What makes being an art preparator, museum technician, art handler so much fun is solving problems and puzzles in not enough time. This was a fun and weird one that I solved, but not with 100% satisfaction. PREPARATION So why would we need faux brick in the first place? We were being offered a set of furniture, commissioned by the Flood family, from someone selling his home. Time was short, we knew the place would sell fast in the San Francisco Bay Area. We employed Ship Art International to go investigate. It took A LOT of work, but those art handlers were able to pry it out of there (without having to pull the side of the house off, which seemed to be on the table for about 12 hours). There’s so much more to that part of the story, but I’ll save that for another time. The moral of the story is that all of this happened very fast. The time we had to make the space ready was very short. We ended up taking the opportunity to give the entire space a new paint job, all of the 22′ ceilings! Additionally, we raised the central wall up 4.5′ (1.37 m) and we had to cut a hole into the wall to make room for the fireplace, which happened to be right where a major structural beam ran through the building. If you come see this and you pull your tape measure out you’re not wrong, the fireplace is off by one inch because of this beam. IDEAL We heard small brick was used, but never had a sample to work from, I searched the net for a real mini brick supplier, but couldn’t find the right item. It was either way too small, the wrong color, or wasn’t in stock. We kept our hopes up to find the ideal supply for this job, but it never came so I had to pull the rip cord on out back up: Faux brick paneling from a building supply warehouse. If you looked at it in the store, you’d think no way this is going to look believable. So I set to work, making it look as good as it possibly could. ITERATIONS I saved enough time for us to try various surface treatments. One thing that was rejected right away was grout in a tube that could be squeezed on like caulking. It was just too thick to look right. What did have promise was a wash of pure black acrylic paint. I varied the ratio of water to paint as well as the time left on the surface before wiping it off. I decided that a clear coat (be it flat, matte, or semi-gloss) wouldn’t look right, raw paint was the most realistic looking. FINAL In the end we use a combination of a 2:1 ratio of paint to water that was wiped off right away PLUS an additional application of wash just on the grout that was wiped off after for ten seconds. It was fun to get the right look and made a HUGE difference. The finishing move was a 3/4″ backer strips glued in to add some rigidity to the 3/16″ faux panel. That should prevent any curling for some time. So if a visitor someday decides they need to vandalize the brick, we can now recreate the look with this article. I’ll leave with a request, if anyone out there knows of a dependable (quality) mini red brink supplier please let me know in the comments below or directly to me on my profile page here on MuseumTrade. Ideally it would be around 3/4″ thick and somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5″ x 3″ (LxW). How have you overcome adversity in less time than you would have preferred? Share your successes and failures with all of MuseumTrade. Cheers
It’s been a long while since I, or anyone has added anything to the site. I thought I’d have all this extra time to dig into content creation. I did organize and centralize all my content, like everything that I’ve shot over the past 10+ years, but it’s been hard to write about it. Here’s a piece I did for the Crocker Art Museum (With COVID-19 museums are now professional content creators). They decided against my intro/outro and sound effects. I’ve left em in for you. I had MuseumTrade in mind when planting one question in the video: “What step do we miss toward the end of the video?” Surely one of you will catch it. Leave it in the comments below. I hope you get to open crates again soon….
