Art Conservator | Volume 11 No. 2

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A P U B L I C A T I O N O F T ‌H E W I L L I A M S T O W N A R T C O N S E R V A T I O N C E N T E R

V O L U M E 11 , N U M B E R 2   •  W I N T E R 2 0 1 6

A Seuss Sabine Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 1

Contents | Winter 2016

Art Conservator Volume 11, Number 2 • Winter 2016 Director T‌homas J. Branchick Editor Timothy Cahill Art Direction and Production Ed Atkeson/Berg Design Photographer Matthew Hamilton Contributors Rachel Childers, Christine Puza Office Manager Rob Conzett Accounts Manager Terry Haskins Printing Snyder Printer, Troy, NY

3 Director’s Letter 4 Dr. Seuss and the Sabine Woman

A saucy commission sheds light on the origin of the beloved authors iconic characters Timothy Cahill 8 Utamaro’s “Floating World”

Conservators prepare a Japanese masterpiece for an exhibition reunion


A Luminist Salt Marsh in Georgia

Martin Johnson Heade at the Governor’s Mansion

Williamstown Art Conservation Center 227 South Street Williamstown, MA 01267 T: 413-458-5741 F: 413-458-2314

12 WACC News & Notes

Atlanta Art Conservation Center 6000 Peachtree Road Atlanta, GA 30341 T: 404-733-4589 F: 678-547-1453

LED lighting in the museum setting

A Victorian gentleman’s toilet chest; preserving a page of Buffalo history; over the windowsill, portraits by a Dutch master


Tech Notes

Rachel Childers

All rights reserved. Text and photographs copyright © Williamstown Art Conservation Center (WACC), unless otherwise noted. Art Conservator is published twice yearly by WACC, T‌homas J. Branchick, director. Material may not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Williamstown Art Conservation Center. WACC is a nonprofit, multi-service conservation center serving the needs of member museums, nonprofit institutions and laboratories, and the general public.

On the cover Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), The Rape of the Sabine Women, 1930 (detail), after treatment.

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From the Director

Matthew Hamilton

We are in the grips of winter but the days are growing longer at Stone Hill. The new beginning of the New Year will soon become the renewal of Spring. When there is ice underfoot and ice overhead, it’s worthwhile to remember that warmer days are coming. Youth is the watchword at WACC these days, as the new year has brought two recent graduates as new staff members to the Center. Annika Amundson joins the Objects and Textile Department, and Margaret Elizabeth Barkovic is the newest member of the Paintings Department. Both young women bring impressive resumes and an international perspective to their work. Annika received an MPhil in textile conservation from the Centre for Textile Conservation at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. While studying in Britain, she also completed internships at the Palace of Westminster and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Maggie was trained in Conservation of Easel Paintings at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and has studied at Leiden University in the Netherlands and the Center for Field Studies at the Montorno Studio, Seravezza, Italy. Annika’s and Maggie’s UK connections and international experience will add greatly to the collective knowledge at the Center. They join another of our young stars, Mary Holland, Apprentice Conservator in Paintings. Last year, Mary chose to get her conservation education in the old guild tradition, learning under the guidance of the Paintings staff, master to apprentice. We are training her in all facets of painting treatment, and she is a “natural.” She can already inpaint as well as any of us here. Mary’s apprenticeship embodies the best of the Center’s commitment to education and to training the talent of tomorrow. From youth to experience: This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Center’s founding in 1977. We’ve come a long way in these four decades, and I am proud to have contributed to thirty-six of those years. We will be celebrating the milestone in a special issue of Art Conservator coming this summer, so stay tuned. —Tom Branchick

On Stone Hill, sun refracted by a morning fog creates a glorious light-burst through the trees.

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Cover Story

Dr. Seuss and the Sabine Woman A saucy commission sheds light on the origin of the beloved author’s iconic characters by Timothy Cahill


n 1930, the Dartmouth Club in New York City commissioned a mural for its barroom from a young alum named Theodor Geisel. Ted was an up-and-coming pen-for-hire seeking his fortune as a magazine cartoonist and advertising illustrator. He’d never made a large painting before, and wasn’t even really a painter, but fearlessly he forged ahead. As his subject, he chose from antiquity the “rape” of the Sabine women, a classy theme that also offered ample opportunity for saucy lampooning. The work hung in the club for several years, during which time it doubtless attracted its own local renown. But it seems safe to say that, judging by the painting alone, no one, maybe not even the 26-year-old Geisel himself, would have dared imagine what lay in wait some twenty-five years ahead. For by mid-century, Ted Geisel had transformed himself into the internationally beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss, and was building a fame that shows no signs of stopping. Knowing Dr. Seuss as well as we do, to view his youthful “mural” (actually a large oil-oncanvas painting) now is to see clear signals of that greatness to come. But as they gazed at the scene over their drinks, how were the barflies in the old club to have known that, in addition to the zaftig woman with the porcine profile, they were also seeing comic genius in the raw? No doubt they recognized the painting’s brash charisma and chuckled over its salacious mischief. But to time-travel back, knowing how the story ends, and see foreshadowed all the Seuss creative flair—that’s a pleasure reserved for us. Our retrospective clairvoyance and deja-vu-all-over-again delight is a big part of the painting’s charm today. The work was transported from its home at Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum of Art to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center this past June, where the Seuss Sabine was brought for stabilization and cleaning. There, propped on its easel in the Paintings Department, the canvas was at once amusing and unsettling. To have read Dr. Seuss—as a child, to a child, or both—is to experience a slight disconnect in the face of our old friend’s earlier self. Here is Horton the elephant and the whimsical Seuss bestiary, on the one hand as friendly and familiar as ever, yet disconcertingly louche on the other. What sort of Seuss garden is this, with these lascivious critters, that doesn’t feel quite suitable for children under thirteen? Though the painting is signed with Geisel’s famous nom-de-plume in the lower left, can this really be the same Seuss who gave us the Cat in the Hat, the Lorax, and the Grinch, in Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), The Rape of the Sabine Women, 1930, after treatment

