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Interns and Fellows Share Findings with Harvard Conservation Community

Challenging projects and resulting best practices are shared with colleagues.

 

May 20, 2014—Conservators and preservation specialists from across Harvard gathered to learn about the projects and challenges faced by several interns and fellows working across Harvard, in the museums and libraries.

“It was a great learning experience,” said Kelli Piotrowski, a Kress Fellow working at Weissman Preservation Center. “My background is in rare books, and I got to branch out and work with materials ranging from 14th-century manuscripts to mid-20th-century architectural drawings.”

The Harvard Library hosts up to two graduate level conservation interns each year at the Weissman Center. This year, the Library received a grant from the American Institute for Conservation to support a Kress Fellowship in post-graduate conservation work.  

Brenda Bernier, head of the Weissman Preservation Center, observed, “Fellows and advanced interns bring fresh ideas and ask insightful questions that keep us on our toes. It also gives us the opportunity to contribute to the education of the next generation of conservators.  Both sides benefit from the exchange. We hope to get sustained funding to continue offering fellowships across all of Preservation Services.”   

 The interns and fellows shared details on projects, including:

  • A technical study on Vase of Flowers by George Seurat by Dina Anchon, Haynes Conservation Fellow at the Straus Center for Conservation at Harvard Art Museums. During a cleaning and restoration project, Anchon examined Seurat’s brushwork, calling the early work a stepping stone towards his later pointillism.
  • Conservation of a silk-textile binding by Emily Lynch,graduate intern from New York University at the Weissman Center. Lynch combined her book conservation experience with the expert advice of a textile conservator to restore a damaged Chinese silk binding on Harvard-Yenching Library’s The Pageant of Peking.
  • Conservation treatment of a 16th-century wooden boarded binding by Graham Patten,graduate intern from Buffalo State College at the Weissman Center. Patten called on multiple skill sets to preserve all original materials when mending Sermonum Decades Quinque, a text belonging to Houghton Library which had split boards, missing leather on its backing, and a broken spine.
  • Elemental identification of pigments used in traditional bark paintings in the Northern Territory of Australia by Georgina Rayner, doctoral fellow in conservation science at the Straus Center. Rayner participated in an innovative study on the materials used in aboriginal paintings using scientific analysis of pigments to test hypotheses about trade routes and other social interactions among tribes in the late 19th century.
  • Restoration of Harvard Law School’s Bracton’s Laws by Kelli Piotrowski, Kress Fellow at the Weissman Center. Piotrowski restored the late 14th-century manuscript which included stabilizing and compensating losses in insect-damaged boards instead of replacing them.
  • A study of the screenprints of Corita Kent by Harry Metcalf, Craigen W. Bowen Fellow in Paper Conservation at the Straus Center. Metcalf reversed discoloration on holdings by using an accelerated light aging technique not commonly used for the purpose.
  • Conserving Stringed Sculpture, the treatment of Henry Moore’s Mother and Child, 1939 by Nicole Ledoux, Kress Objects Fellow at the Straus Center. Ledoux reached out to the greater Harvard conservation community via listserv to solicit advice on whether to preserve or replace broken and fragile strings in a sculpture prior to its planned inclusion at the inauguration of the Harvard Art Museum. She was able to preserve the original string through careful patching and rewove it in the work.