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Thursday, November 19, 2015
The Conservation Center>November Newsletter: Mummies, Mantillas, and More!
The Conservation Center
Conserving Art Coast to Coast
November 2015 Newsletter
month, our newsletter features three diverse stories. We had the
pleasure of working with a client to preserve a cherished
and deteriorating mantilla used by the family for generations. The second, the CEO shares some thoughts on a recent presentation at the ARCS conference on disaster preparedness and response. While
waxing and furniture maintenance might seem tedious, our furniture
conservators have highlighted the importance of the "sacrificial" wax
layer in keeping your pieces looking pristine. Finally, we will explore the interesting history behind a very strange pigment, Mummy Brown.
A Stitch in Time
extraordinarily fragile pieces are treated by The Center, often the
conservators recommend handling the pieces as little as possible to
preserve their longevity. So when Gloria Diaz brought in a delicate
lace mantilla and expressed that she would like it to be functional for
future ceremonies, we knew we had our work cut out for us. At
the time Gloria brought in her mantilla, it had been used by three
generations in twenty-four weddings, ten baptisms, on "Taking of the
Veil," and one First Communion. Since the lace garment had been both
well-loved and well-used, it exhibited inevitable signs of wear. As
Gloria noted, "I realized that the mantilla was near the end of its life
if we did not do something to improve its condition. "
On November 13th, I gave a presentation on disaster preparedness at the Association of Registrars and Collection Specialists (ARCS) conference
in New Orleans. The audience included nearly 700 museum registrars,
collection managers, conservators, consultants, appraisers, and art
Building on the Center's decade long experiences in coping with disparate events such as the LaSalle Bank fire in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Floods in Iowa in 2008, the Floods in Nashville in 2010, Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and the ice storms of 2014 for example -- I
spoke of the critical importance of creating a preparedness plan for
internal protocols and fundamentals. We have learned adaptability,
established protocols, teamwork, and problem solving skills are pivotal
to the outcome.
your furniture and wooden artifacts lacking the glow that they used to
have? The culprit is most likely an aged, worn, or damaged wax layer.
Wax coatings are applied on top of a finished piece of wood to act as a
protective coating. Without this layer, foreign particulates, such as
dirt or soot, could accumulate and settle into the finish. Old finishes
are delicate and desirable and repeated cleaning of the original
surface can damage the patina. Particles and dust will inevitably
settle on the surface of a piece and then become embedded in the
sacrificial wax coat. The wax coat can then be easily removed without
damaging the original finish.
month marks the beginning of The Conservation Center's new "Pigment of
the Month" series. Our report on Mummy Brown is the first of several
articles that will detail the origins, history, and eventual
discontinuation of pigments that are no longer in use. Mummy Brown is
aptly named because it is made out of actual mummies!