Posts Tagged With: photograph conservation

Winter Meeting in Wellington

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The conference venue – Te Papa Tongarewa

Kia ora (that’s hello in Maori, the native culture of New Zealand). I just returned from a fabulous trip to Wellington for the Photographs Conservation Joint Meeting of the AIC PMG and the ICOM-CC PMWG. Sorry for all the acronyms. This is only the second joint meeting of the two groups (the first was in Rochester in 2007) as the PMG meets biennially and the PMWG meets triennially. It was definitely a treat for me to fly across the world the soak up some sun…but more importantly the knowledge of some of the field’s most experienced conservators and allied professionals. A huge thanks to all of my funders (listed below)!

I won’t go into detail about every single talk, but I will say that I noticed some overall themes throughout the week. For starters, there is a push for emergency and disaster planning–as there rightly should be–in response to climate change and the increased occurrence of natural disasters. Andrew Robb (Library of Congress) gave an excellent workshop on Collections Emergency Management that was very timely considering that Superstorm Sandy hit the Northeast just last October (see previous post).

Another theme was the dematerialization of the medium (always accompanied by a slight panic for the job security of photograph conservators). Sylvie Penichon (Amon Carter Museum) discussed digital materials and their preservation in her informative workshop on contemporary photography, and other speakers promoted printing hard copies of important digital files as a back-up preservation method. In my opinion, there is still a lot of research to be done on borne-digital materials, including their use in conservation treatments. Victoria Binder (Legion of Honor) presented a beautiful poster on creating digital fills for loss compensation in photographs.

Me with my poster on social media for outreach

Me with my poster on social media for outreach. Photo by Greta Glaser.

There were also many well-research talks on specific photographic processes and innovative treatments, as well as talks and posters on conservation outreach, including my poster on using social media for public engagement (handout attached below). Debbie Hess Norris ended the first day of presentations on an inspiring note (literally, with a slideshow of images set to Imagine by the Beatles). She reported on the current progress of global outreach in photograph preservation and shared a google map showing World Wide Photographic Preservation Projects–be sure to check it out.

Thanks to the National Library of New Zealand and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa for organizing a lovely conference, including a traditional Maori welcome ceremony at the opening reception, as well as a delicious dinner at The Boatshed on the waterfront. I was sad to pack up my sandals and leave Wellington, but I can now start looking forward to a closer–albeit colder–PMG winter meeting in Boston!

Extending our Reach poster handout.docx

*Thank you to the following organizations for generously supporting my attendance at the conference: The Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation George Stout Grant, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Tru Vue, Inc., the University of Delaware Graduate Office Professional Development Award, the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation Professional Development Award, and the Art Conservation Department at the University of Delaware!!

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Field trip fun

There are so many conservation labs in New York City, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to visit them all! Thanks to my summer spent at MoMA and my student colleagues interning at the Met, I was able to make it to two–and two fascinating ones at that.

First, we took a trip to the Guggenheim labs, located not at the museum proper but across town, where there’s plenty of space and a lovely view of the river. We arranged the visit with Paper Conservator Jeffrey Warda, who kindly showed us his lab and screened part of Robert Smithson’s Hotel Palenque. The piece was first given as a live presentation by Smithson in 1972 and is now a timed slideshow accompanied by a recording of his voice. From a conservation standpoint, this piece is challenging because the color and intensity of the slides are constantly changing due to the light exposure, especially since some slides are projected for 30 seconds at a time and others for 10 minutes. Jeffrey’s solution to this problem, for now, was to make multiple copies of the piece to replace the current ones when they’ve faded. Eventually, though, the materials will all be extinct, and the Guggenheim may have to compromise some aspect of Smithson’s original vision.

While at the Guggenheim, we also had the opportunity to meet Time-based Media Conservator Joanna Phillips. This is an area of conservation that makes my head spin because of its complexities, and I really have to hand it to these conservators who are basically starting from scratch in creating this specialty. You can read more about the Guggenheim’s efforts on this wonderful new section of their website: Time-based Media Conservation.