Hi Gang, Here’s a fascinating project from the British Museum, they conserved Dürer’s Triumphal Arch. What time and care it took to clean this up. It goes to show that housing something right the first time can pay dividends in the future. Seeing as how most of us don’t have the time, money, and facilities to take on something like this, it’s nice to get a glimpse of the process and maybe take home a tip or two. Enjoy TRANSCRIPTION I know many of you (like myself) rely on the written word for many reasons, your speakers are broken, you’re in a cube-farm, or you simply would rather read the information. I’ll try my best to follow all the videos with the transcription. If I mission please shoot me a quick heads up. This is Dürer’s Triumphal Arch which has been in the British Museum since 1837. It is the largest print that we have measuring some four square meters and the challenge has always been the storage and preservation of it. Clearly this is a print designed in paper. It was designed for decoration and it would have been coloured and posted up in baronial halls and courts of the Holy Roman Empire. When it arrived in the department it was in five long strips. Thereafter it was kept in portfolios until the 1890s when it was assembled into one sheet as was the original intention. Since then it has been on permanent display which is an extremely long time for anything of this fragility. And it is just recently that we have the opportunity to remove it from the frame and we have now got the opportunity with a generous donation of funds to preserve it and to think about its long-term storage. The first stages of conservation were really mapping the damage. So we used clear plastic sheets to draw on and we started to get an idea of what we’d have to deal with. The problem we faced was actually accessing the middle of the print and this was a problem that we also saw them dealing with in Copenhagen when they were working on their version of the print. And we took their idea and ran with it which was to have the large roller sitting on the top of the table and the print moving along the table and down onto a secondary roller underneath the table. Using this two roller system we firstly cleaned the paper which we call dry cleaning which means using erasers to take the surface dirt off. If you don’t do that any subsequent treatment using moisture or water would fix that dirt into the paper. The print had been exposed under glass since 1970s but before that time it had been displayed unglazed with the coal fires that you find in the early 20th century. So we’re expecting and we found quite a bit of surface dirt. The print moved along the table and round and down onto the roller. At that stage we were able to take more photographs and map more details of the condition of the paper. So today I’m trying to find out what adhesives were used on the Triumphal Arch print because the conservators want to take off the backing so they want to know what adhesives are there. FTIR Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer. By analysing the difference between the infrared light that we shine through the sample and the infrared light that gets to the detector we can then see what the characteristic material is. The adhesive underneath was starch. We turned the print over and started to remove the lining. We did some tests on what to use for this using various types of humidity and the best one we found was holding the humidity in a gel which was cellulose based and that we could just put in small areas on the back and wait till the moisture just worked its magic on the starch adhesive and then we could peel the textile off. And we realised that the print itself was quite weak once you took the lining off so we had to then separate the sheets at the same time because we didn’t want to go through the second roller scenario because that would be too damaging to the weak paper. At that point we discovered that the print had been chamfered along the edge as we tried to separate them somebody had very carefully shaved the edge of the paper off. This made life quite difficult because the paper lost more than half its thickness. We are at the stage where we have 36 individual sheets of paper and two small columns at each side of the bottom that are separate. The adhesive that was left on the back of the prints was very discoloured and the print surface itself was quite absorbent and some of the prints were noticeably discoloured so with that scenario with prints there’s a process of removing discolouration by washing. The big advantage of doing this is that you remove soluble acidity which over time is harmful to paper. So using our special cellulose poultice again we applied this to the back of all the prints using it to swell the starch adhesive and remove it with very smooth bone folders just to scrape it very lightly because we didn’t want to affect the paper itself. At the stage where we had removed as much adhesive as possible we then put the print in a bath of warm water well supported and with two people handling them. The warm water was at the temperature that would dissolve the starch and after a couple of changes of water we could see that the yellow discolouration coming out of the paper into the water was decreasing and at that point we took the print out and we left it to dry. We did that with all the prints and they’re all more or less quite a harmonious colour although some of them are slightly discoloured and they’re much more… they appear to be much more like the colour they would have been originally. There’s a bit more strength in the paper as well. We are now at the stage of repairing any tears and considering how we will support areas like this that are very thin or where there are small holes and we’ve decided to use repair called pulp which is how paper is originally made from paper pulp and it’s just taking that in a very more controlled way by using a solution of paper; a tone to the right colour in water and a suction table, and to mask out an area that we want to fill like this skinned area. And effectively we’re making a small strip of paper ourselves which we will then lay on the print and it makes a very harmonious repair which remains quite flexible and is ideal for small holes as well. After the repair of the skinned and the missing areas on the print we are going to line all the sheets with a very thin Japanese tissue which will support them. And it’s the first stage to potentially joining the print back together again. How we go about this and how it ends up is still open for discussion but it will be joined visually in some way if not physically. So the prints will remain in the conservation studio and be perfectly safe here and in good condition until such time as we make a decision.