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children’s books that are as virtuous as they are original? Even as they subvert norms with their merry nonsense and zany illustrations, the most famous Seuss stories promote qualities of decency, kindness, tolerance, and goodwill. This Sabine scene, bawdy and uncouth, adds an unexpected facet to that legacy. And maybe it’s not all bad that the good doctor had a touch of devilry in him. It makes his goodness all the more attractive. Geisel began signing his work “Seuss” in 1925, while a senior at Dartmouth College. One can find the tale of his adopted name all over the Internet, most notably in his “Wikipedia” entry, but the legend isn’t quite true. As the story goes, “Seuss” was a ruse Geisel devised to hide his identity from the college dean. The work-around was necessary because he’d been nabbed in a police raid at a gin-fueled college party and suspended from extracurricular activities as punishment. It was Prohibition; the college needed to set an example. But Ted, the story goes, wanted to keep publishing his comic drawings in the college humor magazine, which he did by hiding behind his now-famous name. Geisel probably started this fable himself—he was

notoriously fluid with the facts when it came to his life story— but a fable it is. Sort of. The raid and suspension are real. But Geisel never published illicitly under “Seuss” or any other name while at college. And at the time of the offending party, he’d already published more than one of drawing as “Seuss.” It was one of many pseudonyms he’d used since high school, ranging from “Oo-La-La McCarty” and “Calvin Chumley” to “Al Dumas” and “Anton Lang.” “Seuss” was Geisel’s middle name, and his mother’s maiden name. It made its first appearance in the April 25, 1925 issue of Jack-O-Lantern, the Dartmouth humor magazine that Geisel edited. The issue was completed before the drinking bash occurred, when Geisel was still editor-in-chief, but wasn’t distributed until after the uproar. No doubt this timing has added to the confusion surrounding the founding of the name. But the use of “Seuss” was never intended to fool anyone. And in subsequent issues of Jack-O-Lantern, he never used it. He simply ran his work unsigned. After graduation, “Seuss” went into retirement. Two years later, the moniker was revived when Geisel sold his first cartoon to a national magazine. “The main reason that I picked ‘Seuss’ professionally,” Geisel told the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine in 1976, “is that I still thought I was one day going to write the Great American Novel. I was saving my real name for that.” He added the “Dr.” later, as part of a series of mock nature comics in which fictional readers sent fictional questions to a fictional authority called “Dr. Seuss.” Geisel once quipped that he kept the title because his father had always wanted him to be a doctor. After Dartmouth, Geisel sailed to England to attend the University of Oxford. There, he filled his composition books with doodles of cartoon animals. One day he attended a lecture on Elizabethan punctuation and knew he was in the wrong place. The future Dr. Seuss was not scholar material. One of the dons took him aside and told him as much, then advised that he spend his time visiting the great museums of Britain and Europe. He didn’t need to be told twice. He left the ancient university and set out on a tour of picture galleries from London to Rome. At nearly every stop he would have encountered first-hand the Sabine Women, a subject on which there is, seemingly, a masterpiece in every city: in London by Rubens at the This page and opposite: Infrared imagery reveals preliminary underdrawing of the rabbit’s shrubbery and the bird’s beak.

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National Gallery; in Paris by Poussin at the Louvre; in Vienna by Sebastiano Ricci at the Palais Liechtenstein; in Rome by Giuseppe Cesari at the Capitoline Museum. In Florence is the flawless marble sculpture of the scene done by Giambologna, the man who introduced the motif into Western art. The story comes from the classical historian Livy, who recounts a plan by Romulus, founder of Rome, to provide his legionnaires with wives to begin populating his eponymous new city. Having tried and failed to negotiate marriage contracts with the neighboring Sabine chieftains, Romulus organized a festival to honor Neptune and invited the tribes as a gesture of peace. At his signal, his soldiers descended on the party, subdued the men and carried off their daughters and sisters. In artworks portraying the scene, the English title is typically given as The Rape of the Sabine Women. It is a loose translation of the original Italian of Giambologna’s sculpture, Il Ratto delle Sabine. Ratto is from the Latin raptio, meaning “abduction.” Continued on page 17

‘Nothing but Gargoyles’: Dr. Seuss in Europe In 2004, to commemorate the hundredth birthday of famous alum

“He said I should devote two years to finding out whether he had

Theodor Geisel, Dartmouth College published The Beginnings of

written anything. If he had, I could analyze what he wrote as my DPhil

Dr. Seuss: An Informal Reminiscence. The thirty-six page chapbook

thesis. Unfortunately, if he hadn’t written anything, I wouldn’t get my

reprinted an interview by Edward Connery Latham, originally published


in the April 1976 Dartmouth Alumni Review. In it, Geisel discusses

“I remember leaving his charming home and walking straight to

his childhood; his Dartmouth days; his years as a freelancer; and the

the American Express Company and booking myself a passage on a

origins of Dr. Seuss. In the excerpt below, he describes his decision to

cattle boat to Corsica.

leave academia and follow the advice of Oxford scholar A. J. Carlyle to travel through Europe.


“There I proceeded to paint donkeys for a month. Then, I proceeded with Carlyle’s idea and began living all around the Continent, reading history books, going to museums, and drawing

t Oxford I went to a lecture (I was very interested in Jonathan Swift) by the great Emil Legouis. Although he was a

Frenchman, he was the greatest Swift authority in the world at that time.

pictures. “I remember a long period in which I drew nothing but gargoyles. They were easier than Mona Lisas.” ...

“He talked to me at the end of the lecture and began selling me on going to study with him at the Sorbonne. And, after I left Oxford, I did

“While floating around Europe trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I decided at one point that I would be the Great

so. “I registered at the Sorbonne, and I went over to his house to find out exactly what he wanted me to do. “He said, ‘I have a most interesting assignment which should only take you about two years to complete. He said that nobody had ever discovered anything that Jonathan Swift wrote from the age of sixteen-and-a-half to seventeen.

American Novelist. And so I sat down and wrote the Great American Novel. “It turned out to be not so great, so I boiled it down in the Great American Short Story. It wasn’t very great in that form either. “Two years later I boiled it down once more and sold it as a twoline joke to [the satirical magazine] Judge.”

