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Thursday, May 31 • 4:00pm - 4:30pm
(Research and Technical Studies + Textiles) A sizable sooty soiled surface: Analyzing and evaluating methods for surface cleaning a large painted muslin

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Throughout the documentation and treatment of an unusually large painted muslin, analytical methods helped to both characterize the object, and evaluate the efficacy of the treatment. Displayed at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, the muslin painted by Strike the Kettle (Lakota), a follower of Sitting Bull, depicts multiple scenes including gift giving, cooking, and warriors on horseback. The muslin was treated for the major long-term exhibition, Americans, at the National Museum of the American Indian. Previous extended display in the industrial urban centers of Chicago and New York City resulted in heavy, sooty, lead-containing surface soiling. Prominent tar-like stains in the center had haloed tidelines from an earlier treatment attempt. Pigments, binder, and stain residue were characterized using microscopy, portable x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (pXRF), attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR), microscope-FTIR, and x-ray diffraction (XRD). Analyses confirmed that common late 19th century trade pigments were used with a proteinaceous binder. All paint colors were evaluated for light stability using microfadeometry, revealing all but one were stable. The black stain was characterized as an oily resinous compound with surprisingly high lead levels. The treatment priority was to reduce the stain and its associated tideline, and disfiguring surface soiling. Vacuuming the muslin through Vellux fabric trapped significant soiling, however the visual impact was minimal requiring additional dry cleaning treatment. Of the four sponges evaluated, the vulcanized rubber soot sponge was most effective though somewhat abrasive based on cleaning tests, microscopy, FTIR, and pXRF. The need for multiple hands working simultaneously over a large surface area necessitated a systematic approach to ensure consistency. This cleaning methodology produced large quantities of heavily soiled Vellux and sponges, allowing for a thorough study of cleaning mechanisms and soiling characteristics. While the tar-like stain responded poorly to all solvents tested, ethanol and a suction platen successfully reduced the tidelines created by the previous treatment. The treatment methods dramatically improved the muslin’s appearance. Final pXRF analyses indicated the soot sponge was more effective at reducing overall lead levels than the use of a Vellux-covered vacuum alone. Portable XRF also detected lead levels on the used Vellux and soot sponges, but not the nitrile gloves, which had implications for material disposal as potential hazardous waste.

avatar for Susan Heald

Susan Heald

Textile Conservator, National Museum of the American Indian
Susan Heald has been the National Museum of the American Indian’s textile conservator since 1994, where she has supervised many pre-program interns and post-graduate fellows. Prior to NMAI, she served as the Minnesota Historical Society’s textile conservator, and was a Smithsonian... Read More →

avatar for Nora Frankel

Nora Frankel

Mellon Fellow in Textile Conservation, National Museum of the American Indian
Nora Frankel is an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Textile Conservation at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. Past work includes positions at the Rijksmuseum, Burrell Collection, Death Valley National Park, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, and... Read More →
avatar for Dr. Gwénaëlle Kavich

Dr. Gwénaëlle Kavich

Conservation Scientist, Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute
Gwénaëlle Kavich, Conservation Scientist at the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, earned a BSc in Chemistry from The Nottingham Trent University (U.K.) and a PhD in Chemical Sciences from the University of Pisa (Italy). She contributes to a wide range of technical studies... Read More →
avatar for Thomas Lam

Thomas Lam

conservation scientist, Smithsonian Conservation Institute
Thomas Lam has a Ph.D. in Ceramics from Alfred University. After his PhD, Thomas completed a postdoc at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Thomas is a Physical Scientist at the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute (MCI), where he applies his knowledge... Read More →
avatar for Nicole Little

Nicole Little

Physical Scientist, Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute
Nicole Little is a Physical Scientist at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum Conservation Institute. She received both her B.A. and M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where her master’s research dealt with the compositional analysis of Mayan ceramics... Read More →
avatar for Annaick Parker

Annaick Parker

collections contractor, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum
Annaick Keruzec is a textile conservator who currently works at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) as a collections specialist focusing on photographically illustrated quilts and a rehousing project. From 2015-2017 she was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Smithsonian... Read More →
avatar for Megan Doxsey Whitfield

Megan Doxsey Whitfield

Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Object Conservation, National Museum of the American Indian
Megan Doxsey-Whitfield is currently a Mellon Fellow in Objects Conservation at the National Museum of the American Indian. She is a graduate of the Queen’s University Master of Art Conservation program (MAC ’15) and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from the University of... Read More →

Thursday May 31, 2018 4:00pm - 4:30pm MDT
River Oaks Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston