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5. General Session [clear filter]
Friday, June 1


(Natural History Collections) Moose on the Move: Relocation and Conservation of the Bell Museum’s Diorama Murals
Established by the state legislature in 1872, the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum of Natural History has a long history of preserving, researching, and displaying the diverse plant and wildlife of Minnesota. In the late 1930’s, then president of General Mills and conservationist James Ford Bell, helped provide funds to construct a dedicated museum building on the Minneapolis campus, which opened in 1940. The driving force behind Bell’s contribution was his desire to educate the public about Minnesota’s diverse wildlife and habitats, and encourage public support for their protection, especially declining species such as the gray wolf. The Bell museum was designed specifically to showcase sixteen large-scale dioramas, as well as several small and medium size dioramas. The first diorama constructed in the new space was the Gray wolf diorama sited on the shores of Lake Superior, with a background painted by well known American wildlife artist and Minnesota native Francis Lee Jaques (1887-1969). Over two decades, Jaques painted a total of nine large scale and many small diorama backgrounds for the Bell Museum, creating an internationally recognized collection with a focus on Minnesota’s wildlife and diverse ecosystems. Over time the dioramas didn’t appear to change, however, the building around them posed serious challenges and limitations. Poor climate control, reoccurring water infiltration, lack of handicap accessibility, and poor public access created the need to discuss options. After ten years of debate and planning, the decision was made to build a new Bell Museum on the St. Paul campus, opening summer of 2018, which would include the move of Jaques’ nine large scale dioramas and a tenth painted by Charles Abel Corwin in 1919. The planning phase also lead to the creation of a project team, including Bell museum staff, a construction crew, conservators, riggers, and museum specialists. Examination of the painted murals by conservators indicated that removing the canvas from the wall was not viable as it would severely damage the painted image and create a health hazard. Due to the size of the murals and constraints of the existing building the best option was to move the mural walls in three parts. Therefore, a plan was developed in which the murals would be stabilized, cut, secured with armature, and rigged out of the building. The team carried out a test move in January 2016. After the test was completed successfully, the project was fully approved and in January 2017 the diorama move began. While moving the foreground material was part of the overall scope of the project, this presentation will focus on the relocation and conservation of the murals. Preparation, structural fortification and rigging, reassembly and conservation of the components in the new building will be covered. Completion of the project yielded murals intact and structurally stable with no visible sign of the adventure they had been on.


Luke Boehnke

Principal, Wolf Magritte LLC
Luke Boehnke is the principal of Wolf Magritte LLC, located in Missoula Montana. Wolf Magritte specializes in design, fabrication, and rigging for difficult and/or large scale art and artifact installations. Luke Boehnke received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago... Read More →

Kristine Jeffcoat-[PA]

Paintings Conservator, Midwest Art Conservation Center
Ms. Jeffcoat joined MACC in 2014. She has extensive experience in the care and preservation of paintings and painted surfaces, including canvas paintings, panel paintings, and painted sculpture, as well as Preventive Conservation. Prior to joining MACC, she worked at West Lake Conservators... Read More →


Tom Amble

Museum Preparator, Bell Museum of Natural History
Tom is a Museum Preparator with the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota, where he brings 30 years of experience fabricating exhibits, mountmaking, artifact installation, and coordinating traveling exhibits. His museum experience started with the... Read More →
avatar for Megan Emery-[Fellow]

Megan Emery-[Fellow]

Chief Conservator and Senior Objects Conservator, Midwest Art Conservation Center
Ms. Emery came to MACC from the Cincinnati Art Museum, where she was responsible for the care and preservation of all three-dimensional objects. Ms. Emery has extensive experience with ethnographic and archaeological materials, ceramics, lacquer, plasters, and the conservation of... Read More →
avatar for Don Luce

