Using Fosshape for Mountmaking

Fosshape is revolutionary light weight material for mountmakingFosshape, the new specially engineered polyester material looks and feels like felt in it’s raw state, shrinks about 25% and stiffens from applied heat. Because of it’s infinite flexibility, it is ideal for creating low-cost lightweight forms for costume or hat display. Fosshape is durable for indoor or outdoor use and even breathable. It saves valuable time and labor during the construction process, since no messy additives or drying/setup time are required. All synthetic, it is not affected by humid conditions or water, and is mold and mildew resistant. University Products offers Fosshape in 2 different weights/thicknesses. Please see How-To Tips with instructions on using Fosshape and more technical information. Also, watch our new video on creating a dress form out of Fosshape using both a steamer and a heat gun:

Preserving the Old Glory

Archival Quality Flag Box from University ProductsMemorial Day was established for remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces and naturally, the American Flag takes center stage in this somber celebration. There are very particular rules and procedures, called collectively The Flag Code for everything from carrying and hanging to folding and disposal of Old Glory (which are actually part of U.S. legal code). Although “flag etiquette” is not particularly enforced, taking good care of your cherished symbol will exponentially increase it’s life span, whether it’s brand new or an old family heirloom!

Conservation – As with any textile, make sure to conduct all necessary cleaning and repair before attempting to store or display the flag. Checking for possible insect infestation/ damage is always a good idea with textiles, especially if previous storage conditions were not ideal. Once it is deemed clean of unwanted visitors, conservators start by carefully removing dust, dirt and other environmental debris, treating stains with appropriate cleaning products and, if required, mending rips and/or signs of wear and tear. Old Flag conservation, repair and mounting at the Museum Textile ServicesWe always recommend contacting a professional conservator if you are dealing with an especially fragile item of high monetary or sentimental value. Our friends at Museum Textile Services specialize in treating all sorts of fabric treasures, including flags. Click on the image to read just one of their flag-restoration stories.

Cleaning – Minimize washing or cleaning of older flags. You should not wash or dry clean them except with the advice of a professional conservator. However, vacuuming gently (on low suction) using a brush attachment covered by a clean piece of cheesecloth is usually a safe and effective cleaning method. New flags, depending on the type of material, can usually be washed by hand using a mild soap.clear view flag storage box

Special Storage – triangular-shaped archival quality boxes are designed specifically for storing properly folded flags. Acid-Free Tissue or Polyester Batting may be used for stuffing and support, if needed. University Products offers 2 kinds of ready-to-assemble flag boxes: the Archival Quality Flag Box in Blue/Gray Corrugated Board and the Clear-View Flag Box in 20pt. inert Polyester.

Day at the Museum

International Museum DayThe annual International Museum Day, established by The International Council of Museums (ICOM) will take place on or around May 18 and will involve more than 30,000 museums in over 100 countries around the world. The theme of this year’s celebration is: Museums (Memory + Creativity) = Social Change and the offerings for museum-goers are designed to entice all senses:

TASTE – At the Archaeological Museum, Arlon, Belgium,
guided tour with a spicy taste are offered, in relation to Gallo-Roman food, followed by a tasting session of food and drinks famous in the Antiquity.

TOUCH – In Lima, Perú, at the Museo de sitio Arturo Jiménez Borja-Puruchuco,
conferences and artistic presentations will take place. Conferences are essentially intended for the craftsmen in general on the ancestral techniques of production of ceramic, textiles and work of metals, in addition to the display of drawings used to explain the working techniques.Le Jardin des Sciences

SMELL – in Strasbourg, France, at Université de Strasbourg’s Jardin des Sciences festivities will include tours of the botanical garden, the Herbarium, and the university gardens, and the planetarium.

SIGHT – In Nigeria‘s National Museum Lagos objects from the reserve will be displayed in the museum courtyard. Lecture on IMD theme will be given on May 21 by a museum professional, followed by a cultural dance by a professional dance troop and a theatrical performance on IMD theme by museum staff.

Money Museum of the Bank of LithuaniaA lot of the Museum Day activities will be FREE of charge. For example, at the Money Museum of the Bank of Lithuania, in Vilnius, Lithuania, which offers a memorable interactive journey through the world of money, there will be no entrance fee for a day!

A lot of special exhibitions will be INTERACTIVE – at the Stewart Museum, in Montreal, Canada, animated model of Montreal will be used, with six touch screens representing different areas of the city around 1750, to discover its little-known history and explore the way of life, streets, ancient buildings, and historical figures that shaped the city.

