As Melissa mentioned in a previous blog, I am the 2014 Audiovisual Preservation Lennox Intern. My area of expertise is not books or paper, but I still deal with objects from the past that are part of our cultural heritage and that we must conserve, preserve, and when necessary (and possible) restore. Even when paper conservators and film preservationists do not communicate with one another, their work has more in common than most of them probably suspect.

Breaking down those barriers is one of my goals during my internship at the ISU Library. I hope to bring more thoughts and anecdotes about my work in a future post, but today I would like to tell you about my experience at the AMIA Conference 2014, held in Savannah, GA, on October 7th-11th.

The Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) has been working for several decades representing over 750 audiovisual archivists from all over the world. Since 1991, AMIA has formally been an individual-based professional association, unique in the field, providing representation and camaraderie not only to institutional archivists, but also to students and recent graduates.


The Lucas Theater, in Savannah, GA, hosted the Archival Screening Night.

Every year we gather in a beautiful city (Savannah, GA this year) to share experiences, exchange different opinions, raise questions, and learn from one another’s work. The AMIA conference is a great place for new film archivists to learn and network. It is also a great opportunity for conservators, archivists, and librarians that have film collections in their care to learn the basics, ask questions, and make contacts that might come in handy when dealing with special materials.

There are traditional topics that are always candidates for panels and discussions, such as acetate and nitrate deterioration, best practices, the unknown future of digital collections, and the transition from film to digital, among others. This year, the conference presented three curated streams of programming that analyzed matters that are of most interest in the present days.

The first one was “Open Source Digital Preservation and Access” which covered the basics of open source software for audiovisual collections management and highlighted some relevant current projects.

The second program (my favorite) was “Film in Transition,” which discussed the implications that the evolution of the industry — from film to digital — has for film archives and everyone who still needs to work with film stock. Basically, the question was: will archives will be able to continue to preserve films with so many labs closing and such a limited production of film stock?

Last but not least, the third stream was entitled “Global Exchange,” and brought voices from all over the world to share solutions and exchange ideas. This year I was very happy to see a panel discussing the activities in the South American archives, and particularly the staff from Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires Film Museum), the most important film archive from Argentina, my home country.


I met with Paula Felix-Didier and Andres Levinson from Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires.

To conclude, there were two special moments that were my favorite. The archival screening night at the marvelous Lucas Theater, in which archives were invited to share a 6-minute clip from the treasures of their collections. I would very much like to see something from the ISU Film Collection next year! Last, the obsolete film formats panel, where they presented the smallest film gauge ever used, 3mm, the cutest medium ever!


The smallest film gauge ever invented – 3 mm.

For more information about the event, visit the conference website.

For more information on film preservation, visit the National Film Preservation Foundation.

The Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium holds a member meeting and Save Our Stuff (SOS) workshop annually.  This year the University of Iowa Libraries played host because they are celebrating 30 years of collections care.  In her June 10 blog post, Mindy highlighted the wide array of workshops she attended throughout the day including taxidermy.  Here is a little more detail on the Taxidermy Care and Cleaning workshop taught by Cindy Opitz, Collections Manager at University of Iowa’s Museum of Natural History.

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I have to admit that this is the workshop that intrigued me the most since I know nothing about caring for taxidermy specimens.  Turns out that the biggest takeaway I got from this workshop is that basic care and cleaning of these objects is not unlike textile care and cleaning.  Agents of deterioration and pest management are the same as what we have come to expect for all organic and protein-based materials.  Cindy did remind us that one concern is the presence of arsenic and pesticides and that we should wear personal protective equipment like gloves and masks.

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Supplies for making cotton swabs: skewers and cotton balls.

To start, Cindy had us roll our own cotton swabs to do gentle “enzymatic” (saliva) cleaning of the eyes, beaks, and claws, just gently rolling, not rubbing, the cotton swab over the hard surfaces.

Gentle swabbing of hard surfaces.

Gentle swabbing of hard surfaces.

We next moved onto vacuuming the fur and feathers on the bodies using a Nilfisk canister vacuum with adjustable speeds and micro tool attachments.  For fine dust and more fragile specimens, Cindy recommended vacuuming through a nylon screen.  Again, not unlike cleaning textiles.  A Nilfisk backpack vacuum was also available for us to test out, but the drawbacks of the backpack were significant; it did not have adjustable speeds and it was extremely loud.

Nilfisk backpack vacuum.

Nilfisk backpack vacuum.

Cindy also showed us a more gentle, inexpensive vacuum that we could make ourselves using an aquarium pump, Erlenmeyer flask, rubber stopper, tubing and connectors.