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Utamaro’s “Floating World” Conservators prepare a Japanese masterpiece for an exhibition reunion

Cour tesy Wadswor th Atheneum Museum of Ar t


itagawa Utamaro’s Cherry Blossoms at Yoshiwara is a monumental painting with a history as vivid and complex as the scene it depicts. Painted in 1793 by the Japanese master, the work on paper portrays a springtime scene at a teahouse in the “pleasure quarter” of eighteenth-century Edo, now Tokyo. The painting, one of Utamaro’s largest, portrays some fifty women. Utamaro is renowned for his depictions of geishas and courtesans who inhabit the “floating world” of ukiyo-e art. The Utamaro masterpiece, owned by the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, was treated by paper conservators from the Williamstown Art Conservation Center in preparation for three exhibitions that will reunite a triptych of the artist’s large ukiyo-e works across more 7,000 miles. The exhibition venues include the Wadsworth; the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; and the Okada Museum of Art in Hakone, Japan, outside Tokyo. The occasion for the exhibitions was the discovery in 2012 of Utamaro’s Fukagawa in the Snow by Seiichiro Teramoto, deputy director of the Okada Museum. The painting, dated between 1802 and 1806, had long been missing. It is the third work of a triptych of major scroll paintings that together form the summit of Utamaro’s career. Joining Fukagawa and the Wadsworth’s Cherry Blossoms is the 1788 Moon at Shinagawa, held by the Freer. The Okada Museum organized the exhibits with the two American institutions, allowing the three works to be united once more. Last year, officials from the Wadsworth Athenaeum contacted Leslie Paisley, head of WACC’s Department of Paper Conservation, to conserve Cherry Blossoms for exhibition as the museum prepared its show. Due to the large size of the work, nearly seven feet by nine feet, conservation was performed in Hartford rather than transporting the work to Williamstown. This past September, Paisley, conservator Rebecca Johnston, and pre-program intern Rachel Childers, spent a week at the Wadsworth’s conservation department performing what Paisley described as a “cosmetic treatment” of the surface, “mostly to improve the visual experience.” Kitagawa Utamaro (Japanese, 1753-­1806), Cherry Blossoms at Yoshiwara, c. 1793, hanging scroll; ink, gouache, gold, and gold leaf on bamboo paper, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 1957.17 Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 9

themselves against the discord of worldly desire, the old sages contemplated the fleeting nature of life, which is to say the inevitability of death. Centuries later, the term ukiyo came to define a philosophy in which worldly comforts were themselves inoculation against disappointment and ennui. The term arose during the Edo period of Japanese history, 1615-1868, a prosperous era when an authoritarian military kept the peace, allowing cities and commerce to thrive. Life was segregated by strict social castes, and the one place where the classes were permitted to mingle was inside designated walled precincts, or “pleasure quarters.” There, teahouses, theaters, and brothels co-existed in symbiotic relationship with money and style. The areas were popular among the swelling ranks of newly rich merchants and artisans, men who, despite their wealth, had no hope of social advancement. To console themselves they became connoisseurs of the “floating world” of earthly delights and joie de vivre. Ukiyo-e—literally “image of the floating world”— portrays an idealized reality of these pleasures and vanities. The seventeenth-century Japanese novelist Asai Ryoi described its spirit as “living only for the moment, savoring the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms, and the maple leaves, singing songs, drinking sake, and diverting oneself just in floating ... buoyant and carefree ...” A publication by the Metropolitan Museum of Arts explains that, at its height, “the most favored subjects of [ukiyo-e] painting ... were scenes of merry-making at houses of pleasure, especially in the notorious Yoshiwara quarter of Edo.” This is the world Utamaro reproduces in Cherry Blossoms at Yoshiwara. The painting depicts a teahouse where the activity is as elaborate as the costumes and surroundings, and rigid class divisions are clearly drawn. The lower floor of the teahouse, which is also the bottom half of the painting, is inhabited by courtesans who mill about, some with their children, while overhead, the upper floor is filled with geishas and other entertainers dancing, playing musical instruments, and gathered around a tea ceremony. The scene has the backstage intimacy of performers Ulrich Birkmaier / Wadswor th Atheneum Museum of Ar t

The painting was done with mineral pigments and gold leaf on kozo (mulberry bark) paper. Though currently mounted to a panel, it most likely was created as a large hanging scroll and is bordered by gold brocade and mauve damask. Utamaro is perhaps less well known for his paintings than for his woodblock prints, which have been widely acclaimed in Europe and America since the nineteenth century. He is justly renowned for the erotic and tranquil beauty that suffuses his female subjects. The composition, color, and energy of his designs are central elements of the “Japanism” that influenced Impressionists and Post-Impressionists from Manet to Van Gogh, as well as Americans Mary Cassatt, James McNeill Whistler, and others. Utamaro was one of Japan’s greatest practitioners of ukiyo-e—pictures of the “floating world” of temporal life, especially the pleasures of love and entertainment. The Japanese aesthetic derives from an ancient Buddhist term meaning “the sorrow or transience of the world.” To inoculate

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Continued on page 17 From left, paper conservators Leslie Paisley, Rachel Childers, and Rebecca Johnston work shoulder-toshoulder in Hartford.

Following the trail of Utamaro


n 2014, the Japan Times reported an exciting discovering. “A

the Japanese poetic tradition, setsugekka is the expression of the

long-lost painting by ukiyo-e artist Kitagawa Utamaro completed

cycle of nature through three images of its changing beauty, cherry

in the early 19th century has been discovered in Japan and will be

blossoms, moonlight, and snow. Tadashi’s essay describes how Utamaro applied these tropes to

put on public display for the first time in 66 years....” The painting, Fukagawa in the Snow, “had been missing since it was last exhibited at a department store in 1948 in Tokyo’s Ginza

the world of late seventeeth- and early eighteenth-century Edo. “Utamaro’s giant setsugekka triptych represents the three major

district.... Antique art dealer Seiichiro Teramoto, deputy director

pleasure quarters of the day, namely, the government sanctioned

of the Okada Museum, discovered the work in Japan in February

Yoshiwara pleasure quarters; Shinagawa, which was a station on

2012. It was later confirmed as an original painting by Utamaro.”

the highway and became known for its unlicensed prostitutes; and

Teramoto “was very surprised that it was just the painting which

Fukagawa, a district renowned for its elegant geisha. The paintings

he had known by catalogues and photographs for a long time,”

show Utamaro’s specialty, groups of women, in the seasonal

said Yoko Teramoto, chief curator at the Okada Museum, in an

pursuits of the pleasure quarters—spring alight with blooming

email to Art Conservator.