At the Hong Kong Museum of Art it will be very HANDS ON – under the guidance of the conservators, workshop participants will experience the fun and challenges of conservation work through the making of plaster models and subsequent application of gold gilding. In addition, participants can talk to conservators to have a better understanding of conservation work.

It will be DARK in Vagos, Portugal‘s Museu do Brincar (Toy Museum) at the night-time tours at the light of the lantern and QUIET in National Art Museum of Kiev, Ukraine,
at the meeting of people who talk using images instead of words.

It could be FUN, like in Guatemala with exhibitions on the theme of “Parties and Celebration of Guatemala’s Old Days” or SERIOUS, like in Cairo, Egypt Children Museum, where a seminar on Museum Education Development will be organized to train museum professionals and curators on the principles and techniques of museum education.

But no matter where you are… GO TO A MUSEUM on or around May 18th. You will be glad you did!

Night at the Library

It is no wonder that self-proclaimed “international web-action” Biblionight (site in Russian only) was conceived and takes place in the territory of Russia and some Former Soviet Republics. In the land where Libraries are revered almost as (or sometimes even more) than churches, an event where people get a look at the inner-workings of the temples of knowledge sounds very natural and exciting. During the day, libraries and archives are a somber, academic place, “policed” by super strict librarian ladies, one night a year, the motto becomes “Be Loud, you’re in the Library!”.
On the night from April 19 to April 20th, hundreds, if not thousands of institutions throughout the region (from tiny countryside libraries to giant state archives) opened their doors for the enthusiastic public and tried to make it as fun as possible. The main focus of the event is promoting literature and reading, while using various formats to attract as many people as possible and getting them interested in books and libraries.

One of the major organizations that took part in this year’s event (which begun in 2011 but has already gained wide popularity) is the famous Russian State Library in Moscow, known affectionately as “Leninka” (quite naturally, it used to be named after Lenin). The State Library is home to millions of artifacts (books, journals, periodicals) from state and over 200 private collections. It’s vast collections are accessible to the general public (over 18 years of age) during normal business hours, although it might take about 2 hours to receive a requested volume from the storage area. The old building still employs some archaic contraptions for book transportation as well as a pneumatic inter-office messaging system. From a conservation point of view, the system doesn’t seem very sound (even the older, fragile looking books don’t seem to have protective individual enclosures) but there’s a massive dust-removing machine, supposedly the only one of it’s kind in Russia.

As part of Biblionight, Leninka opened its’ back doors to curious book lovers, who got to experience the library from the inside. Late at night, small groups were given the guided tours of the common areas (even the ones that are currently under construction), as well as various book repositories, archival storage room and shelves filled with rare collections. Participants got to leaf through some aging tomes with gorgeous original illustrations, and look at thematic collections of periodicals and other printed materials. The night was truly magical!   All images courtesy of photographer Nina Takovaya

Latest Presidential Library Praised for Conservation Inside and Out

George W. Bush Presidential Center Dallas, TXAlthough President George W. Bush is not famous for his ecological innovations or environmental initiatives, the New Presidential Center carrying his name is to be commended on achieving Platinum certification in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) program.
Dedicated on April 25 and opening to the public today, on May 1, 2013, the building is located in Dallas, Texas features green roofing systems to reduce heating and cooling demands, solar panels for producing electricity and hot water, with only local building materials sourced, and a rainwater recycling system. Another clever feature is literally hidden in it’s architectural design – a large portion of the building is wedged into a sloping site, which effectively keeps out of sight most of the necessarily windowless space required for archival storage.

The Center houses, among other things, the 13th Presidential Library and Museum administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. As other Presidential Libraries formally started by FDR, it preserves various artifacts related to President Bush’s years in office, as well as a multitude of Presidential Gifts, received by him and the first lady. Some of the gifts can be viewed in all their 360 degrees glory in this online gallery.

Conservator Spotlight – Works on Paper

Works on Paper Conservation Studio

Works on paper globe conservation projectWorks on Paper was established when it’s founder, Carolyn Frisa, relocated to Vermont from Boston in 2008.  She works with cultural institutions, art galleries, framers, dealers in fine art and antiques, private individuals, corporate clients, and insurance companies assessing, restoring and preserving various paper-based artifacts.

A wide range of artistic and historic works on paper fill the studio’s portfolio of conserved artifacts. Some of the artifacts Carolyn worked on are not your conventional flat paper documents or artwork. We were most impressed with the transformation of a badly damaged Smith’s Terrestrial Globe circa 1877, which was restored to it’s original glory.
Carolyn was kind enough to answer some questions for us:

How long have you been in preservation business?
I am entering my thirteenth year as a practicing paper conservator since receiving a master’s degree in paper conservation in 2000. I started my private practice, Works on Paper, in 2008, and have been a Professional Associate of the American Institute of Conservation (AIC) since 2007.

