AIC Annual Meeting 2014


CLose up of the textured surface of Tek wipe, which is a nonwoven polyester and cellulose blend.

Close-up of the textured surface of Tek wipe, which is a nonwoven polyester and cellulose blend.

The AIC Annual Meeting in 2014 was abuzz with the virtues of Tek Wipe as a paper conservation material. We had been considering purchasing some as a disaster salvage supply for a while, after seeing how much cotton blotter we used up in the recovery from the Ames Flood of 2010. As the Chair-Elect of the AIC Sustainability Committee, I find the idea of an absorbent non-woven that is washable and reusable to be very appealing. Its reusability makes this material an attractive choice from both an environmental and an economic perspective. However, it wasn’t until I started hearing about other treatment uses for the material that I got over my inertia and ordered some for our lab.  Six months of experimentation later, I’m very pleased with Tek wipe’s versatility and results.

Tek wipe on a 35" wide roll.

Tek wipe on a 35″ wide roll.

Tek wipe is a highly absorbent polyester/cellulose nonwoven textile which can be ordered by the sheet or by the roll. We chose to order a roll and cut it down to sheets that are custom sized for various purposes. We have precut sheets to keep on hand for water disaster scenarios, but I have also been using it for document washing and paper mending in place of (and sometimes in addition to) cotton blotter. For mending, I have used Tek wipe in place of the small rectangles of blotter cut to fit our glass and plexi glass weights. I still sandwich Reemay or Holytex between the Tek wipe and the mend, because the Tek wipe can stick to the mend (or even the paper support itself) if allowed to dry in direct contact.

However, where Tek wipe’s versatility really shines is as a washing material.  I’ll qualify that assertion by saying my assessments are visual and anecdotal; we haven’t the time or the resources in our lab to assess the results with technical analytics (hint, hint to the conservation graduate students out there…)  I’ve been working on a project treating about twenty issues of a mid-19th century horticulture journal suffering from water and mold damage. All of the issues exhibit black and purple mold stains, as well as caked-on surface dirt and pronounced tidelines which fluoresce under UV light. Regardless of whether the tidelines are fluorescing as an indication of mold hyphae or an indication of soluble paper degradation products, reducing them has been a desirable part of this treatment. The project has therefore offered an ideal opportunity for testing out a few different washing techniques with Tek wipe.

Tidelines fluorescing under UV light.

Tidelines fluorescing under UV light.

After the initial treatment steps of HEPA vacuuming, dry cleaning, and misting with an ethanol solution, the separated folios of the horticulture journal were then washed aqueously.  I tried three different washing techniques with Tek wipe: blotter sandwich washing, slant board washing, and a combination of immersion washing combined with abbreviated blotter sandwich washing.  Tek wipe performed usefully in all three scenarios, dramatically reducing the tidelines visible in ambient light and completely removing the fluorescing compounds.  For all three washing methods, documents were dried in a blotter/Reemay stack under weight.

Blotter Sandwich Washing

For the blotter sandwich, I used Tek wipe in place of Reemay or Hollytex.  I sandwiched the document between two piece of Tek wipe, then sandwiched the ensemble between two piece of thick cotton blotter. This method worked the best to the naked eye, completely removing all visible traces of the tidelines. All fluorescing compounds were likewise removed with this method.

Slant Board Washing

In this scenario, I used Tek wipe in lieu of a fleece, but otherwise followed standard slant board washing procedures. The Tek wipe seemed to wick a bit more slowly than fleece, but the stain was reduced almost as well as blotter sandwich washing, with slight ghosting remaining. All fluorescing compounds were also removed with this method.

Immersion Washing Followed by Abbreviated Blotter Sandwich Washing

While trying the above washing methods with Tek wipe proved informative, neither method would be suitable for the scale of this project, which requires the washing of over 200 folios. So, I decided to try immersion washing in combination with a blotter sandwich lined with Tek wipe.  Following usual procedures, I washed a Reemay stack with one full issue of the journal in multiple baths of short duration (5 minutes each): two baths in deionized water, followed by two alkaline baths. Even though the water in the final bath remained clear, some visible tidelines did remain in the documents. The documents were peeled one by one from the stack and placed in a blotter/Tek wipe sandwich stack. The documents were re-misted with recalcified water after about an hour, and left for another hour in the blotter/Tek wipe stack. This method greatly reduced the tidelines, leaving behind only faint ghosting, and removing all fluorescing compounds.  I selected this method for the remainder of the project because it produced acceptable results in a more time-efficient manner.