cherry blossoms; the transition from summer to autumn, when

In an essay for the catalog, Kitagawa Utamaro: Fukagawa in the Snow, published on the occasion of the painting’s 2014 exhibition, Okada Museum of Art director Kobayashi Tadashi recalled his

cooling images of the full moon over the sea are favored; [and] winter, when snow whitens and adorns an inner courtyard.” Utamaro linked the literary tradition to the ephemeral beauty of the pleasure quarters, and perhaps intended a commentary

emotion following the discovery. “The feeling I had in February 2012 when this work was hung on a warehouse wall and I confirmed it was the real thing was

on their vanity as well. Above all, he expressed his own vision of beauty that endures above the “floating world.”

massive, a once-in-a-lifetime feeling. This was just at the time that we were fully involved in the preparations for the opening of the Okada Museum of Art, and I remember how I clasped hands with Teramoto Seiichiro ... in absolute delight at the discovery.” The museum recognized the painting’s “snow” theme as belonging to two other large Utamaros, now both in the United States. Kobayashi Tadashi: “[T]his painting is the “snow” image in the triptych setsugekka (Snow Moon Flowers).... The two remaining works in the triptych are in American museums, with the “moon” image Moon at Shinagawa (Moonlight Revelry at Dozo Sagami) in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, and the “flower” image Cherry Blossoms at Yoshiwara in the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum. The three paintings were taken to Paris during the height of the Japonisme boom in the Meiji era, now fortunately one of the three has returned to Japan.”

years apart, the paintings are thematically of a piece. In Top, Kitagawa Utamaro (Japanese, 1753–1806), Fukagawa in the Snow, c. 1802-­1806, hanging scroll; color on paper, Okada Museum of Art. Right, Kitagawa Utamaro Detail of herbarium page during treatment, (1753–1806), Moon at Shinagawa, Japan, Edo period, ca. illustrating how Stephen West Williams attached 1788, painting mounted on panel; color on paper, Freer and labeled the botanical specimens. Gallery of Art, Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1903.54

Cour tesy Wadswor th Atheneum Museum of Ar t (2)

Okada officials set in motion the reunion of the three paintings in a series of exhibitions. Although created

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Feature / Report from Atlanta

A Luminist Salt Marsh in Georgia


t’s hard to decide what the nineteenth-century Luminist painter Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904) should be better known for—his ravishing studies of tropical flowers and hummingbirds or his introspective panoramas of New England salt marshes. The two motifs could not be further apart in appearance. Yet they are of a piece in the way they express Heade’s virtues as an artist: a profound sensitivity, masterful technique, and an angelic appreciation of color. Heade studied with Edward Hicks and traveled to Europe several times before beginning his career as an itinerant portraitist. He exhibited in Philadelphia and New York in the early 1840s. In 1857, he turned to painting the landscape after taking a New York studio where many of his neighbors were Hudson River School masters. His numerous paintings of tidal salt marshes possess a somber dignity that distinguishes them from the grandeur of the mainline Hudson River School. Heade’s paintings anticipate Monet’s serial studies of cathedrals and haystacks under changing weather and light. Heade’s undated Landscape with Haystacks is part of the art collection at the Governor’s Mansion in Atlanta, Georgia. It was brought to the Atlanta Art Conservation Center as part of a gift to the state from Governor Nathan and First Lady Sandra Deal, to fund conservation of all the paintings in the mansion. Many of the museum-quality works in the executive manor were gifts from President Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline. As the Heade is a jewel in the collection, Mrs. Deal was keen to have it seen in its best light. It arrived looking hazy and discolored from varnish applied by a prior restoration. Surface treatment removed a light accumulation of dirt and dust, and a deeper cleaning took away the aged and discolored natural resin varnish layer. Areas of previous substandard paint retouching were removed, most notably in regions of the sky. In one instance, the cleaned area revealed a pentimento where Heade had placed a haystack and later painted it out. As oil paint ages, it becomes translucent and painted-out areas such as the haystack can become visible again. It is always fascinating for a conservator to, in effect, look over the artist’s shoulder at the moment of creative decision making. An isolating layer of fresh varnish was applied, and inpainting performed to correct the previous sins in the sky and re-hide the haystack. The painting has since been returned to the Governor’s Mansion, where it is seen by thousands of visitors annually.

Martin Johnson Heade, Landscape with Haystacks, after treatment, and detail. 12  |  Art Conservator  | Winter 2016

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WACC News & Notes

Treatment Report

original accessories include a cake of light-brown soap and

Object: Victorian gentleman’s toilet chest


Owner: Private client Conservator: Christine Puza, Associate Conservator of Furniture and Wood Objects Description: Late 1880s traveling toilet chest. The outer surfaces are smoothly veneered with highly figured Calamander wood, also known as Macassar Ebony, a south-Asian wood that is now

toothbrush with what appear to be hog bristles set into a bone Inside the lid is a beveled mirror, edged with embossed and gilded leather. Set into the perimeter of the interior are two silver buttons that, when pressed, open separate spring-loaded drawers. An applied label made of inked and incised bone reads, “Sironton, Dublin.” The drawer at the front is lined with a violet moire and matching tooled and gilded leather. A central raised

extremely rare and difficult to source. A mother-of-pearl coupon

area appears to be made to hold a pocket watch.

