Outreach

New tools for the outreachbox

An ever-increasing use of social media has made the internet the way to go for public outreach. Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress have all been done (yes, I say this as a blogger), but video hasn’t really been used to it’s full potential for engaging a non-specialist audience.

Leading the way for the humanities is a website called Smarthistory, now associated with the Khan Academy, an online library of educational resources. Smarthistory is essentially an interactive art historical textbook that utilizes contextual information and links to other websites along with short documentary-like videos on works of art. Smarthistory creators Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker began the site in 2005 as a blog to aid in art history lectures. With the support of the Kress Foundation and the Khan Academy, this non-profit organization has become a leader in providing course materials as well as an online community for the discipline of art history.

Recently, Beth and Steven collaborated with FAIC and the conservation department at the Met to organize a workshop geared toward conservation-specific outreach, titled Media Tools for Conservators. I was fortunate to attend this workshop, along with 5 other recent graduates and 7 mid-career professionals. The dynamic of the workshop was great, and not only did we learn about the software that Smarthistory uses to make their videos (Garage Band for audio and ScreenFlow to incorporate the audio with images), but we had the opportunity to capture some of our own conversations using audio recorders.

The group hard at work exchanging ideas

In the morning we paired up to talk about specific conservation projects that we had prepared in advance, and in the afternoon we took advantage of the Met’s collection and experimented with recording conversations about entirely new objects. The entire workshop was a lot of fun, but the most important conversation that day was the one about implementing this technology into everyday work. As conservators, we often run into sensitivity issues, either about copyright or institutional regulations, and that may throw a wrench in the plan to discuss a treatment. But what many conservators forget is that we have a lot of specialized knowledge, and that knowledge may be interesting to people that know absolutely nothing about conservation. So, you CAN make a video about conservation in general, or about a personal object, or my favorite: pair up with a curator to talk about a work of art. Be creative.

When I left the workshop, my head was spinning with ideas on how to use these tools in my own work. There is such potential for making professional and interesting videos. Hopefully my enthusiasm for video-making will spread, because your videos are needed for this new site devoted entirely to conservation; introducing ConservationReel!

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Engaging through outreach

Repair the Tear was featured on the ECPN poster at the 2012 AIC Annual Meeting in Albuquerque! Read more about it on Conservators Converse.

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Sendak in Spring

Photo credit: The Chertoff Mural, prior to conservation. © 1961 by Maurice Sendak, all rights reserved

Once upon a time, there were two children who lived in a bedroom enchanted by a magical mural–the only mural ever painted by illustrator Maurice Sendak! Who wouldn’t be jealous of Nina and Larry Chertoff for having the opportunity to grow up in a place that surely fostered their imaginations in unspeakable ways. I’ve been meaning to write about this mural ever since The Rosenbach Museum and Library began advertising it’s conservation, in January, and I was reminded of it this morning both on NPR, and in the NYT. The whole project has been really exciting to experience as a Philadelphia resident, especially since the museum has organized so many outreach events to get the public interested in the mural’s conservation.

I’ll let you read a little more on the history of the mural, if you haven’t already, in the articles above. I’d like to elaborate on the conservation planning and treatment as discussed in a talk that I attended at the Rosenbach on February 23rd:

Milner and Carr is a firm that specializes in the documentation, analysis, condition assessment, testing, monitoring and treatment of historic buildings, monuments and sites. They were likely an obvious choice for the conservation of the Chertoff mural because not only are they highly respected in the field of architectural conservation, but they’re also located in Philadelphia, and they were able to carry out all aspects of the process–removal from the wall, stabilization, re-mounting and treatment.

Conservator Andrew Fearon was involved with the removal of the mural from the Chertoffs’ apartment in New York, subsequent transport to the Milner and Carr facility in Philadelphia, and, finally, to the Rosenbach exhibition space. Andrew did some research on the type of wall, and found that it was a non-load-bearing wall made of gypsteel that could easily be removed in two sections without causing structural problems to the rest of the apartment. Great news. There were a few obstacles, however, including the insecurity of the mural pigments, a gas pipe running through the wall, a service elevator barely big enough to fit each part of the object, and only 10 hrs to complete the entire removal and restoration of the original wall. Whew! Somehow, the folks at Milner and Carr managed to do it and arrive in Philadelphia with the mural intact, encased in a package of: polyethylene barrier, plaster, volara, honeycomb, and an aluminum frame.

Conservators at Milner and Carr immediately began building a new structure to house the mural, while conservator Mary McGinn consolidated the flaking paint. Once stable, and set up at its final location in the Rosenbach, the mural underwent its final stage of treatment by Cassie Myers. One problem she noticed, probably caused by the removal and handling, was a convex warp in the left-hand panel. Cassie was able to re-align both pieces using a reference photograph, then build up the gaps to create an even, unified surface. From there, Cassie could face the multiple forms of damage the mural had incurred throughout the years: melted paint from the radiator, water damage, housepainters’ layers covering parts of the mural, and a black magic marker repair performed by one of the children, among others. “Getting the panel right” was very important to Cassie, just as ethical issues are always at play in a conservation treatment; she was fortunate, though, to have the full support of the artist. Word has it that Maurice Sendak even made it to Philadelphia to complete the final touches of the mural himself.

The conservators’ specific techniques and the time it took to complete them are all documented in a video that accompanies the exhibition–now open!

Listen to an interview with Maurice Sendak on NPR’s All Things Considered, from February 1st.

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Another link!

Thanks to Dan Cull for adding a link to my site under Conservation Blogs! Be sure to check out Dan’s blog, too!

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A link to my blog!

I was just clicking through links on the Winterthur site, as I often do, and found a link to my blog in the outreach section! I guess this is good news since the point of the blog IS to reach out to people interested in conservation.

This is also a great segue into mentioning the Emerging Conservation Professional Network (ECPN) blog, to which there is also a link from the Winterthur site. I’ve just starting becoming more involved with ECPN and am realizing what amazing potential the network has for pre-program conservators, current conservation students, and even those who have already begun a career in conservation. The first ECPN committee really put a lot of work into establishing the group, so now it’s our turn (yes, you too) to contribute to the cause. If you’re interested in writing a blog post or want to get involved in some other way, any level of professional background is invited and all of us ECPNers would really appreciate it. Just send me a message or write something on the facebook page.

Thank you in advance!

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