Angels Project at the Ukrainian Museum-Archives

Once again the Costume Society of America is sponsoring an Angels Project on the day before its Annual Conference and this year the project will be held on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at the Ukrainian Museum-Archives in Cleveland, Ohio.  This small museum was founded in 1952, is located in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, and is dedicated to preserving and sharing the Ukrainian culture and Immigrant experience.  The museum’s collection includes literature, recordings, photography, and artifacts in addition to approximately 200 to 300 un-housed and un-catalogued textile objects.

The Ukrainian Museum-Archives staff are in need not only of archival supplies, but hands on direction from Angel volunteers who donate their time, skills, and expertise to museums in need.  In May, the Angel Product participants will be vacuuming, photographing, labeling, documenting, and re-housing the costume and textile collection at the museum.

At the request of the Angels Project Committee, University Products has agreed to provide archival materials.  As in previous years, University Products is proud to help in these types of projects.  The company will be donating textile storage boxes, acid-free tissue, label holders, and Pigma pens.

University Products Sponsors “Making Mannequins with Fosshape” Workshop

On November 17th and 18th the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted Fosshape Workshops sponsored by University Products, Inc. As part of the 2015 North American Textile Conservation Conference (NATCC) the workshop allowed textile conservators from throughout the world to learn about and work with both Fosshape 300 and 600, donated by University Products. The workshop was led by Shelly Uhlir from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. Her presentation showed how they had used Fosshape in numerous exhibits and allowed them to be able to easily, effectively, and accurately create mannequins for their museum. Once the presentation was completed, workshop participants spent the remaining time working with Fosshape. Three stations were set up to work with Fosshape to create torso, head, and hand mannequin pieces. The participants enjoyed the hands on time, allowing them to be both creative and learn how using Fosshape can be of use in their own museums and private practices. Participants were from countries including the U.S., U.K.. Sweden, Denmark, and Australia. All enjoyed learning about and working with Fosshape.
Making Mannequins with Fosshape

Preserving the Time Capsule Contents

Images recently surfaced of items from a “time capsule” that was buried beneath the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House in 1795.  The items were originally placed there by Samuel Adams (then governor of Massachusetts) and Paul Revere.  The box was opened in 1855, cataloged, and reassembled with new materials added from that time period.

Among the contents were 23 coins, a medal decorated with the face of George Washington, and several period newspapers, along with a plaque describing the laying of the original cornerstone.  You can read more about it in this Slate article.

Historical significance aside, what we liked seeing were all these treasured displayed in various archival storage products.  The coins were laid out on Corrosion Intercept®, which protects metal artifacts by reacting with and neutralizing corrosive gasses and place inside Artifact Specimen Trays.  There were also a number of Artifact Storage Trays with Clear View Lids that allow you to view the contents while protecting them from dirt and dust.  Acid-free Folders and Tissue also were visible in the images.

It’s fitting then that in March, University Products will exhibit and be a sponsor at a joint meeting between the New England Archivist (NEA) and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) in Boston!  Members of both NEA and MARAC have been working together diligently over the past year to bring you a fantastic three-day program that is diverse, interesting, and collaborative. There are sessions, workshops, repository tours, a Day of Service community volunteer day, and more.  And of course, there is the opportunity to network with members of the archival profession from two regional organizations.

Preserving New Hampshire’s Past for the Future

One of America’s earliest and most successful operetta composers, George W. Stratton (1830-1901), was one of the few to compose and self-publish operettas entirely for children. He and his wife never had children, but instead brought joy to youth through their widely performed showpieces with chimerical plots and advanced choruses, solos, duets, and even recitative. Mrs. Stratton worked with her husband to write lyrics and draw cover artwork. In 1885, they sought a final resting place for their legacy, and gave to their native town of West Swanzey, New Hampshire, the “Stratton Free Library and Art Gallery.”

Stratton provided the library some 2,000 of the best books in the English language, over 200 pictures selected in Europe to be educational in the lines of art, history, or architecture, and music volumes by the finest classical composers to that date. His family trust maintained the library until 1914, when it was given to the town. Alas, much of the artwork was sold in the 1920s to raise funds for the library. At the moment, library has 5 of Lucy Stratton’s oil paintings, and as it happens, they have just heard from someone, whose parents bought one of the paintings by Lucy and he is going to return it to the library.