is set into the top of the lid; often a pearl coupon of this type

Condition: The most significant issues were related to buckling,

would be engraved with the initials of the owner, but in this case has been left blank. The chest contains ten cut-glass containers with sterlingsilver tops that bear Birmingham hallmarks. The interior is compartmented to hold the containers and lined overall with gilded and tooled indigo leather. The central compartment has a velvet padded lid made to hold an assortment of motherof-pearl grooming tools and small scissors. What may be

cracked, and lifting veneer and a thick unoriginal varnish. The greatest damage was at the proper right side of the lid. A section of veneer had split away from the substrate and buckled outward more than a quarter of an inch from the surface due to shrinkage of the wood case. A traveling crack extended in both directions from this split, and there was a loss of ebony stringing and chipping of the thick varnish along the edges of the loss. There was widespread evidence of insect grazing at the corners and edges of many of the internal compartments, but there did not appear to be active insect infestation. Treatment: The areas of buckled veneer on the lid were detached and flattened as much as possible, then reattached with a suitable adhesive. Numerous areas of loose and lifting veneer were also secured. A piece of pear wood was cut to fit the missing stringing and secured, shaped to match the profile of the existing molding and dyed a dark black-brown to match the surrounding stringing. The flaking interior and the scuffed and lifting leather around the mirror frame was consolidated and secured. The interior spring that actuates the bottom front compartment was reattached using #2 screws. The same was used to reinforce the attachment of the remaining interior spring, which had been attached by only one nail. The drawers were removed and the bottom guides waxed for greater ease of movement. A small amount of sewing machine oil was applied to the space surrounding the silver buttons to lubricate the internal workings. The sterling silver fittings on the box and the bottles, jars, and boxes were cleaned with acetone and soft cotton pads. This further increased their brightness and removed traces of previously applied polishing compound. The bar of soap shows active flaking but, since it could possibly be original, was left untouched in situ. Treatment Report is an editorial feature based on conservator documents. Content has been edited for length and clarity.

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WACC Staff

T‌homas Branchick Director; Conservator of Paintings/ Dept. Head Annika Amundson Assistant Conservator of Objects & Textiles Margaret Barkovic Assistant Conservator of Paintings Mary Catherine Betz Conservator of Paintings Rachel Childers Pre-Program Paper Intern Rob Conzett Office Manager Hélène Gillette-Woodard Conservator of Objects/Dept. Head Hugh Glover Conservator of Furniture and Wood Objects/Dept. Head Matthew Hamilton Photography Technician Terry Haskins Assistant to the Director/Accounts Manager

Preserving a page of Buffalo history


Mary Holland Paintings Apprentice

he image above is one of eleven full-size bas-relief plaster models of the marble panels that adorn the exterior frieze of the Buffalo History Museum in Buffalo, New York. The eleven

sculptures, created in the 1920s by Edmonds R. Amateis, commemorate events in Buffalo’s

Rebecca Johnston Conservator of Paper

history, including the burning of the city in the War of 1812, Lafayette’s visit of 1825, and the 1881 mayoral election of future president Grover Cleveland. Here, the thirty-by-thirty-inch plaster sculpture imagines a moment on the Underground Railroad, the network of secret routes and safe houses used by Southern slaves to escape north to freedom. The slave couple on the left embrace in weary alarm as an abolitionist stands ready to defend them and light the way to safety. The plaster models were brought to the Objects Department of the Williamstown Art History Museum receives funding. Such plaster models are never intended to last, and before

Leslie Paisley Conservator of Paper/Dept. Head

their arrival in Williamstown were stored in the museum basement, where they sustained damage and staining from moisture, soot, mold, and rust. Treatment is “very labor intensive,” explained chief objects conservator Hélène Gillette-Woodard, in part because the nearly

Christine Puza Associate Conservator of Furniture and Wood Objects

century-old plaster essentially wanted to disintegrate. The original image was carved in clay, and a mold fabricated from this carved image. The plaster relief was slip cast in the mold and strengthened with an interlayer of hemp cloth. Not only was the plaster brittle, but the hemp crumbled in the hand. Gillette-Woodard stabilized the plaster where possible and repaired loses and an underlying ochre layer that would not entirely come off. The surface was repainted

Montserrat Le Mense Conservator of Paintings Eric Mallet Office Assistant/Technician

Conservation Center nine years ago, where they are being treated one every other year, as the

with epoxy putty. The model had two layers of overpaint, a gray coat that was easily removed,

Henry Klein Conservation Technician

Michelle Savant Conservator of Objects/Atlanta Larry Shutts Conservator of Paintings/Atlanta

with matte vinyl paint to imitate the surface of bare plaster, then secured and mounted using horizontal and vertical steel bracing. Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 15

WACC News & Notes

Over the windowsill, portraits by a Dutch master


n his Self-Portrait at the Metropolitan Museum, Gerrit Dou (1613-

hand, and rendered details so minutely he was compelled to make

1675) portrays himself with inward, far-seeing eyes, a solemn

his own fine bristle brushes. His small “niche paintings” must have

mouth, and long, sensitive fingers. He is seated in a window, where he

taken hundreds of hours to complete; more than two hundred are

both is held by and spills from its arched frame. Over his long career,

attributed to him.

the “window sill” portrait came to be something of a trademark for

It is not known what the relationship of the two women above is,

the Leiden painter. With it, he could suggest the complexity of an

or even if they had a relationship. The older woman holds spinning

individual life, both its external identity and inner world.

implements, while the younger one reaches for a carnation. They

Dou’s father was a glass engraver and stained-glass maker. He

could be mother and daughter, or allegories of the stages of life.

taught his son how to draw and instilled the discipline of the artist’s

The fresh beauty of the girl has grown careworn on her mature

life, then sent him out to apprentice, first at the glazier’s guild, and

counterpart’s face. In painting them, Dou preserved their unique

at fourteen, in Rembrandt’s studio. With Rembrandt, “he learned

dignity against the transience of life, implied by the cracks in the

the art of chiaroscuro,” and, more, emulated his master’s depth of

flower pots. Ars longa, vita brevis.

insight and sensibility. Dou’s paintings were highly prized during the

The paintings, oil on oak panel, arrived at the Williamstown

Dutch Golden Age. He was summoned to the court of more than one

Art Conservation Center for cleaning and stabilization. Removal

monarch, but remained in the university town of Leiden all his life.

of grime and old varnish revealed long-invisible details in the dark

There, he founded the fijnschilders (fine painters), artists who

interiors. The back of each painting contains numerous labels

painted small, highly finished pictures. Dou’s meticulousness was

and marks of ownership, including the stamp of King Charles

the stuff of legend. It is said he could spend five days painting a

Emmanuel III, who acquired them in 1734.