Before (above) and after (below) immersion washing followed by abbreviated blotter/Tek wipe sandwich washing.

Before (above) and after (below) immersion washing followed by abbreviated blotter/Tek wipe sandwich washing.

Washing the Tek wipe in very warm water and then air-drying it removed the stains the material absorbed from the washing processes above, leaving it ready to be used again.

How Are You Using Tek Wipe?

Are you using Tek wipe for conservation treatments? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section.  I’m especially interested to hear if anyone has tried using Tek wipe instead of blotter in a drying stack in a treatment, rather than disaster salvage, scenario, and whether that was successful.

What do you like or dislike about the material? Have you had any particular successes or failures using it? Do you have any cautions to share?  Please join the conversation!

 

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.

 

 

Former Lennox Intern Susanna Donovan returns to the ISU Conservation Lab in virtual form, as a guest blogger! Susanna is currently a Mellon Fellow in Paper Conservation at Balboa Art Conservation Center in San Diego, CA.

This post comes as a note to the upcoming AIC annual meeting in San Francisco.

I heard this story on NPR in September in which a professor at Boston University observed how the size of a recyclable object had a direct influence on whether it was actually put into the recycling bin or not. It turned out that while a whole sheet of paper would be recycled, that same sheet of paper, torn into small bits, would find its way into the trash. In the time since this observation, the professor has become aware that his own recycling habits have changed. Now acutely aware of how many small recyclable items are over looked, he will even take the paper labels off of plastic coke bottles and recycle them separately.

I empathize, and I am also guilty.

As a conservator working with paper, I find myself with a growing collection of paper scraps. My spoils of Japanese paper, Western paper, (sandpaper?!), toned paper, remoistenable paper, and solvent-set papers are nestled into folders and Mylar sleeves. When I get annoyed at how the smaller pieces get everywhere and the static turns my long strips into crinkly messes, I nestle another, smaller, Mylar sleeve into the bigger Mylar sleeve in which to put the smaller bits.

Scraps-01

Avoiding a Russian nesting doll situation, my VERY small, but very precious bits of that perfectly toned paper go into one of those mini Altoid tins. I acquired these tins from various people. I feel like I can’t be the only book & paper conservator who asks friends, colleagues, and family members “Are you going to use that?” when a perfectly useable, hinged tin goes on the market. Anyway, my small bits go there. I can keep them contained, with the lid, and I don’t have to worry about the static of the mylar sleeves causing me grief. There is also my prized origami-envelope in which I keep some random things (i.e. the sandpaper, mylar mounting strip examples for photographs, itty bits of Western paper). I keep telling myself that one day I will open it out so I can remember how to make more envelopes, but I am too afraid that I will never be able to get it back to what it was, and then where will I put my random things?

Scraps-02

With all of my various ways of saving tiny mending strips and tangles of fuzz, you’d think that no fuzz goes unused, no strip wasted. But the trail of cotton and small squares of Japanese paper sunk into the carpet in the hallway bespeak the trials of every paper conservator out there: the dreaded paper cling. I admit that I have gone to the bathroom to look in the mirror and discover that I have fuzz all over my sweater. And here we come to the crux of my guilt: I brush it off. I do not save those bits that I find outside the confines of the lab, lest the administrative staff of the photography museum  in our shared hallway see me lightly holding something between my fingers on my way back from the bathroom…It would just look weird, right? But maybe I should. We save these small pieces of paper because we literally never know when we might need that EXACT tone, size, weight, etc., in the future. And some of these papers might be one of a kind, and so each and every piece is, indeed, precious. But what if I changed the narrative for those sweater-clingers, and thought first “waste not,” instead of “a fuzz on my chest again?! @$%&.” It might not do much, but since I am already shaking out my hands 12 times before grabbing that paper towel (as per a TED talk that stuck with me), what will it hurt?

Conserving is part of what we do, even if it might not be the first thing we use to define ourselves. The meeting in San Francisco will have presentations about sustainability and waste management in conservation, but I’d like to poke my nose out there and ask, more informally, what do you do?

Where do your small paper treasures hide? What lengths do you go to to use every last inch of that precious sheet of Tim Barrett paper ? What could we all do better?