Aquarium-pump microvacuum.

Aquarium-pump micro-vacuum.

To me, the best part about this workshop was just having the chance to hear about something other than book and paper even though the care and cleaning was not as foreign as I thought it would be.  We already have the basic knowledge and skills from the care of other cultural artifacts, but of course, I would still call a conservator if I needed to do anything more difficult.

As the co-chair of the AIC Sustainability Committee, I was particularly looking forward to this year’s Annual Meeting theme, “Conscientious Conservation: Sustainable Choices in Collection Care,”  and the conference did not  disappoint.  The event took place in beautiful downtown San Francisco, with the opening reception at the magnificent de Young Museum.

Sunset view from the de Young Museum tower.

Sunset view from the de Young Museum tower.

Although I am a library and archives conservator, my favorite General Session talk was “Sustainable Collections Care on a Budget – A New Museum Store for Bolton, UK,”  by museum conservator Pierrette Squires, from the Bolton Museum in Lancashire, UK.  She spoke about moving the stored museum collection to a new storage space which would better protect the collection while simultaneously reducing energy use and saving money.  Her presentation emphasized the importance of speaking to stakeholders in the language that is meaningful to them, which is often the language of economic sustainability rather than environmental sustainability, even though the two often go hand-in-hand.

The general membership business meeting was surprisingly well-attended for 7 am on a Saturday, showing what committed professionals AIC members are.

The general membership business meeting was surprisingly well-attended for 7 am on a Saturday, showing what committed professionals AIC members are.

Everyone I spoke to from Book and Paper Group was as captivated as I was by “Treasure from the Bog: The Faddan More Psalter,” presented by John Gillis. The talk detailed the treatment of an early medieval manuscript unearthed in a peat bog in Co. Tipperary, Southern Ireland, in 2006.  As you may know from articles about bog mummies, peaty bogs can have a tanning effect on organic materials, and so partially preserved this vellum manuscript for centuries. I look forward to hearing more about this project as the research continues.

The Sustainability Committee hosted a Roundtable about generating momentum for positive change in institutional practice, a session you can read more about on the AIC Blog: Conservators Converse.

The BPG Specialty Session and the concurrent General Sessions I attended on Collections Care and HVAC were all excellent, and BPG made an especially strong showing in the Poster Session this year. However, my favorite two events from the conference were the ECPN Networking Luncheon and — of course — The Great Debate.

The Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) put an enormous amount of work into organizing their first (but, I hope, not their last) networking luncheon. AIC members could sign up as mentors, mentees, or both. The ECPN paired each participant with three others for one-on-one “speed-dating” style sessions lasting 15 minutes.  I got to meet with a peer mentor who graduated from a conservation program the same year I did, and who currently works at an academic library as I do; a conservation graduate student interested in pursuing a career in academic libraries; and a former geologist turned  pre-program student in conservation science.  I appreciated being provided with a structured forum within which to meet some new colleagues, and look forward to continuing to stay in touch with them.

The Rookies (left) and The Veterans (right).

The Great Debate: Rookies (left) and Veterans (right).

The Great Debate enjoyed its third year at the AIC Annual Meeting, and organizer Richard McCoy pulled out all the stops.  The packed audience enjoyed a cash bar accompanied by popcorn and other crunchy, salty snacks, and Richard McCoy emceed wearing a dapper tux and bow-tie.  Two 3-person teams of “rookies” (first-year graduate students) debated the statement “The most important part of conservation practice is no longer the treatment of cultural property.” The debaters were well-prepared, and the negative team (disagreeing with the statement) ended up winning the day, although I remained personally unconvinced from the particular perspective of a library and archives conservator.  The second debate took place between two 3-person teams of — ahem — “veterans” of the conservation field.  A controversial ripple murmured through the crowd when their topic statement was revealed: “AIC is successfully promoting the advancement of recently-graduated conservators in today’s work force.” My audience neighbors and I feared that we would end the Annual Meeting on a sour note, but the affirmative team rallied against the negative team’s rambunctious antics and made a winning case for all that AIC does for its membership (with the strong reminder that we the membership are AIC).  Be sure to visit us (@ISUPreservation) on Twitter (archived date: May 31)  for the hilarious, blow-by-blow recap.

It was another fast-paced, exhausting, informative, and rewarding Annual Meeting, and I find myself returning to work reinvigorated and recommitted to my profession.



Out-going Sustainability Committee Chair Sarah Nunberg introduces the lunch session programming.

Out-going Sustainability Committee Chair Sarah Nunberg introduces the lunch session programming.