Don Luce

Curator of Exhibits, Bell Museum of Natural History
For over thirty years, Don Luce has been integrating art and science in the design and development of natural history exhibitions. He holds a degree in Zoology and a master’s degree in Medical and Biological Illustration from the University of Michigan, where he started his museum... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 2:00pm - 2:30pm
River Oaks Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston


(Natural History Collections) Preserving Penn’s Woods: The restoration of the Mammal Hall dioramas at the State Museum of Pennsylvania
The Hall of Mammals was one of the first permanent exhibitions planned for the State Museum of Pennsylvania (SMOP) in Harrisburg. It opened to the public in 1968 after almost a decade of research, preparation and construction by a team of artists and scientists. In the years since, it has remained beloved by visitors. The space features thirteen site specific habitat dioramas. These large-scale exhibitions incorporate taxidermy, dried plant specimens and fabricated plant materials, all arranged within a sculpted foreground that ties in with a curved illusionistic background painting. The dioramas were individually designed to depict groups of animals at a known location, season and time of day. This sense of place was reinforced by attention to detail in lighting, pose and positioning of specimens.
Many similar exhibits were installed in institutions across the country, not only in Natural History museums, but also in more general and university collections whose staff often designed versions to elucidate the indigenous regional flora and fauna with an educational goal and subtext encouraging land and wildlife conservation. Several of the species depicted in the Mammal Hall were already long extinct in Pennsylvania at the time of construction. Featured creatures range in size from the relatively diminutive striped skunk to the imposing bison. In addition to plants, the illusionistic materials they created include, trees, rock formations, snow, ice, running and still water, eggs, mud and many others.
The media and methods employed in the creation of habitat dioramas are not codified, but rather the practice was local and idiosyncratic. Earlier in the century, dioramas were made from a more predictable pallet of materials. However, the SMOP dioramas comprise a wide range of traditional artist’s materials as well as commercially available products such as modern artist’s materials and commercially fabricated plants, often combined in unusual ways.
Beginning in the Summer of 2016 our team of taxidermists, conservators and artists began a restoration of this historic Mammal Hall. The open design of the light boxes above the diorama shells had long allowed infiltration of particulates and debris into the exhibit spaces. Many of the diorama elements had become discolored from dust and/or fading and some of the plants were no longer configured in a naturalistic manner. The animals had experienced significant fading. The water surfaces were dusty and irregular in their surface sheen and the snow was piled in heavy drifts against the glass at the front of the winter dioramas as the snowfall had often been “topped off” from above. Previous treatment, including a refurbishment in the 1990’s by some of the original artists, had introduced incompatible new materials, overpaint and coatings posing significant treatment challenges. This talk will focus on the documentation and treatment of the dioramas with an examination of the condition of various materials used in the foregrounds and how subsequent treatments affected their longevity and behavior during the current campaign.

avatar for Rachael Perkins Arenstein-[PA]

Rachael Perkins Arenstein-[PA]

Partner, AM Art Conservation LLC
Rachael Perkins Arenstein is a Professional Associate member of the American Institute for Conservation. She is a principal of A.M. Art Conservation, LLC, the private practice that she co-founded in 2009. She has worked at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, the Smithsonian's National... Read More →
avatar for Eugenie Milroy

Eugenie Milroy

Conservator, AM Art Conservation LLC
Eugenie Milroy is a Professional Associate member of the American Institute for Conservation with over 20 years of museum and conservation experience. She has held positions at the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art... Read More →

avatar for George Dante

George Dante

Taxidermist, Wildlife Preservations, LLC
George Dante, Founder, Wildlife Preservations, has more than 30 years of experience as a taxidermist, model maker, illustrator and fine artist.  He has been an artist and naturalist his entire life and formed Wildlife Preservations while in high school.  George continued to develop... Read More →
avatar for Stephen C. Quinn

