture Varnish of high refractive index (30/70 copolymer of phenylacrylate and methyl methacrylate), and Raymond Lafontane's paper on stabilizers to improve the aging properties of dammar and ketone resin N, to be especially useful. Dr. Robert Feller, who has done such an excellent job of coordinating this group, is stepping down and Eddy deWitte is the new coordinator His address is: Eddy deWitte, Koninklijk Institute voor het Kunstpatrimonium, Jobelpark 1, 1040 Brussels, Belgium.

The Structural Restoration Working Group, chaired by Westby Percival-Prescott, in my perception has become somewhat polarized between those who wish to avoid lining paintings whenever possible (considering the entire painting to be an artifact which should remain as unaltered as possible) and those who advocate fairly rigid supports for paintings. This led to much stimulating discussion. This very dynamic working group has an exciting program of research for the next three-year period, including "Mechanical Properties of Artists' Materials" (Marion Mechlenburg); "Canvas Paintings and Problems of Acidity" (Joyce Hill Stoner); "Aging of Canvas and Methods by which Aging May Be Retarded" (Gettedley, S. Hackney, and J. Sedden); "Methods of Marouflage of High Impasto Paintings" (Ian Hodkinson); "Changes in Paint Structure and Surface Topography Caused by Lining and Restoration Treatments" (W.W. Percival-Prescott); "Supporting Paintings on Canvas Without Lining" (D. Bomford); "Structural Problems of Acrylic Paintings" (B. Keyser).

There was discussion of engaging Russian delegates to present papers on sturgeon-glue lining. Anyone interested in contributing to this group should contact Mr. Percival-Prescott at the National Maritime Museum, London SE 10 9NF, England. There was also discussion of forming a new Working Group on Modern and Contemporary Paintings.

If I could sum up my impressions of the ICOM Conference in 25 words or less, it would be to say that even though the sessions were very uneven in quality, there is much to be said for this world-wide forum to discuss conservation topics--at ICOM a cross- section of world-wide conservation practices is presented which is invaluable in evaluating the practices (and assumptions behind them) of one's own region or country.

Preceeding the main ICOM Conference was a mini-conference of the ICOM Working Group on Waterlogged Wood. By all reports, this meeting was extremely successful. Papers are to be published; a contact person for obtaining them is Vicky Jenssen at the Conservation Division, Parks Canada, 1570 Liverpool Court, Ottawa, Ontario KLA OH4. The next ICOM Triennial Meeting will be held in Copenhagen in 1984. Also in Ontario, there are reports that the Conservation staff of the Royal Ontario Museum has moved into new quarters. The Ottawa Regional Group meets on the second Thursday of every month at 8:00 pm at the National Gallery. The 81-82 program includes talks on the treatment of a large mural (oil on canvas) and its mounting on curved aluminum honeycomb supports; outdoor sculpture; mold problems at an archeological site; private vs. institutional conservation; and mechanical properties of paintings. The next conference of the IIC-CG will be held in Quebec, Quebec from June 20-24, 1982. Program chairman is Rodrique Bedand, Conservator, Musee des Beaux-arts de Montreal, 3400 Ave. du Musee, Montreal, Quebec H 3G 1K3.

Western Canada

My lengthy report on activity in eastern Canada reflects the fact that I was there (at the National Gallery) until October. Since October I have been setting up a private lab in Vancouver. I have had my hands full because there are very few paintings conservators in B.C. and none in any of the major art museums or other major public institutions. However, there are paper, objects and textile conservators in such institutions as the B C. Provincial Museum, B.C. Provincial Archives (both in Victoria), and the Vancouver Museum and University of B.C Anthropology Museum (both in Vancouver) The Vancouver Art Gallery is preparing to move into very handsome quarters (a renovated Courthouse in Robson Square) in 1983, but whether a conservator will be hired is not known. The National Museums Corporation in Ottawa has established a program to subsidize Museum Conservation Laboratories in all regions of Canada, which is an important development in a country which has 90% of its conservators in Ontario. Can you imagine what it would be like in the U.S. if 90% of all the conservators worked at either the Metropolitan Museum or the Smithsonian?

The Pacific Regional Group of Conservators met in October at the B.C. Provincial Museum; there were three talks: Barry Byers (paper conservator, B.C. Provincial Archives) "Fumigating with Thymol"; Jerry Davidson (Curator, B.C. Provincial Archives) "Archival Accessioning"; and B. Keyser (Independent Paintings Conservator) "Lining of Paintings: Precaution or Intervention?" The next meeting of the PRG will be held on April 16, 1982 at the Vancouver City Archives. We are looking forward to hearing Mary Meikle describe her visits to conservation laboratories in Australia and New Zealand.

Miriam Clavir and Glen Allism of the University of B.C. are organizing a seminar on Health and Safety in Art, to be held March 5 and 6, 1982. This promises to be a lively meeting with participation of artists, industrial occupational safety experts, and medical experts, including invited speakers such as Michael McCann, author of "Artist Beware." There is also a regional group in Alberta called Conservators in Alberta (CIA). This group last met during October in conjunction with the Alberta Museums Association (AMA). Several conservation workshops for small museums were held, including conservation of large machinery and storage of archival and photography collections. Lisa Mibach, Conservator at the Alberta Provincial Museum in Edmonton has been working on examination and cleaning of Indian trade silver, examination of petroglyphs in Stone Provincial Park, and instigating a very interesting research project in traditional preservation treatments which the native peoples of North America have applied to their own artifacts and which modern conservators of these artifacts should be aware of and respect. Lisa presented a paper on this subject at the ICOM Conference.

Contact person for Conservators in Alberta is Gail Sundstrom, Glenbow Alberta Institute, Glenbow Centre, 9th Ave. and 1st Street SE, Calgary, Alberta T2G OP3. Gail is also contact person in Western North America for the Textile Conservation Newsletter which is published by and for textile conservators to provide information on sources of supply and exchange of information.

In Winnipeg, The Prairie Regional Office of Parks Canada is now fully staffed with a Chief, three Conservators, four Senior Conservation Technicians, two Conservation Technicians and a Clerk. The PRO lab is responsible for conservation of archaeological and interpretive material for Western and Northern Historic Sites.

Also, Paper and Book Conservator Charles Brandt is in the final stages of equipping a new laboratory at the Provincial Archives of Manitoba.

From the Yukon, there is news that the territorial government has developed a Heritage Branch, including historic sites, museums and archives programs. Also, Valerie Thorpe has joined the staff of Parks Canada's Dawson City Branch as Site Conservator.

This informative report has been contributed by our new Canadian Regional Reporter, Barbara Keyser, 3209 Cambie St., Vancouver, B.C. V5Z 2W3.

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