Great video from the National Gallery of Art up on Art Babble on the cleaning of a 17th c. Dutch painting which held a little surprise for the curators.

Update: if the video below isn’t loading, try the link above.

Who hasn’t dreamed of rolls of remoistenable washi in a variety of colors and sizes for use in routine treatments?

Well, you’re not going to find it at Sinco-MT, but you will find rolls of decorative wall tape.  Well, it looks like contact paper, but I can’t quite sort out the Japanese. I very much doubt that this is handmade Japanese paper.


According to an article in The Times of Malta, a private seller has attempted to list an “antique” amphora (photo at left) recovered from a shipwreck, age and exact cultural provenance unspecified, on the local all-purposes classifieds website A local diver and “marine activist,” one Antonio Anastasi, expressed outrage at this theft of perceived ‘national heritage,’ and seemed readily able to cite local law dictating that nothing over 50yrs old (i.e. “antiques,” including more ancient antiquities) could be privately claimed or sold in Malta. Apparently, police and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage have been notified, an investigation has been launched, and there’s hopes that the artifact might soon end up in a local museum (where at the very least, more archaeologically relevant details and context can be presented to the public).(from Safe Corner)

Reading this, all I can think is that even I own things over 50yrs old.

Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain, released 51 years ago.

Semantics are semantics, and perhaps the field of conservation in America is a little too caught up in drawing clear ethical lines between conservation and restoration, but ultimately, words have meanings.  These words “Restoring a Photograph from the 19th Century” do not describe the rest of the post:

My standard operating procedure is to use an ultra-high resolution camera combined with a top-of-the-line macro lens to photograph tintypes. I use strobe lights to illuminate the artwork. Strobes produce “hard” light, much like the sun on a clear day.  In addition to the strobes, I place a polarizer over the camera lens and polarizer gels over the strobe lights. This eliminates all reflections and enables the camera to pick up a greater tonal range along with more detail…

From here, I began the laborious process of restoration, which involved a prodigious amount of retouching. The process took about four hours. The client requested that I eliminate the hackneyed rose color from the cheeks and chin that the photographer had applied to the original…

I printed the restored image on 100% cotton paper. The print should last for a couple hundred years if it is stored in an acid-free and climate controlled environment. If it is matted and framed properly behind UV blocking glass and displayed out of direct sunlight, it will last for generations…

Click through to see the “restored” images for yourselves.

Scanning, Photoshopping, and printing a retouched surrogate is a wonderful way to provide a family with a display image that they can hang on their wall, but the original photograph hasn’t been restored in the least.  And of course, the surrogate copy may last a couple of hundred years or it may last five depending on how well the “restorer” read his Wilhelm Imaging research guidelines.


Chasing Aphrodite: the hunt for looted antiquities at the world’s richest museum by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino is a well written and insightful look into the string of acquisition scandals at the Getty Museum’s Antiquities Department beginning with an early tax scam that would soon feed into the ethically…troubling…questionable…wrong acquisitions.  Most of the book revolves around the purchase and donations of looted Greek and Roman statues, vases, and jewelry, a story previously told by the author’s in their Pulitzer Prize nominated series for the LA Times in 2006.

How does a new museum with lots of money grow to become one of the best museums in the world? Not without cutting some corners.  But the interesting part of the tale is in how the Getty and/or its curators, staff, and board conspired with looters and dealers to overlook and overcome the legal and ethical barriers to buying and importing goods of unknown provenance.  For that you will have to read the book, which I do recommend.

Two points of note: first, the conservators and the Getty Conservation Institute come out looking smart and responsible (if weak in the face of curatorial control); second, the book is a little all too neat of a story.  The authors never challenge the ethics of national patrimony laws and seem a little too quick to paint some actors as the “bad guys” and others as mislead, but a book rarely can tell the whole story.

Removing pressure sensitive tapes would be the part of my job that I would most like to automate, perhaps with a machine like this?

Via NPR’s Planet Money Blog