Current Research & Treatment Highlights
Object conservators Lauren Fair, Linda Lennon, and Bruno Pouliot have recently been working on treatments for three different powder horns, with the goal to make them accessible again to the public. In the process, they have made some interesting discoveries and, with the help of Conservation Assistant William Donnelly, devised innovative display solutions for these objects. One powder horn will be included in the Spring 2013 exhibit: Common Destinations: Maps in the American Experience; one was recently put on display in the Kershner Kitchen; and one is for teaching purposes during varied classes and workshops offered at Winterthur. For more information, click here.
In 2010 and in 2016 Winterthur received grants from the Institute for Museum and Library services (IMLS) to help preserve its outstanding collection of American silver. Because repeated polishing to maintain the collection in display condition is inherently damaging because each polishing removes a small amount of silver, Winterthur began a lacquering program in the 1980’s. On many objects that coating had reached the end of its useful life, resulting in tarnishing characterized by an overall yellow haze or by small dark areas of corrosion. With funding from IMLS, Winterthur has hired two conservations assistants who work under the supervision of Senior Objects Conservator Bruno Pouliot to clean, polish and re-lacquer almost 800 silver objects. Under the grant, the Scientific Research and Analysis Laboratory is analyzing the aged coating and its interaction with the corrosion to help better understand the mechanisms of this deterioration. For more a more in-depth look at this highlighted project, read "Preserving the Sheen of Winterthur's Silver".
Iraq Cultural Heritage Program
In 2008, at the request of the US Department of State, Winterthur began a project to help Iraqi cultural heritage professionals preserve their museums and historic sites. The primary focus of this project, undertaken in partnership with the University of Delaware Art Conservation Program and the Walters Art Museum, was to create a conservation and preservation training program. The Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage, located in Erbil, the largest city in the Kurdish region, opened in the fall of 2009. The Institute has graduated several classes in Collection Care and Conservation and in Architectural And Site Conservation, instructed by on-site US staff and visiting experts drawn from institutions throughout the US and Europe. Embraced by the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage and the Kurdish Regional Government, who assumed operational responsibility at the end of 2010, the Institute has attracted students representing all of Iraq's demographic groups – Sunni and Shia, Muslim and Christian, Kurd and Arab who have come together to learn to preserve their shared heritage. The US Embassy in Baghdad, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Getty Conservation Institute and the US Department of State Cultural Heritage Center have awarded the Institute additional funding to support academic programs through 2013.
Winterthur Museum’s acquisition of a spectacular four-part fraktur metamorphosis series in 2008 has prompted the collaboration of curators, conservators, and scientists in order to more fully understand the object. Made by schoolmaster Durs Rudy Sr. (1766–1843) or his son Durs Rudy Jr. (1789–1850), the drawings have survived in remarkable condition and are signed and dated by the artist—the kind of Rosetta stone object scholars and collectors alike dream of finding. Initially, it was thought the four sections had been tipped into the protective covers of a book, possibly accounting for the irregular losses along some edges and good condition of the paper and media. Careful study of the techniques and materials used in its creation has led curators and conservators to a better understanding of why the metamorphosis has remained in such a remarkable state of preservation, and to figuratively
Catherine Matsen, Associate Scientist in the Scientific Research and Analysis Laboroatory, co-edited the proceedings of the January 17–19, 2008 conference, Architectural Finishes in the Built Environment. Catherine also co-organized the conference which was held at Columbia University and attracted 200 scholars from 14 countries. The articles presented spanned architectural paint research from Colonial Williamsburg to Virginia City, Montana and from vernacular architecture on the Norwegian coast to a Qing dynasty decorative painting at Shuxiang Temple, China.
Treatment of Christian ABC Book presented at AIC
Joan Irving, Winterthur Paper Conservator, and Soyean Choi, Senior Paper Conservator, Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, presented a paper on the Ephrata Cloister's Christian ABC book at the recent annual Conference of the American Institute for Conservation. They discussed the decision-making process and treatment of a unique, and among cognoscenti, iconic, work of early American fraktur know as the Christian ABC Book. This work is neither convincingly a book nor a primer for learning the ABC’s, but a mysterious object that has intrigued scholars for decades. The designs are composed almost entirely of iron gall ink, bringing into debate the use of aqueous anti-oxidant treatments and the appropriateness of them on a unique work of art. Ultimately, decisions guiding treatment protocols included ample input of the owner while drawing on key trends in the treatment of iron gall ink – though ultimately leaving the application of an antioxidant to a future generation to consider. The authors offered lessons learned from treating these delicate fraktur and a glimpse into an 18th century religious order that has left its mark in beautifully scripted letters whose meaning is still unknown today.