South Dakota Art Museum Paper Conservation Survey

South Dakota Art Museum Paper Conservation Survey

the conservators from the Midwest art
Conservation Center are here to conduct what’s called a conservation survey of
our works on paper collection this will help us to identify conservation and
preservation priorities within the collection so that we can ensure that
the works are available for exhibition research and study the museum since its
opening in 1970 has acquired over 7,000 works of art of that collection 1,800
constitute works on paper one of the things that the conservators are doing
is helping us to identify what needs to be taken care of so that the works on
paper are available for future generations we are surveying that is we
are examining approximately 800 works of art in the works on paper collection
South Dakota Art Museum the 800 pieces are a representative sampling of the
entire paper collection for each work that we examine we fill out a survey
sheet basically we document the type of paper the work is on the medium that is
what are the materials used to create the design and then most importantly we
identify the condition of the object does it have tears are there
pressure-sensitive tapes on it are there losses or holes is it discolored from
contact with acidic materials has the ink or other medium faded and after
we’ve documented specific conditions we assign a priority to that object in
terms of its need for attention from a conservator and what this does is it
allows the institution to develop a logical plan for treating the needs of
the individual objects in addition to examining for condition we also identify
housing that is what kind of mat board is the works secured into if any at all
does it require extra support because of size or weight for example the process
is we are given objects item we look at the object we have our sheet
and we note all of the condition issues that we see on the object on the sheet
at the end of the survey there will be approximately 800 sheets and in addition
to examining the individual objects we also you know address questions put to
us about kind of more general aspects of care we are very fortunate to receive
funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services under their museums for
America grant program the total project is costing us 106 thousand dollars of
which we receive fifty three thousand dollars and some change from the
granting agency one of the benefits of the survey is that we will be able to
address specific issues related to specific works of art these are two
works by the artist named Paul go ball whose archives is here at South Dakota
art museum these are wonderful illustrations and really beautiful it
was a real treat to be able to look at 50 of these pieces these works in many
ways are in very good condition overall however there are some condition issues
that are specific to the materials and techniques that Goble used for example
in this piece here you’ll notice that there are pieces of what we call bark
paper attached to the paper support and which create part of the image this is
paper made to simulate bark because Goble is using it to depict tree a tree
a fallen tree these elements are separate from the what we call the paper
support as I said and they have been attached with probably a rubber cement
type adhesive the adhesive fails and doesn’t work anymore and as a result of
that the element detaches and you can see in this case this piece has come
free and it’s left behind it a very discolored adhesive film and
is the same on the reverse of the cell oh it’s less visible so obviously this
is a higher priority item because we don’t want to lose this significant
element that’s very much part of the design so on what we would do to take
care of this condition problem is we would first clean the residues from the
paper and then reduce them on the back of the bark paper element and then
reattach using a more secure museum-quality adhesive this other work
here in it you can see in this beautiful big Rudd Sun that there are areas where
there are kind of jagged areas of what we call loss what’s happening there is
that the ink has not bonded well to the underlying paper and is flaking away
from that paper what it’s leaving behind is a staying kind of a lighter colored
red stain that has been absorbed into the paper but the brilliant dark red ink
actually sits on the paper so every time the paper is handled or even in response
to changes in temperature and relative humidity that ink is destabilized and it
will crack and come away from the paper support the next step for the South
Dakota Art Museum will be to begin planning for netting the works that is
putting them into good quality museum quality housings those that are not yet
matted the next step will include establishing a plan for providing
conservation treatment two objects beginning with those that have the
highest priority assignments after we are done with the survey then we take
each of the individual recommendations that the conservators have provided for
us and we will start implementing those recommendations in some cases we have to
provide a rigid support underneath them and so it’s a matter of inserting a
rigid support in some cases there works that need conservation treatment
and so what we’ll have to do is seek funding to implement those that
conservation treatment this particular grant allows us to provide internships
to to students for two years so we have two interns working on this project I
have a year left here at South Dakota State and afterwards I’d like to go into
possibly Museum Studies and so what I’m learning with the coal conservation
project is just picking up this information again soaking it up like a
sponge so that hopefully if I’m introduced to situations like this in
the future I’ll be able to kind of come up with the you know remember this
information and it also is opening my eyes a little bit to different fields
and Museum Studies you know not only just the going through the conditioning
reports which is what I’ve been doing but then the conservation aspect of it
and it kind of just is rounding out the entire field a little bit more before
the conservators arrived our one intern Samantha and I spent three months
unframed all of the works the the works had previously been stored in frames and
so we had to remove them from the frames and then release them from their hinges
I’ve worked exclusively with the Karger line collection which is a collection of
prints and so I haven’t really gotten an opportunity to see what else is in the
collections here at the Museum and so being able to go through these works on
paper has introduced me to all the different artists that are also
represented here and just going through it’s so impressive and in the situation
of being able to be there with a work of art right there in front of you as
opposed to behind glass or having to stand you know a foot or two away it’s
just such a different experience it’s so surreal we’ve also digitized the entire
collection and so we now have high-resolution images of of all the
works one big thing that I’ve really walked away with is when an artist
creates something and and he or she puts it in a frame or puts it in some way to
display it that’s not the end you know artwork as cheesy as it is to
say is almost like a child you know it’s created and then you have to nurture it
and you have to grow with it because an artwork a piece of artwork is not just
it’s not done you it’s constantly like paper expands
that’s a big thing that we’re learning and so as cheesy as it is say I’m really
glad that I get to be a part of you know the upbringing of these works of art
when the survey is completed then both interns will be on staff and those
interns will be working with me to implement the initial recommendations
made by the conservators we’ve also had a number of volunteers are some members
of our museum guild have helped with the project they specifically helped gather
information about the works by Paul gobble you really get to study the
pictures and particularly with this project they were not under glass or
under any coverings so you really had a great opportunity to examine the colors
and the details that sometimes you just miss when they’re under glass and you
you can’t peer at them literally stare at them it was a great opportunity to
see the detail the affection for each piece that was brought out for the
conservators to look at was just that was amazing to see they genuinely cared
about each thing that was brought out on paper and it’s obvious that the South
Dakota Art Museum cares for each of those works on paper too so I think the
people of South Dakota can rest assured that we have a great museum here that is
going to preserve those things into the future this project is part of a
long-term process that this museum started back in 2000 we have been very
proactive in what’s called preventative preservation rather than reacting to
something taking place at the time we are proactive and trying to prevent
things from happening so this project is another example or demonstration of our
efforts to be proactive in our preservation activities it’s been a
large pleasure actually to work here because
this institution demonstrates such a high standard of Collections care and
the very fact that we’re doing the survey is an indication of that

Dereck Turner

2 thoughts on “South Dakota Art Museum Paper Conservation Survey

  1. Mary Amundson says:


  2. Moisés Villanueva says:

    Well done! What an explanation! This is true love in action to a profession that is bounded to rescue the details of Art for future generations, Your body language says so and I could feel the message even thogh I´m not an expert in this matter just admirer.

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