Upon visiting the Stratton Free Library, one would find only two rooms with minimal belongings. A marble bust of Stratton stands in the main hallway along with neat rows of brown leather-bound books arranged in glass cases. The once-filled gallery is now left with only two landscape paintings. An old trunk contains various operettas and sheet music with exquisite detail. Every booklet includes specific stage directions, costume descriptions, and previews of new operetta releases. One of Stratton’s most notable works, Fairy Grotto, written in 1872, has a plot reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream with a whimsical musical overtone.

Anne Meyer, a “generalist” conservator with a wealth of knowledge, works in the library taking care of the remaining artifacts of the library’s benefactor and his wife. She began as a curious child with an interest in antiques and personal history, and now focuses mostly on restoring textiles, costumes, and period pieces. Her work at the library includes removing over a century worth of dust, finger oils, improper storage damage, and mold with Groom-Sticks, Hydrophilic Sponges, and Wishab Dry Cleaning Sponges. She also spends a lot of time advising visitors on how to preserve their own historical treasures.

Along with the collection of operettas found in the library, many works have also been donated or purchased by the town or Stratton trust. The music that once brought joy to countless children and adults is now being restored in hopes of continuing Stratton’s legacy of great American children’s music.

For more information on the life and works of G.W. Stratton please call (603) 352-9391 or visit the Stratton Free Library, 9 Main St, Swanzey, NH

An Elephant in the Room or a Whale in the Painting

When people say “Elephant in the Room”, they usually mean something huge and obvious that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. But what do you say when there’s a Whale in the Painting and nobody has a clue that it’s there? This past June was a month of such discoveries in the art world, when unexpected objects were found on 2 very different paintings:

Beached Whale Painting
Image Credit: Fitzwilliam Museum

The first painting with a hidden agenda turned out to be an unassuming 17th century Dutch painting, depicting a serene beach scene. However, right in the middle of it, discretely painted over was… an enormous beached whale, which was covered up sometime in the 18th or 19th century. Whether the whale offended somebody’s sensibilities or simply didn’t fit one’s decor is a mystery. There’s no record of it being altered and the discovery was purely accidental, made by Shan Kuang, a conservation student at the University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum during cleaning and restoration effort.

Picasso The Blue Room Mystery
Image Credit: The Phillipps Collection

The second discovery was much more public, because it was hiding just under the surface of one of the Picasso’s first masterpieces – “The Blue Room” which has been part of The Phillips Collection for almost 90 years.  Young struggling painter, has been known to “recycle” his canvas. It has been suspected since 1950s that there might be something underneath the odd brushstrokes of the famous painting. But only during the last 5 years, with the help of recent advancements in imaging technology, the underlying image of a bearded man in a bow tie was finally reveled in relative clarity. Experts are still working trying to recreate the original colors Picasso used. Who is the man in the picture remains a mystery, for now… Let the detective work continue!

War and Art

Moscow’s Central Museum of Ancient Russian Culture and Art is named after Andrei Rublev, a great medieval painter of Orthodox icons and frescoes. Located in the buildings of Andronikov Monastery, where the master died sometime in late 1420s, museum is home to a vast collection of Russia’s most important religious art treasures. Peaceful and beautiful, the icons and paintings grace the walls of the monastery since the museum was opened after the WWII. in 1947. There’s also a large collection of hand-written and printed books.

When they packed a large exposition of XV-XVII century icons to travel to Kiev, Ukraine last year, the museum workers had no idea, how sudden and uneasy would be their return. But despite the tremulous events of the last few weeks, the entire collection was carefully packed and safely delivered back to Moscow, with great assistance from the workers of Ukraine’s National Sanctuary Complex “Sophia of Kiev” where the exhibit was supposed to be open through March. Once again, as art overcame war, there’s hope…

Museum on the Move

In some places they say moving is worse than (or at least equals) an earthquake. Now imagine moving a fragile and priceless Museum collection? Or, better yet, the entire museum! The challenges that museum professionals face when presented with a task of packing, transporting and re-installing precious artifacts can be daunting.
Each individual item needs to be assessed, based on it’s individual qualities and state. Precise measurements need to be taken. Custom temporary housing that can withstand the hazards of traveling (be it by air, or by car/truck) needs to be created. Special traveling arrangements, including such diverse details as security and climate control during the journey, have to be made.
Amongst several institutions that recently undertook such monumental tasks and lived to tell the tale, is the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, which lent one of 64 objects from 21 collections that were delivered and set up at Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, OR. UPenn even dispatched a specialist, Katy Blanchard, keeper of the Near East collection, to head the unloading and installation of a 5,000 year old sculpture on loan for the ongoing show “Breath of Heaven, Breath of Earth: Ancient Near Eastern Art From American Collections” which will be on display at Hallie Ford until the end of this year.