Garrit Dou, Old Woman in a Window (left) and Young Woman in a Window, after treatment. 16  |  Art Conservator  | Winter 2016

Seuss continued from page 7 Scholars prefer a title closer to “The Abduction (or “Taking”) of the Sabine Virgins.” But the misnomer’s allusion to sexual violence may in fact be more to the point. According to Pliny, none of the women was forced to wed against her will. Feminist historians have their doubts. In an earlier age, the motif had the power to arouse emotions both noble and otherwise. In the hands of the Old Masters, the plight of the young women was universally portrayed with poignancy, terror, sympathy, dread. At the same time, the subject afforded male artists the opportunity to depict nude females from a limitless variety of positions, poses, attitudes, and angles. Upstart Ted took delight in being the irreverent American, giving his thumb to Old-World piety while overplaying the titillating bits. In Seussifying the theme, he replaced its pathos with a dose of “nudge-nudge-wink-wink” burlesque. In this, Geisel might well have been following not the great masters, but a nineteenth-century English illustrator called John Leech. Leech was celebrated for his work at the London humor magazine Punch, whose mix of wit, caricature, and satire inspired imitators, including Jack-O-Lantern. If Geisel didn’t know about Leech before arriving in England, he’d have had a hard time avoiding him once he landed there. In addition to his work for Punch, Leech illustrated books (his plates for the first edition of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol are justly famous). His A Comic History of Rome is a collection of cheeky drawings chronicling the Eternal City. In one, a tableau of the Raptio in which the Sabines are dressed in Victorian rags, the central legionnaire wears the same ogling grin as the Seuss soldier. One suspects an influence. After its completion in 1930, Geisel’s Rape of the Sabine Women—the Hood Museum’s cataloged title is plural, though the singular Abduction of a Sabine Woman might be just as apt—was displayed in the Dartmouth Club for the better part of a decade. Before 1940, the club moved to new digs and someone decided the Seuss didn’t fit the decor. In the January 1940 Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, one alum registered his protest over this omission, expressing his “bitter private regret” that the new location was not “glorified by the original

Seuss mural.” The banished painting was taken to New Jersey, where is was stored in a basement, unseen and nearly forgotten, until 1963. That year, the picture was given to retired Dartmouth president Ernest Martin Hopkins, who in turn donated it to the Hood. Storing a five-and-a-half-foot artwork is not easy, and while out of circulation the canvas sustained several rips and punctures. These were patched for a 1975 exhibition in honor of Geisel’s fiftieth reunion, but beyond these mends, no conservation work had even been done on the work before it was brought to Williamstown. Overall, the painting arrived in sound condition. Chief paintings conservator Tom Branchick observed that the canvas was out of plane and contained creases associated with pressure from the stretcher bars. In places the paint was “tenting,” a condition where the paint layer cracks and separates so that paint lifts in a pattern resembling tent formations. Untreated, the condition eventually leads to paint losses. The picture’s varnish layer had also discolored, leaving blotchy passages that required cosmetic attention. The painting was lined to correct the deformation and creases. The lifting paint was consolidated and the varnish discolorations corrected. A paintings conservator works so closely on a canvas that he or she comes to know the artist intimately; in this instance, Branchick observed that Geisel’s genius lay more in his imagination than his technical mastery. “He didn’t know how to handle oil paint that well,” the conservator noted. The importance of the work lay rather in its originality. “This is the first time he developed in such detail these iconic Dr. Seuss characters,” Branchick said. “This is the beginning of the empire.”

Detail showing the artist’s signature in the painting’s lower left Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 17

Utamaro, continued from page 10 before a show, the “show,” in this case, being the service of male patrons who have yet to arrive. The exquisite charm of the women is placed beside the beauty of the flowering cherry trees, whose delicate pink petals symbolize both spring and innocence in all their loveliness and impermanence. The vividness of the tableau is heightened by its palette of vermilion, ultramarine, verdigris, umber, ochre, and gold. To show the sumptuous painting in its best light, the conservation treatment required color correction in areas of previous inpainting and consolidation of flaking paint. In one section, a diagonal crease in the paper was inpainted to become less distracting. The Wadsworth Athenaeum has no paper conservators on staff, requiring the Williamstown team to bring to Hartford a full kit of tools and materials, including adhesives, tacking irons, brushes, and colors. The

three conservators worked side-by-side, often shoulder-toshoulder. Beyond the technical considerations of the treatment, Paisley explained that working on Japanese artworks requires an understanding of Asian aesthetics. “You can’t just treat these without some knowledge of the ethical considerations” she said. As an example she cited the philosophy toward inpainting, the replacement of missing or damaged color, which varies from East to West. In the Japanese tradition, refreshing the surface with new paint is considered central to maintaining the integrity of the artist’s intent. Where the Western standard for inpainting is to be minimally invasive and entirely reversible, Japanese mounters in the past applied media more extensively to integrate the composition. “As the pigments fade, areas were typically repainted,” said Ulrich Birkmaier, chief conservator at the Wadsworth, on the Asian practice. “It’s not uncommon to find entire passages completely repainted.” While WACC conservators did not repaint whole passages, they did apply watercolor and pastel over original media to minimize damages deemed visually distracting. Birkmaier spoke as the museum was preparing its exhibit, “Utamaro and the Lure of Japan,” on view through March 26, 2017. While the exhibit primarily showcases the Wadsworth’s history of collecting Japanese art, its undoubted highlight is the pairing of Hartford’s monumental Utamaro with the Okada’s Fukagawa. This is the first time the paintings have been seen together since they were exhibited in Paris in the 1880s. The Freer’s painting is too fragile to travel, but is represented in the exhibit by a full-size, high-definition reproduction. All three original paintings will be seen together in Washington in the spring. “It is beautiful to see them work together, to see them working as a team” Birkmaier said of the paintings. Japanese conservation philosophy is definitely visible on the Okada painting, he observed. “It looks very fresh,” he said. In contrast, Cherry Blossoms possesses a patina of age. He praised the treatment of the WACC team for bringing this subtle luster to the surface. “When you are in front of the painting,” he enthused, “it’s just so beautiful and there is just so much going on. Every time you look at it there is something new to see.”