Stephen C. Quinn

Artistic Director/Consultant, American Museum of Natural History
Stephen C. Quinn is an artist, illustrator, educator, author and naturalist who spent nearly 40 years on the staff of the Exhibition Department of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). Beginning his career there in 1974 as an intern to the recognized “old masters” of... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 2:30pm - 3:00pm
River Oaks Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston


(Natural History Collections) Ongoing Investigations into the Use of Metal-Complex Solvent Dyes for Recoloring Faded Hair and Fur
In an ongoing multi-year research project, the American Museum of Natural History, in partnership with Yale University’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH) and the Peabody Museum of Natural History, is investigating metal-complex solvent dyes as a reversible means for recoloring faded taxidermy. The project has unfolded in three phases. In the first (published in the Pre-Prints of the 2017 ICOM-CC Triennial Conference), accelerated light aging was used to establish the lightfastness of 25 BASF Orasol dyes, as well as selected commercially available equivalent colorants. This testing assessed the performance of dye deposits applied to quartz plate with a solvent carrier but no binding media, an application that is more germane to our recoloring protocol than the manufacturer’s testing of Orasol dyes in polymer resins. This talk will present results of two further complementary phases of the research project, which are intended to evaluate these materials in applications that better simulate object treatment. A key question is whether the lightfastness of the Orasol dyes is impacted by their application to fur substrates, which differ from quartz in their photochemical activity and optical properties. The results of our previous work (described above) enabled us to reduce the number of dyes tested by excluding unacceptably fugitive materials. For this evaluation we applied the selected dyes to fur, exposed the dyed fur samples to accelerated light aging, monitored color change in the samples, and assigned Blue Wool rankings. A second key question is whether the presence of Orasol dye on a fur substrate can be expected to alter the rate of light-induced chemical degradation that fur will undergo in future display. Again, working with a reduced palette of relatively stable colors, fur samples were dyed and subjected to accelerated light aging. Using Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy to probe chemical changes in the fibers, we compared the chemical degradation of the fur in the dyed samples with undyed fur aged in the same conditions. This discussion will benefit conservators charged with the care of taxidermy on exhibit, as well as colleagues in allied fields, in contributing to a more complete understanding of the long-term impact and longevity of treatments using Orasol dyes applied to hair and fur.

avatar for Julia	Sybalsky

Julia Sybalsky

Senior Associate Conservator, American Museum of Natural History
Julia Sybalsky is an Associate Conservator at the AMNH, where she began working in January of 2010. She was an important contributor in the recently-completed renovation of dioramas in the Hall of North American Mammals and the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall. Julia's work supports... Read More →

avatar for Judith Levinson-[PA]

Judith Levinson-[PA]

Director of Conservation, American Museum of Natural History
Judith Levinson is Director of Conservation in the Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History. Working with the museum’s archaeological and ethnographic collections, she also has extensive experience with the museum’s dioramas and other permanent and temporary... Read More →
avatar for Fran E. Ritchie

Fran E. Ritchie

Conservator, Harpers Ferry Center
Fran Ritchie is the Conservator of ethnographic materials, natural science, and decorative arts objects at the National Park Service (NPS) Harpers Ferry Center. Prior to working for the NPS, she was an assistant conservator in the Anthropology Objects Conservation Lab at the American... Read More →
avatar for Paul Whitmore-[Fellow]

Paul Whitmore-[Fellow]

Director, Aging Diagnostics Laboratory, Yale University Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage
Paul Whitmore was trained as a chemist, earning a B.S. in chemistry from Caltech and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley. He has worked in cultural heritage science for his entire professional career, starting at the Environmental Quality Laboratory... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 3:00pm - 3:30pm
River Oaks Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston


(Natural History Collections) Touring Nature’s Treasures:The Conservation Challenges of Touring and Displaying Natural History Specimens
Since the Natural History Museum, in London, opened to the public in 1881 it has established itself at the forefront of natural history research and public engagement. This has involved a long history of in-house exhibition as well as international loan and touring exhibitions. The ambition and scale of these touring exhibitions has recently been raised substantially with the emphasis on display of original material. This presentation will focus on the first, and most complex, of these “specimen rich” touring exhibitions and the associated conservation challenges. Treasures of the Natural World is a collaborative exhibition containing specimens selected from the 80 million collection items housed within several scientific departments at the museum.This included herbaria sheets, taxidermy, palaeontology, insects, gems and meteorites plus works of art on paper. Over three-hundred collection items required conservation evaluation and in some cases remedial treatment. The size of some specimens ranging from a complete Giant Ground Sloth skeleton to a small selection of iridescent orchid bees, raised logistical challenges and risks for their transport and display. In addition, the touring of Natural History specimens creates interesting challenges for care and conservation with the need to balance the differing display requirements of different materials. An understanding of material properties and deterioration was essential for the safe treatment, transportation and display of these specimens. The environmental and lighting requirements for all specimens had to be assessed and managed while enabling the grouping of specimens within their individual stories. In addition, careful conservation of specimens needed to be undertaken to ensure their stability for transportation between multiple venues over up to a five year period. Alongside these challenges, touring natural history specimens also raise unique concerns in relation to the transportation of fluid preserved specimens, specimens controlled by CITES regulations and inherently hazardous materials. An understanding of the health and safety issues surrounding natural history specimens was also integral to the safety of team members. This presentation will discuss the Conservation team’s response to these challenges and how our understanding of the varied nature of the materials impacted on these responses and outcomes.


Gillian Comerford

Senior Conservator, The Natural History Museum
Gill leads the Preventive Conservation team for the Natural History Museum, London. Her particular interests are in developing strategies to reduce rates of decay in Natural History collections. She manages a team of Conservators that have a wide ranging skill sets from Conservation... Read More →
avatar for Nicola Harrison

Nicola Harrison

Conservator, The Natural History Museum
Nikki works as a Conservator at the Natural History Museum focusing on the care and conservation of the museum's collections. Nikki completed her conservation training at University College London, leaving with an MSc in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums in 2013. Before the... Read More →

avatar for Lorraine Cornish

Lorraine Cornish

Head of Conservation, Natural History Museum
Lorraine is Head of Conservation at the Natural History Museum managing a team of 22 working across five conservation facilities which care for the museum's 80 million collection items. She led a team which recently won the prestigious 2016 Keck award for Conservation by the International... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 4:00pm - 4:30pm
River Oaks Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston


(Natural History Collections) Smudges, snakeskins, and pins, oh my!
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA), and Smithsonian Institution Libraries have collaborated since 2010 on the Field Book Project, involving cataloging, preservation survey and assessment, conservation treatment, digitization and creation of an innovative crowd-sourced Transcription Center in order to make widely available our vulnerable, unique, scientific manuscript and other archival documentation held in a variety of contexts within our collections and research departments. The physical nature of field books at the Smithsonian varies widely in their size, media, format, and orientation over almost two centuries of scientific record keeping, making for a fascinating overview of structures (commercial and ad-hoc), styles, and secret surprises found in these sometimes intimate journals. Catalogers, collection managers, and volunteers from all over the world have reacted to and realized that these records, besides supporting original location evidence of a natural specimen collected, often hold much more unique contextual content. These include visual observations of color and behavior, hand-drawn maps, and notes on environmental conditions that may fill out missing data in the environmental record. Beyond their original purpose, the authors’ entries also reflect humanity via the occasional tasty recipe, remarks upon life in the field, and also bear witness to societal and political changes, the stresses of which sometimes become remarkably poignant through observable changes in handwriting and care taken in writing personal correspondence. This presentation will review guidelines and best practices that SIA has preferred for stabilizing, preparing, and conserving our original field books prior to and after digitization. Key to the core concept of connecting collections, special care is taken to identify and preserve in-situ inclusions (such as the eponymous moulted snakeskin) and other physical evidence that can be further linked to accessioned specimens. While low-tech minimal preservation actions can allow the collections manager to preserve these with a minimum of fuss, at times, the materiality of a field book can interfere with access, or cause great risk to the content, such that disbinding may be considered. Reversing vigorous prior interventions has been an especial challenge, where we advocate for the productive application of the sewn-boards binding as a useful tool in the archive and library conservator’s kit as an excellent option for conservation rebinding (see also Poster Sessions - Application of the Sewn Boards Binding for Field Books and Pocket Journals).