Hello MuseumTrade community. I thought this was an insightful interview. Many of us don’t get to touch on the design aspect, but it’s fun to hear where it came from and why. And who knows, after years of seeing how all of the pieces come together maybe someday you’ll move over to the design side. MuseumTrade is absolutely a place for Design, it’s a a place of cross-roads; between museum types and between te many hats we wear on a daily basis and over the course of our careers. So to all the preparators, technician, handlers, interactive designers, exhibit designers, and everyone in-between I bring you an Interview with Creative Director – Stefanel Barutcieff Pilotfish Creative Director, Stefanel Barutcieff, has recently held an Interaction Design Workshop in Bucharest. Working together with the National Museum of Art of Romania, a group of talented design students from the University of Arts in Bucharest and with Dizainar – a team of designers dedicated to reorganising and promoting Romanian design, he proposed new and innovative ways of transforming visit museums into a unique experience. Read the following interview and step behind the scenes of one of the most recent Pilotfish projects. How did this idea come about? As an art passionate I have visited a lot of museums around the world and I have seen many examples of Interactive Installations for science museums, but rarely for art museums. As a designer, I thought why not? Why not make art museums just as interactive as science ones? Having this idea in mind, we approached the National Museum of Art of Romania, one of the most important museums in Bucharest but also one of the most challenging ones for us to implement our idea. Why would a museum want an Interactive Installation for its visitors? A lot of museums face the problem of not being able to attract the younger generation, the digital generation of tablets and smart phones for whom sharing via social media is a key element of their daily experiences. It’s also important to understand the need to improve the interaction between visitors and the objects displayed in museums – this is what makes a visit to a museum a pleasant and unique experience for the visitors. Especially in the case of art or history museums, the visitor is disconnected from the objects displayed. These are objects captured in a time capsule belonging to the past, something hard to relate to and understand for the new generations. A lot of museums have touchscreens and audio guides for visitors. How is this different from an Interactive Installation? These systems, while good, are also limited. They do not give the user the option to choose the information presented to him and the level of immersion into the historical or cultural context of an exhibit is superficial. The context and the background of an exhibit are the factors which give it its true value, and without this understanding, as I mentioned, the immersion of the visitor remains a superficial one. While Science themed exhibitions allow for more freedom of interaction within an exhibition space, people can see how things work, what they do and so on, art museums represent a genuine challenge, starting with the nature of the exhibits and continuing with the profile of the audience these museums are trying to attract. Technology is a lot more appealing to younger people as the connection of those exhibits and the reality they are surrounded by is far more obvious and easier to grasp. Why did you decide to turn this project into a workshop? First of all, we wanted to have a solution addressing exactly this segment – young people. We wanted to find out what triggers them, what attracts them, what they would like to see. That’s why we partnered with the University of Arts in Bucharest and with Dizainar and we organised an intensive two-weeks Interaction Design Workshop by the end of which we aimed to deliver several design concepts of Interactive Installations. What is the best way to structure such a workshop in order to get the best results? We wanted the client to be happy and excited with the outcome and we wanted the students to have a genuine experience of what it means to work as a designer. We wanted to empower them but also let them express their ideas and their creativity. So the workshop included all the steps of our normal design process, starting with research through on-location visits and an interview with one of the museum curators, continuing with brainstorming sessions, online research of available technologies, ideation, sketching and 3D renderings, and in the end – presentation of concepts to the client. With the help of Dizainar we even provided a work space which really resembled a design studio. What were some of the challenges you came across? Following our initial visit at the museum and several interviews with the representatives of the museum, we identified some of the biggest pain-points. The first one was defined by the context and the nature of one of the permanent exhibitions – Romanian Medieval Art. Composed of highly valuable exhibits with a rich historical value but also a highly religious component, the exhibition does not attract younger generations. One of the first questions we asked ourselves was exactly this: How do we make Medieval Art, religious art, attractive to young people who generally have a low interest in this topic? How do we make it accessible and interesting without our solutions competing with the exhibits themselves? In order to do this we looked in depth, into the culture, the history and the legends associated with these objects. We wanted our design to tell the story of those objects and we also wanted to tell a story about the museum, because storytelling is the best way to reach users and give them the best experience they can have while visiting the museum. The best stories are always the ones which have a personal component, a component which users can identify themselves with. We felt that the classical audio guides and explanatory boards or touch screens are not personal enough, they don’t engage the visitor, and the story they tell is too general, unable to reach to the particular