This year’s Annual Meeting of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) took place in Indianapolis, IN, May 29-June 1, 2013.  The Sustainability Committee organized a sold-out Lunch Session with over 60 attendees.  After enjoying a delicious buffet lunch and casual conversation with colleagues, participants listened to a brief presentation by Matthew Eckelman, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University.  Dr. Eckelman presented the results of three Life Cycle Assessments his students had performed at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts during the spring of 2013: (1) LCA of LED lighting versus halogen lighting; (2) LCA of “coasting” the fans of one wing of the HVAC system; and (3) LCA of museum loans.  For more information on any of these projects, please visit the Sustainability Committee’s section of the AIC Conservation Wiki, or contact one of the committee’s members.

Dr. Matthew Eckelman, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University, presents the findings of his students' LCA projects.

Dr. Matthew Eckelman, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University, presents the findings of his students’ LCA projects.

In a (very small) nutshell, the  LCA projects determined that:

  • LED lights, in spite of some of their current drawbacks, are still a far more sustainable choice than halogens.  As the technology improves, LEDs are likely to become an even better choice.  When installing LEDs, pay attention to current bulb housings.  Pairing the wrong type of cannister housing with LED bulbs can shorten their life and efficiency.
  • “Coasting” the fans of an HVAC system can lead to great energy savings with a negligible impact on collections materials.  Further study is needed to explore the impacts of coasting other aspects of the HVAC system, such as the heating and cooling elements.  The actual effectiveness of coasting depends on the local environment and the institution in question (building envelope, design of current HVAC system, etc.)
  • The LCA of museum loans is a very complicated issue.  This study examined carbon footprint only, and found that packing materials had far less impact than courier travel and the construction necessary for exhibit preparation.  This LCA has laid the groundwork for further in-depth study of the museum loans process.

After the presentation, lunch session participants broke into discussion groups by table and addressed a list of discussion questions which had been prepared ahead of time by the Sustainability Committee.  The table I was sitting at enjoyed a very lively discussion about options for reducing the impact of couriering artwork for museum loans, and also how to encourage buy-in from upper administrators for moving to a more sustainable model.


Sustainability Lunch Session participants during the breakout discussion group portion of the programming.

Overall, the feedback I heard about the Sustainability Lunch Session was very positive.  Participants gained useful information from the LCA projects performed by Dr. Eckelman’s students, and they also enjoyed the opportunity to engage more actively with their colleagues during the breakout discussions.

The Sustainability Committee is partnering with the newly-formed Collection Care Network to develop a General Session program for the 2014 AIC Annual Meeting, so if you are interested in the intersection of sustainable conservation practices, collections care, and preventive conservation, start planning to attend the 42nd AIC Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA, May 28-May 31, 2014.


Along with our wishes for a happy new year, we’d also like to say thank you to our readers for making last year such a rewarding one for us.  We appreciate your shared insights and feedback, and thank you for being part of our virtual preservation community.

2013 is already off to an exciting start, beginning with a frozen pipe which burst in the offices of our Special Collections and Archives over break.  Since I was basking in the Arizona sunshine at the time, Hilary will fill you in on the details of that escapade next Tuesday.  We’re also in the midst of our search for the 2013 Lennox Foundation Intern; if you or someone you know is planning to apply, please note the January 17 deadline.

Parks Library, Iowa State University

Parks Library, Iowa State University

As we look ahead to the rest of 2013, are there any favorite topics you would like to see us revisit?  We’ve covered topics as diverse as disaster response, conservation treatments, digitization projects, book and paper arts, commercial binding, reformatting, book reviews, conferences, sustainability, whimsical quizzes, and local preservation events.  Are there topics we’ve never discussed that you wish we would?  Guest bloggers from other departments of the Library from whom you’d like to hear?  Join our conversation!

Wishing you all a productive and fulfilling 2013!

Last week, Beth Doyle of Preservation Underground and I both attended the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) 40th Annual Meeting in Albuquerque, NM.  The theme of this year’s meeting “Connecting to Conservation: Outreach and Advocacy,” created an ideal venue for us to share our social media efforts and promote collaborative blogging, such as our “1091 Project.”