Detail from Cherry Blossoms at Yoshiwara, showing a diagonal crease before conservation (top) and after cosmetic inpainting. 18  |  Art Conservator  | Winter 2016

TechWinter Notes, 2016 Summer 2015 Tech Notes,

LED Lighting in the Museum Setting By Rachel Childers Pre-Program Intern Overview

Every aspect of the museum experience has been enhanced with the use of LEDs (lightemitting diodes). LEDs create light by electroluminescence in a semiconductor material. Light is produced when positive and negatively charged electrons combine together within the material. The advent of the LED allows for new possibilities in manipulating the spectrum of light, enhancing vision, and slowing the degradation of light-sensitive materials. Numerous benefits can be gained by mastering the complexities of this emerging technology. Benefits of LEDs include longer lamp life, reduced electric and HVAC bills, more easily controlled occupancy sensors and contribution to “green initiatives.” This technical bulletin will provide an overview of the considerations around the use of LEDs on five controllable qualities of light: intensity, movement, angle, distribution, and color. The focus throughout is on LEDs within the museum setting due to its higher standard for lighting than other uses. If LED technology can generate positive results for a museum application, it can inspire other institutions to explore the potential of LEDs. Intensity

The supplied chart [Fig. 1] explains the two factors of photochemical damage. Assessing the sensitivity of a material going on display can help determine the illuminance and the exposure it is capable of withstanding. To achieve the greatest benefit from energy savings and light damage, the exposure should be the primary focus. Illuminance is the measure of perceived light illuminating an object. Deciding on a proper illuminance requires a balance between providing sufficient light levels to accommodate the needs of visitors and restricting overall light exposure for the preservation of the artwork. For materials with a light sensitivity rated high or moderately high, a relatively low illuminance of 50-75 lux is recommended with limited exposure. Lux is the measure of intensity over a given surface area. Reducing the light level for an object could extend the display time allowing it to be seen by more visitors, however, it should be noted that light intensity, its duration and the quality of light in any amount will cause light damage to a work of art. High light intensity is often used if the lighting source is coming from a particularly high ceiling. Even with an increase in intensity, LEDs will still save on energy consumption. Movement

The human eye is particularly attuned to movement, including the movement of light itself. Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  19

Tech TechNotes, Notes,Winter Winter2016 2016

In the case of museum lighting, movement can either be subtle or obvious, depending on the type of light source and how far it is in its life cycle. To test a light’s subtle movement, one can use a “flicker checker,” a black and white checkered top that, when spun, either creates bands of several solid shades of grey, indicating that no flickering is present in the light source, or a hex pattern, indicating that flickering is present. A more noticeable case of movement can be seen when an LED bulb is coming to the end of its life cycle. It continuously flashes on and off, creating a strobe-like effect that is distracting to visitors. In a typical gallery setting where ceiling height is anywhere between twelve to fourteen feet, changing a bulb can be relatively simple. However, in the case where a museum has to light an indoor courtyard with a ceiling as high as eighty-five feet, curators might think carefully about installing an LED that has the potential to create noticeable light movement should it begin to burn out. If the museum staff is unable to immediately replace lights at that height within a short amount of time, they might choose to use incandescent bulbs instead. It is important to consider staff time and physical limitations when deciding what light source to use. Angle

Figure 1

Of the five categories considered in this paper, light angle is the only one that takes into consideration the placement of the light rather than analyzing the mechanics within the lighting source itself. The choice of lighting angle influences every aspect of the museum experience, including the three-dimensionality of sculpture, where picture-frame shadows fall on the artworks, and the amount of reflective glare on a painted surface or glazing. The medium and dimensionality of an artwork dictates the best angle of the lighting source. A work of art with gold elements might be best displayed with a low light angle, for instance, to make the gold as reflective as possible while using the smallest amount of illumination. A piece that has transparent qualities might benefit from a light source coming from the back as well as the front. These considerations are all determined on a caseby-case basis. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for any given material. The typical museum has a fixed lighting track along the perimeter of each gallery and down each hallway. Converting to an LED system might entail adjustments, addition tracks or even removal of tracks entirely in favor of a system that allow for light placement specific to every artwork. Distribution

Distribution is a way of making a light plan work as a uniform scheme, with the ability to focus light where you want it and reduce it where you don’t want it. When considering distribution, one must keep in mind what system allows for the most control. There are typically two options to create an ideal distribution, retrofit lamps and remote phosphor lamps. A retrofit lamp is an LED bulb fitted for use in a canister previously designed for an incandescent light. Retrofit lamps produce a low amount of glare and have the possibility to

20 | Art Conservator | Winter 2016 2015

create either a diffuse wall wash or a controlled spotlight. Carefully matching the size of the beam to the size of the artwork reduces the amount of shadow and makes the art the focalpoint in the room. Some users have noted that retrofit lamps generate more heat than remote phosphor lamps, due to the fact that the casing was not specifically made to handle LEDs. The casing that holds the bulb as well as museum cases can be drilled to ventilate the heat. In any case, the heat generated by LEDs is far less than incandescent bulbs produce. Remote phosphor lamps are canisters made specifically for LEDs and installed on their own track fixture. Since the casing is specifically made for an LED system, they tend to offer better control of heat output. Phosphor lamps also deliver a more color-stable light source over time. LED lights have been noted to have a slight color change over an extended period. Both retrofit and remote phosphor lamps produce the same amount of color shift. Most manufacturers of remote phosphor lamps provide warranties for color shifts with their products. Since converting to LEDs comes with a considerable increase in per-bulb price, it is best to work with a company that provides such warranty protection. Color

Determining the proper color of light involves three criteria; chromaticity, color rendering, and damage factor. Chromaticity can be seen when shining a light source onto a white substrate. The color reflected indicates the warm (yellow) or cool (blue) nature of the light. Kelvin temperature measures how yellow to blue a lighting source is, while Duv temperature measures how pink to green it is. Even though measurements are typically taken in Kelvin, humans are more sensitive to Duv changes on the pink to green scale, as indicated in the chromaticity graph. [Fig. 2]. The diagram represents the mapping of human color perception in regards to the spectral colors, or the visible spectrum. Color rendering indicates the colors that a light source is capable of reflecting back. Shining a light source at a color chart will help determine which light source—natural, incandescent, LED, etc —would be best paired with a particular work of art. Adjustments can be made to the LED using phosphor filters to create the precise color rendering the museum or gallery desires. Damage factor measures how an emitted spectrum of light might affect the potential for light damage to an object. One method of determining the color output of a light source is to measure it with the use of a spectrometer. A spectrometer measures a wide range of energies given off by light and calculates color indexes as well as damage factor. The decision of which light source to use should not be made solely by the data achieved with the use of a spectrometer, however. Experienced observation in actual lighting simulations within the gallery is also valuable and necessary. A proper lighting scheme is a balance between objective data and a subjective sense of how the lights look in actual use.