interest of each individual. The solutions we came up with, together with the students, are closely related to history, to culture but also to the personal visit of the audience, their interests and expectations, as well as their needs – such as being able to take a break during the visit or selecting the kind of information they explore during their visit. Besides the perspective of the visitors, we also focused on the needs of the museum. We looked at how we could place an Interactive Installation without disturbing the flow of visitors and without distracting them from the exhibits themselves. We focused on how we could transform the spaces of transition and the spaces annexed to the exhibition rooms, such as a bench in an exhibition room, the entrance of the museum or even the gardens. We combined fresh ideas with safety requirements, such as delimitating certain areas around the exhibits. Another challenge was to create an Interactive Installation which can engage a very wide range of people. Considering the audience of the museum if formed of all categories of persons, from school children to elderly people, our concept had to be easily understandable to all. What do you consider to be your biggest take-away from this workshop? No matter how experienced you are as a designer, each project adds to your knowledge so there is always a lot to learn and new dimensions to explore, but I think the biggest take away, for me, is realising once again how important balance is in design. How do you keep the perfect balance between celebrating art in its pure, unaltered form while at the same time making it accessible and understandable to a larger audience? How far do you go without trivializing art? It was also very interesting to explore all the different ways in which we could use the cultural background of an object, the legends and stories surrounding it, in order to develop our design concepts. We used new technologies to reactivate these old, almost forgotten stories and bring medieval art closer to the modern visitor, practically reconnecting all the key elements – the object, its’ space, its’ history and its’ viewer. Interactive Installations have the power of restoring this connection and the stronger this connection is, the better the user experience becomes when we visit a museum. Featured Image: Photo by pedrosimoes7
Ruth Asawa’s works are popular for a reason, they are ethereal and beautiful. They are also fragile due to the nature of woven metal. She has provided and excellent HOW TO guide for her most difficult works, the hanging basket forms. In the interest of having every and all art handling instruction manuals in one place it is provided here. Please follow up with mauanls you may have lying around your shop or desktop. And now, onto Ruth’s words (or at least the estate’s words): Sculpture Handling Ruth Asawa’s iconic, large looped wire sculptures require special handling. Only qualified art handlers should do this work. Sculpture Facts They are fragile even though they are made of flexible wire. They are not collapsible. Once the wire loops bend, they stay bent until they are conserved to their original form (and rebending wire can affect patina). They are not heavy. Small sculptures can weigh only a few pounds. Longer, bulkier pieces can weigh between 20-35 lbs. The largest pieces may be only 50 lbs. The safest position is vertical, suspended by a hanging wire and swivel at the top of the sculpture. The Best Art Handlers We’ve Observed Have good flexibility and physical agility. These two traits are more important than strength since the sculptures are reasonably lightweight. Work as a team and are willing to take the time to read these instructions. Rehearse how they will move the sculpture in advance, with ladders (or lifts) in position to reduce the amount of time a sculpture must be carried. WARNING to ART HANDLERS Never rest a sculpture on the floor. This may cause the larger, round lobes to become deformed. Never pick up a sculpture without knowing exactly where it will hang and exactly how it will get to the hanging hook. Always wrap the narrow necks with tissue paper and bubble wrap before attempting to move the sculpture. Do not squeeze the necks, cradle them securely, but gently. Never move an Asawa sculpture by holding the larger, round lobes. Take particular care to protect lobes with interior forms, as these are so much more difficult, if not impossible, to conserve. When moving the sculpture either vertically or horizontally, never allow the lobes to collapse into each other (or jam up). The suspension should be maintained so that the lobes do not collapse up or down into one another. This is a partial list. Then onto Ruth Asawa’s lengthier document, which is also attached if you want to print it, or you can simply open up this webpage on a tablet or phone. The point being that you’ll probably want this with you during installation time. Link to PDF here Featured image credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 File:Ruth Asawa’s Untitled (S.563, Hanging SIx Lobed Form with Two Interior Spheres), 1956.jpg Created: 2017-09-26 12:13:38
Hi Art Preparators, Art Handlers, Art Installers, Museum Technicians, etc… How do you sink and fill holes in the wall? We use a carriage bolt with 2 nuts on one end. They work great, tried and true. Then one day a guy game me a handful of samples of Sugru, a moldable plastic. Basically once you open the package it begins to set up. Well it was nearly two or even three years later that I had a use for the stuff. Here are a series of pictures for how we added a soft grip to our “sinkers.” If you want to do this at your museum get some Sugru (obviously), scissors, Sinker, and vice grips. Cut open the package, knead the Sugru material, then begin forming it around the sinkers shaft. Some installers have opted to put the Sugru closer to the dimpling end of the bolt, other like it further back and closer to the nuts (as pictured here). It’s a very nice way to enhance the expericen. It really cuts down on finger fatigue when sinking dozens or even hundreds of holes (I’m talking to you art auction). Enjoy!