avatar for R William Bennett III

R William Bennett III

Conservator, Smithsonian Institution Archives
William Bennett is the Conservation Specialist for the Smithsonian Institution Archives. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the West Dean College graduate program in Book Conservation, and previously worked in Collections Care at the Library of Congress. He is an AIC... Read More →
avatar for Nora Lockshin-[PA]

Nora Lockshin-[PA]

Head, Preservation and Collections Care, Smithsonian Institution Archives
Nora Lockshin is Senior Paper Conservator for the Smithsonian Institution Archives’ Conservation Lab. She provides treatment, guidance, research, training and advocacy for caregivers of collections, including the Smithsonian Archives, its allied archival units and special collections... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 4:30pm - 5:00pm
River Oaks Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston


(Natural History Collections) Eggstraordinary: The conservation and mounting of historically significant great auk eggs
The Natural History Museum, Tring, UK is one of only a handful of institutions around the world that holds several Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis) eggs within its collection. Great Auks were hunted to extinction in the mid-19th century and there are less than 100 eggs known to be left in existence around the world. The eggs are not only important due to their rarity, but also their provenance. Each one has a significant history and previous owners include these important collectors - William Bullock, Lionel Walter Rothschild and Henry Baker Tristram. The project initiated through a PhD thesis to investigate the surface and porosity structure differences among egg shells within the Auk family. The curator requested that specialist mounts be fabricated to hold and protect the eggs while carrying out the micro CT scanning in addition to remedial conservation treatments. All materials used had to be conservation grade as it was requested that the eggs be kept in these scanning mounts during the project. Two of the eggs exhibited severe cracking and were vulnerable to further damage and potential loss. All of the eggs were housed in acidic packaging (increasing the risk of Byne’s disease) and inappropriately sized boxes. Repair and consolidation tests were carried out on experimental egg shells to formulate an appropriate treatment. The cracks were consolidated and repaired using Lascaux Medium for Consolidation and Lascaux 498HV (aqueous acrylic dispersions) with Japanese tissue paper. Failed adhesives from previous repairs were removed using laser ablation. In addition to this, a 3D print of Bullock’s Great Auk Egg was created from a 3D digital surface scan in order to fabricate a new mount and storage solution for the egg. This conservation project has comprised a multidisciplinary team from across the museum including a conservator, curator, engineer, 3D visualization specialist, micro CT scanning specialist and a PhD student. It has highlighted the conservation needs of our egg collections within the museum and demonstrated how the use of technology can contribute to mount fabrication. It is hoped that the materials and treatments applied in this case can be further applied to other fragile egg collections in institutions

avatar for Arianna Lea Bernucci

Arianna Lea Bernucci

Senior Conservator, The Natural History Museum
Arianna Lea Bernucci is currently a Senior Conservator at The Natural History Museum in London, UK. She recently led the conservation of the blue whale skeleton in the museum's central Hintze Hall. Prior to this she was a conservator at The British Museum and Imperial War Museum... Read More →

avatar for Amin Garbout

Amin Garbout

Imaging Specialist, Natural History Museum, London
avatar for Duncan Jackson

Duncan Jackson

PhD Student, University of Sheffield

Amy Scott Murray

3D Visualisation Specialist, Natural History Museum, London

Douglas G. D. Russell

Senior Curator, Natural History Museum

Friday June 1, 2018 5:00pm - 5:30pm
River Oaks Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston