Monday, September 21, 2009

Conservation Glossaries

Okay, Katie and Rose – you’ve convinced me to answer the call!

Hello fellow ECPNers! Allow myself to introduce…myself. My name is Crista Pack and I am currently employed by the
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis as their Conservation Technician. Some might find this odd considering that there are no conservators at the Eiteljorg…in fact there isn’t a conservation department or lab either. I’m it. I like to joke that I’m the head of the department and the lackey all rolled into one.

I’m at the Eiteljorg because two years ago they were awarded an
IMLS grant to conduct a condition survey of nearly 5,000 objects in their collection. The money is being used to bring in Conservators specializing in objects, textiles, paper, paintings, and sculpture. I get to work with these conservators to survey and photograph the objects and then enter this information into our database. It’s a great gig and I’m happy to have it.

However, today as I was entering my
2,437th survey into the database it occurred to me how nice it would be to have a conservator type sitting across the room who I could just shout out questions to spontaneously and then get an immediate response. Sure, I’m lucky to have Richard McCoy as my mentor extraordinaire…but he’s all the way across town at the IMA. And even though I imagine that he is usually just sitting by his phone, anxiously awaiting my phone calls - sometimes he’s not.

But, I digress. The point is, as a person still learning the field; I often have random questions about simple things. Like, what the heck does “skinning” mean when referring to a piece of paper? Or, what is the difference between cockling and buckling? What exactly is Silly Putty made of?

So, I turned to my trusty Google toolbar. I figured I would at least get hits on a half dozen dictionaries, and from those I should be able to decipher a conservation-related meaning for “skinning.” But I got something much better. I’m sometimes the last person to figure out tech/web-y things, so bear with me if you’ve known about these websites for years, but holy friggin’ cow…I feel like I hit the motherload today!

The first one is the Fine Arts Conservancy website:

There you will find glossaries for paintings, works on paper, furniture, and decorative furniture elements. This is also where, by the way, I found my answer:

Excessive intervention resulting in losses of the original media; also called “over-cleaning”, or “excessive cleaning”.

Yay! Very handy. The only way the website could be any better is if they had a glossary for ethnographic objects. Which made me think, “hmm, what other glossaries might be out there?”

Well, in my search I found these gems:


Scientific Research:

(Go Nebraska!)

But the cream of the crop really has to be the MFA, Boston’s CAMEO website:

I’ve heard of this one before and have used it a few times in the past….but I don’t think I truly appreciated just how great it really is. C’mon….any glossary that includes
Silly Putty in its list of definitions with an IR spectrum of it has definitely got it going on:

Material Name: Silly Putty®

[Binney & Smith] A bouncing, rubbery polymer developed in 1943 by James Wright at General Electric. Silly Putty® is made from silicone oil
polymerized by the addition of
boric acid. Peter Hodgson gave the bouncing rubber the name Silly Putty® in 1950 when he introduced it at the International Toy Fair in New York. Binney & Smith purchased the rights to the product in 1971. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Silly Putty® was put on display in the Smithsonian Institution.
Synonyms and Related Terms: Potty Putty (Br.); Tricky Putty
Hazards and Safety: May leave silicone oil residue on contacted surfaces.

Additional InformationSilly Putty: Website

IR spectrum of silly puttyTransmission spectrum. Sample prepared on zinc
selenide crystal. Credit: Infrared Spectroscopy Lab, Analytical Answers, Inc.,
Woburn, MA.

Surely, there must be others out there. If you have websites that you use regularly, or that you’ve heard of, please post them here! I would love to find out what other resources people in the field regularly use.

Of course, it still might be nice to at least have a cardboard cutout of a conservator I can prop up on my back wall. I’ve been thinking about adding this paper conservator to the department:

She was posted by

Rachel on the ECPN blog before and I’ve been told that she kind of resembles a mini-me. Frankly, I don’t think my head is quite that square.

Friday, September 4, 2009

WUDPAC Portfolio Day

October 7, 2009 from 3:30-7 PM at Winterthur Museum

Students interested in applying to the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUPAC) should not miss this insightful career opportunity. On October 7, 2009, the program will host its annual Portfolio Day, in which the entering class of graduate students shares their pre-program experiences, art work, and résumés. Students will be able to engage with graduate students. Potential applicants are welcomed to ask the current conservation fellows questions and get an idea of the process involved in applying to graduate school for art conservation. Faculty will also be on hand to answer questions.


The Peter J. Sharp Internship in the Library Conservation Department at The New-York Historical Society is designed to provide an opportunity for practical hands-on training in book and paper conservation at an intermediate level. This internship is for individuals who have at least a bachelor’s degree and who have 1-2 years of practical experience working in book and paper conservation, or for students currently enrolled in a formal conservation training program.

Interns will undertake and complete a project based on their interests and skills and the needs and capabilities of the Conservation Department. At the end of the internship period, the intern will be required to produce a written report and possibly deliver a presentation of their work.

To apply for this internship, please submit the following:

  • A detailed letter of interest that indicates the specific department(s) with which you would like to be placed;
  • A current resume;
  • Three professional recommendations;
  • A five to ten page academic writing sample;

Please note: An interview with the Senior Conservator is required (preferably on-site) and candidates should present a portfolio of completed treatments at that time.

All applications must be submitted electronically only. Please email completed application package to with your name in the subject line. The cover letter, resume, and writing sample should be submitted together in one email. Recommendations must be emailed directly from the reference to and should have “Recommendation for Applicant’s Name” as the subject.

Applications are due by 5:00 PM on Monday, September 14th, 2009.

If you have any questions about this program, please contact Betsy Gibbons by email at or by phone at 212-485-9281.