Lighting has a long history in museums and in the past 10 years it feels like its been on hyperdrive. When I started at the Crocker Art Musuem in 2008 I was already looking to find lams that would bring out the best in our art. There were a few promising candidates, but none of them were “it.” I let it go for a couple years and in 2011 the local power company told me that there were incentives for changing over to LED so I gave the field another look. It had been just two or three years after my first survey of lamps and now the color accuracy was looking better if not great. I took another survey of te field and narrowed down to GE and Phillips because they were the only ones (at the time) that had the color down and offered PAR 20, 30, 38, and MR16s. I wanted to stay with one company for consistency sake. A few years later, We had a glass exhibit coming up and needed a super narrow spot to make these babies sing. This exhibit need plus the fact that the GEs (yes they beat out Phillips) began to fade or change color I knew it was time to survey the field and this time it was a whole new ball game; a whole new set of players. In 2016 we called reps of all the major light manufactures to get samples and it came down to SORAA and Green Creative. I’ll get into our method more deeply in an other article, but basically we put them in a gallery with similarly sized and colored art. We brought out a photographers graphics card (with 24 colored squares) and looked at each light quality. We did this over about a two week period and had six or eight sets of eyes weigh in. It was close, but SORRA won out on color rendering, but what pushed it over was their SNAP system where you can add up to two different lenses (spreaders, shape changers, etc). One of the founders of SORAA is mentioned in the article below from the Smithsonian which is followed by a 51 minute video presentation by Scott Rosenfeld. Ok, it’s time to dig in, enjoy. The Renwick’s New Lighting Saves Energy, Money, Art, and Your Eyes, All at the Same Time There’s way more to it than just screwing in the bulb and the museum’s chief lighting designer is turning it into an artform When architect James Renwick, Jr. designed the capital’s first purpose-built art museum near the White House in 1859, the lighting was strictly gas. That and the large windows that allowed sunlight to stream onto the collected works of the wealthy philanthropist and financier W. W. Corcoran that were originally housed in the Second Empire style building. When the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum reopens on November 13 after a two-year, $30 million renovation, the art museum once known as the “American Louvre,” will host in its first exhibition “Wonder,” the eye-popping installations of nine contemporary artists from Jennifer Angus to Patrick Dougherty to Maya Lin. The building’s 19th-century windows were part of the restoration, though often covered with screens to protect art from direct sun. And rather than the hiss of gas or the electric incandescent bulbs that came later, the building will be reliant on brighter, more precise LED light that the museum’s designers helped develop in conjunction with manufacturers such as Solais. The museum will have a brilliance that will revolutionize not just the storied Renwick, but likely other museums in the future. As innovative as any of the works of art on view here will be the lighting configuration, designed to reduce building electricity use by a whopping 75 percent. It will save 25 percent in air conditioning costs, since the far more cooler LED lights won’t raise interior temperatures. Further, the LED lights—the acronym stands for light-emitting diode—will last four times longer than incandescent or halogen lights for further savings. What museum visitors will notice, however, is how stunning everything looks. “I always thought when we went to more energy-efficiency, it was going to suck, that I would have to reduce the quality of light,” says Scott Rosenfeld the museum’s lighting director. “What we found was that not only does it not reduce quality, but it provides a whole new level of choice that we didn’t even know existed.” Rosenfeld, who says he began his career as “a lightbulb changer at the Walters,” the museum in his Baltimore hometown, has since become one of the nation’s leading experts on museum lighting. As chair of the Illuminating Engineering Society’s museum committee, he’s worked with the Department of Energy and researchers from Northwest Pacific Labs, among others, to determine exactly the right new lighting for the nation’s oldest purpose-built art museum. Luckily, he got to meet with Shuji Nakamura, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics last year for helping develop the blue LED, an invention which revolutionized