Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Winterthur Trip

Written by Daniel DelViscio

Update from our last post:

This past week on November 4th we at the Delaware State University Archives took a wonderful tour of the conservation facilities at the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library. We were given a look behind the scenes at the book and library department, science analytics lab, and the paper conservation department.  

Do you remember this photograph to the right? If not, see our last post. I asked a conservator on the tour how they might go about reconditioning a photograph with rust damage. First, consideration is given to the historical value of the item. As archivists we have to consider if it is worth the time and money to restore something in your collection. Conservators have similar thought processes. They take into account how much conservation is necessary because sometimes the methods they use are detrimental to the object. With this photograph of David Warner the first step is to identify the photograph’s chemical composition. The conservator would have to decide, based on that information, what type of bleach is suitable to remove the rust stain.  The process of bleaching a photograph is like using chemotherapy to destroy cancer. A conservator can only use this method to a point before he/she has done more harm than good.

Each department at Winterthur specializes in a certain object group. We were shown labs for furniture, painting, textile conservation, and more.  Learning about the processes and techniques conservators use was fascinating, and if I wasn’t so awful at chemistry I’d love to learn how to do it myself. If you are thinking of taking a tour of Winterthur I highly recommend it. I’m told the Yuletide tours around Christmas are especially cool with nighttime events like the Yuletide Jazz and Wine and live musical performances. 

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