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Friday, June 1 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
34. (Research and Technical Studies) Integrated Approaches to the Conservation of Multi-Component Systems - A Case Study with Dog Tags

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This study examined the components of a set of dog tags from the movie Deer Hunter in the De Niro collection at the Harry Ransom Center. More specifically, this entailed the development of a set of analytical techniques to identify the composition of all item components along with the subsequent development of a long-term housing and exhibition solutions. Robert De Niro represents one of the most prominent actors in modern film, and many of his works a snapshot of the American identity throughout the latter half of the 20th century. The De Niro Collection at the Ransom Center subsequently represents an all-encompassing archive, housing materials with a wide variety of compositions, all of which have shown differing degrees of degradation, particularly those composed of plastics. The dog tags in particular represent one of these items, comprising two metal dog tags attached by a chain enclosed in a plastic covering. This enclosure was a typical characteristic of tags assigned during the Vietnam War, the setting of the Deer Hunter movie, to silence the metal during combat and protect it from the humid environment. Ironically, this plastic covering has contributed most to the degradation of the item, with leaching contributing to the corrosion of the metal underneath. The challenges of the project ultimately came down to finding the proper pieces of equipment to effectively identify the composition of the dog tags along with their covering, as well as the source of the exudate. We chose methods with an eye towards applications to similar projects and mixed compositions. The project utilized a combination of Infrared Spectroscopy along with Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry to identify the main composition of the plastic covering along with the liquid present at the interface between the tags and their enclosing. This was combined with X-ray Fluorescence to identify the metals in the tags themselves along with any oxides forming at their surface. This has not only allowed the discovery of the source of the degradation, leaching of phthalate plasticizers, but also begin to identify methods of cleaning the metal underneath as well as saving the plastic so important to the context of the piece.

avatar for Emily Ma

Emily Ma

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

avatar for Ellen Cunningham-Kruppa

Ellen Cunningham-Kruppa

Assoc. Director for Preservation and Conservation, Harry Ransom Center
Ellen Cunningham-Kruppa has been an active practitioner, educator and consultant in the field of cultural heritage preservation for 35 years. From 1985 to 1987 she was project archivist (supported by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission) at The Johns Hopkins... Read More →
avatar for Olivia Primanis

Olivia Primanis

Senior Book Conservator, Harry Ransom Center
Olivia Primanis is the Senior Book Conservator at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, where she performs conservation treatments and manages the book lab and special projects. She is interested in general conservation and preservation subjects relating to library and museum... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 3:30pm - 4:00pm MDT
Texas Ballroom (Foyer outside Ballrooms - Poster Session) Marriott Marquis Houston