Figure 2

Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  21


In order to achieve the best results from LEDs, there are several aspects to take into consideration: • See the lighting source installed beforehand. • Require that the light source be tested for total flux (light output), electrical power, efficacy, chromaticity, and intensity distribution. One such performance test is the LM-79. • Test all aspects of the device to be sure they work together to create a uniform lighting system capable of the lighting effects your gallery requires (spotlight, wall wash, dimmers, etc.) • Buy from companies you trust with documented support history, as a safeguard in the event there is a failure in one of the lighting sources and you need a replacement or refund. • Diversify your lighting source based on the types of art. Keep a record of positive and negative performances from different brands. Though all visible light is potentially damaging to works of art, without it we cannot have a satisfactory museum experience. It is vital that we balance the aesthetic presentation against the light exposure and safety levels. LEDs are still a new technology in terms of mainstream applications, especially in the art world. While the technology continues to improve at a rapid pace, the decision to convert now, later, or if at all should take into consideration whether improvements over previous technologies justify the cost. Information in this article was gathered from source material written and presented by Steven Weintraub, Consultant at Art Preservation Services, and Gordon Anson, Deputy Chief of Design at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Both provide lighting consultation services.

Rachel Childers is a pre-program intern in the Department of Paper and Photographs at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, working under Leslie Paisley and Rebecca Johnston. She received a BA in Art History from the University of Arizona and interned at several museums including the Tucson Museum of Art, Arizona State Museum, and Tucson’s Museum of Contemporary Art before joining WACC. She has applied to graduate programs in art conservation and will resume academic studies in the fall.

22 | Art Conservator | Winter 2016 2015

Members of the Consortium

Williamstown Art Conservation Center

Historic Deerfield, Inc. —Deerfield, MA

227 South Street,

Hood Museum of Art,

Williamstown, MA 01267

Dartmouth College —Hanover, NH

Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy —Andover, MA Adirondack Museum —Blue Mountain Lake NY Albany Institute of History & Art —Albany, NY Alice T. Miner Colonial Collection —Chazy, NY T‌he Arkell Museum —Canajoharie, NY Arnot Art Museum —Elmira, NY Art Complex Museum —Duxbury, MA Bennington Museum —Bennington, VT Berkshire Museum —Pittsfield, MA Bowdoin College Museum of Art —Brunswick, ME Charles P. Russell Gallery, Deerfield Academy —Deerfield, MA T‌he Cheney Homestead of the Manchester Historical Society —Manchester, CT Colby College Museum of Art —Waterville, ME

T‌he Hyde Collection —Glens Falls, NY T‌he Lawrenceville School —Lawrenceville, NJ Mead Art Museum, Amherst College —Amherst, MA Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester —Rochester, NY Middlebury College Museum of Art —Middlebury, VT Mount Holyoke College Art Museum —South Hadley, MA Munson Williams Proctor Arts

—Cooperstown, NY Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College —Poughkeepsie, NY Frederic Remington Art Museum —Ogdensburg, NY Gershon Benjamin Foundation, —Clayton, GA Harriet Beecher Stowe Center —Hartford, CT

of Art at Hamilton College —Clinton NY

nonprofit institution, is to protect,

examination, treatment, consultation

—Northampton, MA Springfield Museums

and related conservation services

—Springfield, MA

for member institutions, and for

Sterling and Francine Clark Art

other nonprofit organizations,


corporations and individuals; to

—Williamstown, MA Suzy Frelinghuysen and George L.K. Morris Foundation

conduct educational programs with respect to the care and conservation of works of art and objects of

—Lenox, MA

cultural interest; to participate in the

Union College

training of conservators; to promote

—Schenectady, NY Williams College Museum of Art

the importance of conservation and increase the awareness of

—Williamstown, MA

the issues pertinent to collections care; and to conduct research and disseminate knowledge to advance the profession.

Purchase College, State University

Atlanta Art Conservation Center

of New York

6000 Peachtree Road Atlanta, GA 30341

New Hampshire Historical Society —Concord, NH New York State Office of General Services, Empire State Plaza Art Collection —Albany, NY

—Stockbridge, MA Picker Art Gallery,

Alabama Historical Commission —Montgomery, AL Booth Western Art Museum —Cartersville, GA Brenau University —Gainesville, GA Columbia Museum of Art —Columbia, SC T‌he Columbus Museum

Colgate University

—Columbus, GA

—Hamilton, NY

High Museum of Art

Plattsburgh State Art Museum —Plattsburgh, NY Portland Museum of Art —Portland, ME Preservation Society of Newport County —Newport, RI Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art —Providence, RI

—Atlanta, GA Mason-Scharfenstein Museum of Art —Demorest, GA Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts —Montgomery, AL Morris Museum of Art —Augusta, GA Telfair Museum of Art —Savannah, GA

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art,

T‌he Rockwell Museum of

Vanderbilt University Fine Arts

Cornell University

Western Art


—Ithaca, NY

‌he mission of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, a

of our cultural heritage; to provide

Smith College Museum of Art,

Neuberger Museum,

—Purchase, NY


conserve and maintain the objects

—Hartford, CT


—Rockland, ME

The Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum

Museum of Connecticut History

Norman Rockwell Museum at

Fenimore Art Museum

—Potsdam, NY

—Utica, NY

Book Art —Amherst, MA

University of New York


Eric Carle Museum of Picture

Farnesworth Art Museum

Mission Statement

Roland Gibson Gallery, State

—Corning, NY

—Nashville, TN

Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 23

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