The week following our Guggenheim visit, we rented a car and escaped the city. Destination: the quaint town of Milford, NJ. In the middle of the town, inside a beautiful old opera house is the private photographic conservation practice The Better Image (TBI). TBI was founded in 1991 by Peter Mustardo and Nora Kennedy (also the Sherman Fairchild Conservator of Photographs at the Met), and has two locations, one of them in Manhattan. The Milford location has much more space, so that is where much of the large-scale treatment work is completed. Personally, having always worked in a museum, I have never seen this much treatment done on photographs, so this really opened up my eyes (in a good way) to what private practice could be like.

Recent WUDPAC grad Amanda Maloney showed us many of their in-progress treatments, and chatted with us for awhile about the current state of photograph preservation. Peter gave us the tour of their extensive and beautiful library housed on the stage, then treated us to a delicious lunch at Ma De’s Chat House. We also met Richard Stenman, another WUDPAC grad, but we had to leave in time to beat traffic back to the city. Needless to say, we were all sad to leave.

All in all, these visits, along with the many photo exhibitions I saw this summer, make me very excited to begin studying photograph conservation in depth…starting this week!!

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Photographs!

Not my photograph, but I can't help but share this from the SFMoMA Facebook page: "Try the latest art-inspired creation at our Blue Bottle Coffee Co. on the Rooftop!
This chocolate-y treat is based on Rineke Dijkstra's series of photographs at the beach. Caitlin and Leah (the ladies behind Blue Bottle's art-inspired edibles) use a lovely coaster printed with photographs of Ocean Beach, Baker Beach & Chrissie Field as the backdrop for their version of a bathing beauty: a cake tower made of a dark chocolate cake layered with whipped cream and topped with a ganache glaze. Mmmmm!"

I can’t believe it’s almost April! Although the spring season is still going strong, I can end my anxiety with plenty of good news: I will be attending the Delaware Public Humanities Institute for two weeks in June, followed by a summer internship at the Museum of Modern Art in New York! And, to top that off, I just declared my major; the new background image should give you a hint–it’s photographs!! I’ve always had a strong interest in fine art photography, both creating it and studying it. Now I have the opportunity to delve even deeper into historic and contemporary processes, and focus my time on the conservation of photographic materials.

I was so excited to share my new decision with my conservator friends at the Legion of Honor and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art during my spring break. Debra Evans and crew in the paper lab at the Legion kindly showed me their current projects, as well as storage, where the shelves were recently updated with earthquake-proof straps. The idea was really clever, and reminded me just how real the threat of earthquakes is on the west coast; I tend to forget, living in Philadelphia. Before leaving the museum, I stopped in to see The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860-1900, which included some lovely photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron.

Next stop: SFMOMA. I was able to say hi to a few of the people that I worked with in 2009 (I can’t believe it’s been almost three years!), then chat with Photograph Conservator Theresa Andrews about her day-to-day duties in the museum. I couldn’t help but be a little jealous of the artworks that she gets to handle, but also a bit relieved that I don’t have the monstrous task of re-designing a new lab space as part of the museum’s remodel.

There are currently three amazing photograph exhibitions on view at SFMoMA: Picturing Modernity, photographs from the permanent collection, with some beautiful albumen prints in pristine condition; Photography in Mexico, exploring the photographic traditions of Mexican artists, and other photographers working in Mexico. This was crazy because I wrote a research paper in college titled something like El Ojo de Mexico: Edward Weston, and this exhibition included every single image that I discussed in my paper! Finally, the Rineke Dijkstra Retrospective will be coming to MoMA this summer, but I think it will be interesting to see the show at two separate venues. Plus, Dijkstra’s images are very moving, and I love large scale color photography.

I’m so lucky that I get to visit photograph exhibitions as part of my job! Next on the list: Cindy Sherman Retrospective at MoMA and Francesca Woodman at Guggenheim.

Categories: Education, Exhibitions, Visits | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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