Nancie Ravenel, Objects Conservator at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT, moderated the Communicating Conservation breakout discussion group.  Rosa Lowinger, Principal and Chief Conservator of Rosa Lowinger & Associates, was unable to attend the meeting because she was leading a conservation outreach trip to Cuba.  Nancie read Rosa’s paper, “Writing About Repairing — Thoughts on Telling the Story of Conservation,” and participated in the discussion in her place.  Heidi Sobol, Senior Conservator of the Royal Ontraio Museum, Ontario, Canada, presented on her research into blog metrics with Mark Farmer, Web Design Manager.  Her excellent presentation, “Anatomy of a Blog: Conservation as Content,” compared and contrasted the metrics of two conservation blog posts, one video-based, and one text-and-photo based.  Finally, Beth and I presented “Outreach Online: Shaping a Preservation Presence with Social Media.”  As far as we know, we were the first presenters at AIC to use the dynamic Prezi platform.  The link to our presentation is here. Forty-five minutes of lively discussion followed the presentations, and I was pleased that the conversations continued, piecemeal, throughout the evening reception.  The purpose of discussion sessions, in my opinion, is to start conversations that will permeate the rest of the conference (and beyond). You can read the write-up about this and other sessions at the AIC blog, Conservators Converse.

View from Los Palomas, Albuquerque, NM

Conferences do not usually make for great photo-ops, so I thought I’d take a moment to sneak in some shots taken at the Book & Paper Group Reception, generously sponsored by Preservation Technologies and beautifully organized by BPG Assistant Program Chair Sarah Reidell.  The event took place at Los Palomas in Albuquerque, NM.

Los Palomas, Albuquerque, NM

Another session I attended (full disclosure: and helped organize) was the joint discussion session RATS/ACDG/LCCDG, which presented a panel on mass deacidification.  The session began with three presentations on three different deacidification systems: James Burd presented on Bookkeeper; Dr. Michael Ramin presented on Papersave Swiss; and Dick Smith presented on Wei T’o Paperguard.  Fenella France, Chief, Preservation of Research and Testing Division, Library of Congress, then presented her research with Jeanne Drewes, “Taking the Measure: Treatment and testing in Mass Deacidification.”  Nora Lockshin of the Smithsonian Library presented former intern Anna Friedman’s research, “Evaluating Deacidification After 20 years of Natural Ageing.”  A write-up of the discussion should be posted soon on Conservators Converse.

My favorite session of the conference was The Great Debate, organized by Richard McCoy, Objects Conservator at the Indiana Museum of Art.  This formal, Oxford-style debate really grabbed the audience’s attention — never have I heard so much impassioned cheering, laughter, and shouting during a conference presentation!

Did you attend the AIC 40th Annual Meeting?  We’d love to hear your impressions in the Comments section.  Then let’s head over to Preservation Underground to hear Beth’s commentary on the conference and continue the conversation.

Fakes, forgeries, fabrications, and facsimiles are 4 “F”s that are often heard together when it comes to authenticating questioned documents, artifacts, and works of art.  Each connotes something slightly different:

Fake generally means a document, artifact, or work of art which has been altered in some way to appear older, more valuable, or more unique than it actually is.  Fake might also refer to a facsimile (see below) which is being passed off as a genuine item.

Forgery refers to a fraudulent imitation of a genuine, extant document, artifact, or work of art.  A forgery is created with the intention to deceive.

Fabrication suggests something akin to forgery, with the exception that a fabrication may be a document, artifact, or work of art that never, in fact, existed.  Such a work might be introduced as a “lost” version of a play by a famous playwright, for example, or a “previously undiscovered” portrait by a famous painter.  A fabrication does not have to imitate an existing item in minute detail; it need only have characteristics consistent with the time-period, place, and tradition it purports to be from, and also have a persuasive provenance.

Facsimile is perhaps the most benign of the group.  While fakes, forgeries, and fabrications suggest a deliberate intention to deceive, facsimile denotes a detailed reproduction which is not necessarily intended to be taken for the genuine item.  Facsimiles might occasionally be believed to be authentic by a well-meaning but unknowledgeable person, or they might be exploited by a knowledgeable yet unscrupulous person.

The National Association of Document Examiners is one national organization which credentials forensic examiners and graphologists who are trained in questioned document examination.  Appraisers and conservators often know a great deal about authenticating documents, but are not necessarily credentialed (or qualified) to do so.  They may often be consulted in conjunction with other forensic specialists.

"Solemn Oath" by Dmitri Moor (1919)

This privately-held, Bolshevik propaganda poster designed by Dmitri Moor is a facsimile — and perhaps also a fake, since the seller did not readily disclose to the buyer that the poster was not original.  (Click on the image to see it in a higher resolution.)  The paper is a thin, wood-pulp paper that is darkening slightly with age, which is consistent with the time-period during which this lithographic poster would have been printed.  However, there is a clear visual clue which indicates that this is a digital reproduction of an original poster.  Can you see it?  Share your guess in the Comments, and we will post the answer next week.

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