the creation of white light with the previously existing semiconductors that created red and green LEDS. Blue LEDS had been more difficult to make because of their shorter wavelength. “Scott is one of the museum lighting designers who is really on top of the products and has been very progressive in trying LEDs and figuring out where they work,” says Naomi Miller, senior lighting engineer at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Portland, Oregon. “Now he has a chance in this renovation at the Renwick to apply what he’s learned and use a new crop of LED products.” In his red hard hat, with the clamor of construction going on all around him, Rosenfeld was happy to show the properties of the new light through charts, graphs and a spectrometer on his laptop. He talked about the five controllable properties of light: intensity, distribution, movement, direction and spectrum. He even pulled out what looked to be a child’s spinning top to demonstrate whether a light had the dreaded flicker—the effect in old fluorescent lights that is believed to give people headaches and even migraines. But then he looked up and said, that with the LED lighting, “we have figured all this out. We have drilled as deep down in this as we possibly can. So when people come to the Smithsonian,” he says, “They want to experience art. They don’t have to worry about spectrum.” Accordingly, he adds, “My research became focused on human factors. What do we want? How do we see? How do we experience art? How does light help us experience art? And now it can do anything: What do we want to do? So instead of trying to figure out what the technology does, I focus on us.” To do so, he worked with fixtures manufacturers that would better cool the sensitive microchips of the lights, and ordered the manufacture of bulbs that would screw in as easily as the old lighbulbs. And because the ceilings in the old building were 26 feet high, he’d need extra bright lights that could make pinpoints on often tiny objects below. “I started going to the Department of Energy conferences, talking to the manufacturers, to make the case for what we needed,” Rosenfeld says, who now has an array of LED technology to work with. “See this lightbulb here?” he says, cupping one in his palm. “It didn’t exist when we started this project.” A 4-degree LED spotlight will put the light precisely where it’s needed, so compact and intense, it will make colorful glassworks look as if they’re glowing from within—and it will only take a 10-watt bulb. It’s bright enough to illuminate something two stories down, but remains cool enough that he can put a film to filter it, broaden the beam or otherwise shape the light to the object. “I’m going to match the size of the light to the size of the thing,” he says, referring to the art. “Otherwise I get ugly shadows, there’s light everywhere. I want the artwork to be the brightest thing. And these pinspots allow me to do it.” Rosenfeld has lit the Smithsonian American Art Museum and worked with his colleague Richard Skinner, the veteran lighting designer at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, but he says he enjoys the Renwick and its myriad textures and media. What works in the museum will likely have implications elsewhere—not only in other galleries but in home and commercial work as well. “The Department of Energy had a vested interest in making sure the rollout of LEDS go as smoothly as possible,” Rosenfeld says, because “the rollout of compact fluorescents went terribly!” Those energy-saving bulbs had good technology, he says, “but there were so many bad examples of this good technology, that people didn’t like it: Lamps that failed, or had bad color, or came in odd sizes. They were ugly in one way or another.” “My concern is that consumers are seeing all LEDs as the same,” he adds “because it is so difficult to tell which ones are well made.” The museum will save further energy by reducing lighting in the hours after the museum closes. When lights go on at 7 a.m. for maintenance and cleaning, they’ll do so only when people are in the room, detected by occupancy sensors, reducing the time lights are on by about 25 percent. Turning LED lights on and off doesn’t cause the failure that occurred with incandescent lights, Rosenfeld says. In fact, it will make the LED lights last longer. Because they are also digital in nature, they’ll soon be able to be operated and adjusted through computer commands, once such technology is available. Plus they’ll last much longer. “Our lightbulbs used to go out about every six months to a year,” he says, “now we can expect at least three years from them—and we hope to get five to ten.” Ultimately, it gives one of the nation’s oldest museums one of the brightest futures. By Roger Catlin SMITHSONIAN.COM NOVEMBER 6, 2015