Now, the process of moving the entire collection of Alaska State Museum to a brand new Alaska State Libraries, Archives and Museums building in Juneau hasn’t even started, but the staff and volunteers are hard at work, packing it all up and getting everything ready. Even though the trip won’t be long and most of the items will be moved on carts via a tunnel that will be built between the old and the new buildings, the task is not an easy one. Apparently there’s no manual on how to move a museum collection, so they had to improvise a lot.

Ivory cribbage boards sit in custom storage mounts made by museum professional Jon Loring. Photo by Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau.

Individually designed custom mounts and boxes were devised for each fragile item in the collection. Literally, each drawer, display and a box  of items has a special plan. Every item is numbered and the numbers are linked with the museum’s database which helps to keep track of the entire collection. Although they are still in the beginning of this road, museum staff are confident that by this time in 2016 when the new building opens it’s door, all the precious artifacts will be safely moved and preserved for admiration by the many generations ahead.
ethafoam planksAmong the many useful tools that might help to achieve such a task are:
Ethafoam planks, rods and sheets – lightweight, versatile archival foam material which is ideal for creating mounts, temporary, as well as long term storage housing for oddly-shaped 3-dimensional artifacts. Ethafoam cutting and shaping tools are also available.
Artifact Bubble Wrap and/or Polyester Batting will provide much needed cushioning and protection on the move.
Drop-N-Tell and Tip-N-Tell indicators together with large warningA-Frame Painting Transport Cart labels will serve as a caution against rough handling during shipping.
• Perma/Cor E-Flute and B-Flute Corrugated Board is a prefect material for creating custom-sized (and shaped) protective enclosures and boxes.
Glass Shield and Adjustable Frame Corner Protectors will temporarily protect your framed art from damage during the move.
A-Frame Painting Transport Cart is perfect for moving large heavy items around and beyond the museum walls.

Conservation Dance

We decided to share with you this wonderful video, showing (and describing) conservation process that took place at the esteemed Victoria and Albert Museum‘s conservation labs a few years ago, during preparations for a large exposition dedicated to Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. An extremely diverse collection, ranging from theatrical set decorations to ballet costumes, worn by world renown dancers, with everything in between (amazing posters, created by some of the greatest artists of the time, photos and other mementos). Costumes, obviously, presented biggest conservation challenges, being actual pieces, made and used for dancing, some of them extremely fragile but nonetheless impressive in their imaginative designs and meticulous detailing.

Conserving Diaghilev from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

Dead Sea Scrolls Visit New England

There is a very old and honorable guest visiting New England, more specifically – Boston, Massachusetts. This guest has been around… longer than our current calendar, is fragile and extremely brittle, yet, it’s still standing, and can even travel around the world on occasion! The guest of honor, of course, is the exhibit of Dead Sea Scrolls, joined by a large collection (more than 600 objects) of artifacts on loan from Israel Antiquities Authority.

The exhibit, Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times, opened at the Museum of Science this week with the main attraction being, of course,  2000+ year old fragments of the manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible. Mostly written on parchment (although there are some on papyrus and bronze), these precious texts survived all this time because they were hidden in dark caves in the dry and arid climate of the Qumran area adjoining the Dead sea. Dead Sea ScrollOriginally discovered by a Bedouin shepherd around 1947, the first found scrolls underwent some very rough handling (hanging from a tent pole and occasionally being passed around in attempts to figure out their value), and sustained considerable damage. After that, they traveled around, sustaining further damage (one was stuck between two pieces of window glass, trapping the moisture with it, others were nearly destroyed with glue and tape during attempts to “fix” them, and quite a few suffered major mildew and acid damage from being stored in a damp vault placed in non-archival manila envelopes). But once they were finally identified and acquired by the Antiquities Authority, major preservation efforts were made. Tellingly, the maximum time conservators allow for them to be displayed is 90 days, after which the 10 featured scroll fragments will be switched out with new pieces.

Since 1991, the scrolls reside in solander boxes in a climate controlled laboratory while Israel Museum conservators concentrate on removal of tape, oils, metals, salt and other contaminants using the most advanced modern scientific methods. The Museum and Google joined forces to complete the digitization project which is due to be finished in 2016, but you can already scroll (pun intended) through the scanned texts, zooming in areas with very high resolution views, and even read the instant online translation.

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!