What is your professional background. Have you always been a conservator?
I had the rare and very fortunate experience of being introduced to conservation while still in middle school. I was immediately drawn to the work of conservators, and concentrated in fine art while in high school. I received an undergraduate degree in the history of art from Bryn Mawr College and entered a graduate program in paper conservation at Camberwell College in London the same year. After receiving my master’s degree, I worked as a paper conservator at Tate Britain before returning to the States. After moving to Boston, I began working at the Northeast Document Conservation Center as a Kress Fellow Paper Conservator and stayed with them for the next six years. I relocated to southern Vermont in 2008 and started my own private practice paper conservation studio, Works on Paper, attaining one of my primary goals set while in graduate school.

What is your conservation specialty?
As a paper conservator, I specialize in the treatment of many types of paper-based objects. These include works of art on paper such as watercolors, prints, pastels and posters, as well as archival materials such as maps, letters, documents, architectural drawings and diplomas. One of my favorite specialties is the conservation of historic wallpaper and I typically work on several large-scale wallpaper projects each year. I also work on three-dimensional objects such as globes, fans, and hat and band boxes. This variety of types of objects is one of the primary aspects that initially drew me to paper conservation as a specialty while applying to graduate programs. It definitely keeps thing interesting in my studio and I always look forward to working on the different projects I typically have scheduled for each week.

Can you name one or two of the most memorable artifacts you’ve worked on?
One of the favorite projects I worked on while at NEDCC was the conservation of the Meriwether Lewis Collection, a large collection of letters and documents written to or from Meriwether Lewis as well as other members of the Corps of Discovery while on the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Playing a crucial roll in the preservation of such an important part of our country’s history was one of the most professionally satisfying achievements of my career thus far.
I am currently working on a much smaller scale project for the Danby-Mount Tabor Historical Society (VT) that involves the conservation treatment of a ledger kept by a local blacksmith from 1850 – 1890. This ledger is especially important to the town’s history because it was one of the very few items that were salvaged after the museum’s building was washed into the river and destroyed as a result of Tropical Storm Irene. This ledger, along with several smaller ones and an artifact known as the “witch’s hat”, were retrieved downstream in the weeks following the storm.

Conservation treatment of blacksmith's ledger
Conservation treatment of blacksmith's ledger. Images courtesy of Carolyn Frisa. Click to see in full size in our Gallery.

What would be the hardest project?
The most challenging project I have worked on in my career so far was the conservation of the “Wall of Prayer”, the temporary construction fence outside of Bellevue Hospital covered with missing persons posters and letters of support following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Not only was this the most emotionally charged project I have ever worked on, it also presented a whole host of new conservation treatment challenges.

Bamboo Handle Hake BrushWhat are your favorite archival tools?
My favorite archival tools include various sized metal and Teflon spatulas, tweezers, and Japanese brushes such as the Hake Brush and Kuroge-Tsukemawashi Joining Brush. Other indispensable materials, of course, include Wheat Starch paste and a variety of Japanese Kozo Papers.
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Location
: Bellows Falls, VT
Online
: worksonpaperconservation.com Blog: Pulp Fixin’
Specialty
: Conserving a wide range of artistic and historic works on paper

Fragile Balance

Three standard box sizes and some examples of glass negatives with their four-flap enclosures open.

We came across an article in AuthentiCity, The City of Vancouver Archives Blog, describing a recent project completed by archive’s volunteers. The project consisted of cataloging and creating archivally safe housing for a large (over 8000!) collection of glass negative in various sizes. Not an easy task!

First, each negative was placed in a convenient 4-flap acid-free paper envelope, which was marked on the spine for easy browsing. Next step was re-housing the negatives in archival boxes which came in standard sizes, but some needed to be modified (by adding foam to the bottom and/or by adding corrugated board dividers) to accommodate size variations. The light-weight sturdy corrugated dividers within the box assure snug fit and immobility of the negatives which now uniformly stand on their side and also add air circulation around small groupings of negatives. Each box was also labeled on the front, so it can be easily spotted and identified while standing on the shelf among others.

Glass negatives stored neatly in their special modified box. Photo by Cindy McLellan.
Glass negatives stored neatly in their special modified box. Photo by Cindy McLellan.

This seemingly complex but necessary storage process provides maximum protection from the elements:
• paper envelopes protect from dust and fingerprints during handling
• board and foam provide cushioning and air circulation
• archival grade specialty boxes shield from dirt, dust, light and moisture while holding negatives upright and supported on all sides

Cudos to Vancouver Archives and their dedicated volunteers for tackling such large but important project and preserving fragile treasures, such as these Glass Negatives so they would continue providing priceless historical information to future generations!

