L6/01 Practical Conservation resubmission paper: Stone
Word count: 2,500 – 3,000
You have been asked to conserve an 18th century Italian hard stone (pietre dure) table top which has an image of birds and flowers in white, blue, green, pink, yellow and grey stones, set into a black stone background. It sits on a gilded wooden base. The table top has been badly damaged in transit to an exhibition and many of the pieces used to create the image are detached and broken; there are also some losses. In addition, on some areas there is a white accretion, the surface is scratched and there are also a number of greasy stains because the object was once used as a dining table. Following the conservation of the object, it will be sent on long term loan (up to 10 years) to an historic house in Sydney, Australia. Please answer the following questions about the investigation, planning and execution of the treatment and the future care of the table top.
Describe three methods that you could use to identify the stone types used to make the top. Why do we need to know?Which one would be most appropriate for this type of object?
What other materials would you expect to find used in the fabrication of an object of this type?
How would you identify the white incrustation?
Provide a treatment proposal, listing all stages in carrying out the conservation of an object, in the order in which you would carry them out.
In considering the removal of the white incrustation, what parameters would you need to use in deciding on materials and methods?
In considering the repair and reattachment of the broken and detached pieces, list the characteristics that the adhesive to be used should have and describe how you will test and evaluate a range of materials?
In considering the restoration of the missing areas. List the characteristics the fill materials should have and describe how you will test and evaluate a range of materials?
How would you decide on what is the appropriate level of cleaning for the object?
Describe how the table top and base should be handled, packed and transported for the loan to Australia?
Even before considering transportation/packaging, the lending institution would examine the object after the entire treatment was completed and write a condition report with precise information on the condition and conservation work done on the object, with an attachment of photographs.
Handling: Wearing appropriate gloves while handling sensitive surfaces is crucial to prevent oil from fingertips touching the object. The table top will be extremely heavy, a requirement of special handling equipment could come handy, and if that is not possible due to financial reasons, At least a number of three people should carefully carry the object onto the workbench. But the area should be sealed off beforehand to prevent damage or extra load of people surrounding the area.
And for the gilded base, two people wearing appropriate gloves would be sufficient to carry it.
Packaging: The table top should be detached from its base and packed separately for easier transportation.
For the table top – the first layer surrounding the object becomes the protection barrier of a facing cloth to cover it entirely or the use of bubble wrap around the object, filling the heavy-duty crate with s shaped Styrofoam, a polyester rigid foam surrounding it, with a single sheet of soft plastic for further safety and preventing unnecessary movement in the crate.
For the gilded base wrap, it with acid free paper to prevent the gilding from rubbing and place it with the same materials used for the table top into a crate and seal it.
Transportation: Depending on which means of transport would be taken.
Going by road can be very efficient and fast, less handling of cases, direct involvement and control by museum and trucking handlers, and temperature controlled.
Going by air is the most common, efficient method of moving objects. The object could be stored in room temperature environment, despite of heavy packaging could have repercussions with the object.
Describe how the table top and base should be cared for while on loan to the historic house in Sydney?
After conservation, and all the pieces have been repaired and put back.
The display in which the object will be kept in should be in a controlled environment and monitored. And it should be displayed securing preventing object from getting damaged.
The object should be routinely dusted using soft clean white cotton cloth, gently in one direction. Before dusting, appropriate gloves are advised.
Q8. AS its going on as museum loan you would want the actual owners to give their opinion rather than the people it is going to; then if there is a standard level of clean the collection aims to do; or if there is another object it wants to be compared to – if this doesn’t give an answer then you would way up the difference between its current state and the original intention. Example: is dirt obscuring the original design or will over cleaning be unethical? Find balance
Q7. Consider fills that are either sympathetic or reversible; the colour, strength compared to the object, ease of application – how’d one apply it in situ (would it sink it etc), life span (how might it react with the object/any coatings etc; reversibility if one needs to retain an old finish
Q6. Longevity, strength, reversibility, colour, viscosity if you might be trying to use it a bit as a fit as well; how hazardous it is to use and remove; if another adhesive has already been used, it may be useful to keep things consistent across the object (most of which overlaps with fills)
Q5. Once you know what it is, you need to know what would affect it and what would affect the stone – considering if the stone might get etched when removing you’d used to test to find all this out. Depending on its strength, you might even be able to do it mechanically. But you need to make sure it is not important first.
Q4. Well testing – identifying stones, coatings, and the crusty residues; once materials and all issues found would need to look at the time available; for a proposal you could give offers, maybe a more in depth but longer treatment, and additional. So, consolidation would be priority. If this took longer than expected might amend the rest of the plan. Then cleaning fills, might be towards the end of the treatment.
Q3. Basic magnification. If I think it might be paint or a fill, probably stain testing; solubility tests; FTIR; if all fails could send the samples to a better lab.
Q2. Historic animal glues, wood underneath the stone top, various fixings; maybe a varnish or coating layer on the stone.