On Friday, November 5, the North Carolina Preservation Consortium held it’s annual conference at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill. The theme was centered around the preservation care of objects and outreach efforts to enlighten viewers about these efforts.
The first speaker was Chris Petersen, a volunteer at Winterthur Museum’s Scientific Research and Analysis Laboratory. What kind of person volunteers at a lab? In this case, a PhD in Organic Chemistry retired from Dupont. Chris showed analysis of various objects which helps with dating and dating these objects. Most of these objects, had a big question associated with them like the composition of the Liberty Bell or the date of manufacture of a Meissen (Germany) soup tureen. His explanations using organic chemistry diagrams were convincing, although puzzling to a non-chemist. He also had the comical duty of verifying a “Vampire Killing Kit” sent to him. All the Twilight and True Blood people’s ears perked up and a chill went through the crowd as he discussed this convincing fraud.
Jane Klinger, Chief Conservator at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC followed. As Chief Conservator, Jane is responsible of the conservation and preservation management of the museum, archives and library collections. Interestingly, Jane started by saying the materials in their collection have little real value-but these materials are invaluable for Holocaust denial and evidence for verifying historic events. Jane used a series of objects from the Holocaust to tell her story of the multiple issues involved in preserving these materials. She began with Selma Scharzwald and her teddy bear. Selma, who went by the name “Sophie” named her teddy bear “Refugee” and kept it with her throughout the war as she and her mother took an assumed identity to escape persecution. This teddy bear became so popular that efforts were made to protect it from being ‘loved’ to death. Now, reproductions can be purchased in the museum shop. Other unique items, like “Schindler’s Violin” and the Lodz Ghetto model were removed from exhibition to protect them from the elements such as humidity and dust. Klinger described lots of give and take as they tried to balance their patrons desires to see artifacts with conservation needs.
Emily Williams, Conservator of Archeological Materials at Colonial Williamsburg described her project: Conservation : Where Art and Science Meet. This exhibit at Colonial Williamsburg describes the process conservators use to preserve objects and attempts to explain the how’s and why’s of their process. The video and podcast backup the ideas in this exhibit of identifying the issues in conservation, treating conservators as heroes and using case studies of objects.
The final presentation was by Christina Cole, the Andrew W. Mellon Conservation Fellow at the University of Delaware Art Conservation Program. Cristina explained the “three-legged stool” concept of art conservation: 1. Art History, 2. Studio Art and 3. Chemistry to educate their students. Graduates from their program are working in the best museums around the world.
This was a great conference-as usual-and well worth the trip to experience, learn and network.