Hidden Treasures

Brooklyn College Time CapsuleIn 1955, “Before a sun-soaked crowd of 1,500 viewers,” the Brooklyn College president Dr. Harry Gideonse, who served from 1939 to 1966, and Brooklyn Borough President John Cashmore placed a watertight copper box into the cornerstone of what was to become the Walt Whitman Hall.

More than 50 years later, a construction crew, demolishing the Hall to make way for the new Center for Performing Arts, discovered the hidden treasure and brought it to light. Among other things, the box contained some Brooklyn College memorabilia, President Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration commemorative medal and some personal items of then college president Dr. Gideonse. All items were sent to the college library’s archive to be preserved and placed in protective enclosures before becoming available for public viewing. All the items appear to be in great shape and represent a great piece of the college’s history.

Time CapsuleThis Top 10 Incredible Time Capsules list on Listverse.com recounts some of the most grandiose and ambitious projects of this sort. But you don’t have to be part of a large Japanese corporation or Space Program to create a very special Time Capsule for your descendants. Although it is not strictly an “archival” preservation method, no truly valuable family heirlooms should be put in the capsule. Make sure both the capsule and your items are absolutely dry. Avoid staples, paper clips and rubber bands and separate the items as much as possible, reducing the risk of interaction of various materials. That said, some appropriate ephemera, photos, mementos and personal items will most certainly create a great educational and emotional “present” for future generations!

Creating a Custom Product for Paintings Restoration

Mini Suction TableDon’t you just love going “behind the scenes”, sneaking a peek at the artists’ sketches and finding out about the designer’s source of inspiration?
We sure do, and here’s your chance to learn about the story behind the product, namely – our New Painting Suction Table:

Mini Suction Table SketchIn March 2013, the Washington Conservation Guild held their annual “Three Ring Circus”, which included three concurrent sessions that preceded a reception and exhibitors’ showcase. University Products Vice President and General Manager, John Dunphy attended the WCG and spoke with conservator Nancy Pollak about a specific product of interest to her.  As a conservator of paintings and painted textiles, Pollak was seeking a suction table that would allow treatment of paintings that are still mounted on stretcher bars. The device would be easy to slide between the canvas and the stretcher even in small corner areas.

Mini Suction Table in use behind the stretcherAlthough University Products did not offer the product at the time, John recognized that the creation of this new table was attainable.  Using the rough sketches provided by Ms. Pollak, he began to conceive a design that would be both practical and affordable. After engaging in a discussion with the company’s current suction table manufacturer, a painting suction table prototype was manufactured exclusively for Ms. Pollak.  After receiving and testing the prototype, Ms. Pollak stated: “I am so impressed with this, and with the way you are working with me to bring this idea to fruition. The current design has good suction and and the way the suction port comes from the bottom makes it easy to hold and maneuver into place without disturbing the canvas. The wedge can slip between the stretcher and canvas, and I was even able to use in on a flat-faced stretcher where there was very little space. It works really well in corners.”

The painting suction table is just one example of the many quality museum and preservation tools and products that Mini Suction Table in use on a stretched paintingUniversity Products continues to offer and develop for its customers. The scope and breadth of the products goes far beyond those materials and goods found in the industry. The people at University Products, like John, have the knowledge, vision, and experience to bring customer’s ideas and needs from an intangible concept to a useful product that can be used to complete work more efficiently and effectively.

Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month is celebrated during March in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, corresponding with International Women’s Day on March 8.

Throughout this month, many major archival institutions in the US (including the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, and Smithsonian Institution) join together in paying tribute to the generations of women and their invaluable contributions to American History, Science, Politics and many other aspects of life.

Our friends at Museum Textile Services featured a conservation project they just completed for The Wheaton College’s Permanent Collection that is directly related to one of women’s critical roles in American history. You can read this fascinating series of blog posts (parts 1, 2 and 3) describing preservation efforts on a large collection of artifacts from the American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS), the largest American women’s service organization in the United States during the World War II. MTS staff were entrusted by Wheaton College with a large collection of WWII uniforms and accessories, as well as tiniest clothing details such as spare buttons and badges. Each garment/accessory was assessed individually and prescribed various conservation/cleaning treatments administered to them depending on the material, condition and individual qualities of the item. In the end, all were surrounded by (and/or stuffed with) acid-free tissue and placed in archival textile boxes for safe storage.

Overall, it was a modest but precise treatment for these prized pieces of history, making them safe for study and display. We sincerely thank Museum Textile Services for employing our archival quality products throughout this important project.