ICOM Ethnographic Conservation Newsletter
Edited by Anthropology Conservation Laboratory, Smithsonian Institution 

Newsletter Index 

Number 18 ISSN 1036-6210 October 1998

Table of Contents

Claire Munzenrider

The Spanish Colonial church of Santissima Trinidad, including its important altarscreen, was the site of a community-based conservation project in a northern New Mexican village with strong Spanish-based traditions. Constructed in 1834, the adobe church is located in the rural village of Arroyo Seco. This church was abandoned in the 1960s for a larger, more modern church built adjacent to it. Adobe churches in New Mexico, both their structure and contents, represent centuries-old traditions of architecture, building methods, religious art, and restoration. Importantly, these churches are located in the heart of the communities and play a central role in the villages.

Through the efforts of Father Vincent Chavez of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and Claire Munzenrider, Chief Conservator of the Museum of New Mexico, the restoration of the Colonial church building was carried out by the community using local resources. The work included re-roofing, the removal of concrete stucco exterior plaster and the application of traditional mud and straw plaster. Interior walls were also re-plastered using mud/straw with a traditional hand-plastered, troweled and buffed finish. Many local people either volunteered or were employed to carry out these activities, providing the necessary hands and expertise in traditional methods.

Once the restoration of the building had been completed, the examination and treatment of the important altarscreen could begin. The altarscreen inside the church was painted in the 1860's by Colonial artist, Jose de Gracia Gonzales. Purportedly born to German parents and raised by a Mexican family, he was trained in the making of religious art in Mexico. Gonzales traveled to northern New Mexico in the early 1860s where he worked for approximately ten years. There he painted altarscreens and made santos (images of saints).

Technical examination revealed that the painting by Gonzales covers an earlier painter's work, adding further to the body of knowledge concerning the occurrence of traditional re-painting (over-painting) of these valuable architectural works of devotional art. Using visual examination, infrared reflectography and cross-sectional analysis, new information has been documented about the lower, earlier painting.

Prior to the onset of the project, Ms. Munzenrider met with Father Chavez and a restoration committee, consisting mainly of parishioners, to discuss expectations and strategies. With assistance from Monika Harter, Getty Fellow at the Museum of New Mexico; Cruz Lopez, McCune Foundation pre-professional intern; and a workforce of eight volunteers from the church community, the cleaning, consolidation, paint loss compensation, and inpainting of the altarscreen were completed. Special protective measures were taken to preserve two exposed areas of the earlier painting by creating two discreet "windows". The decorative detail of the lower painting remains visible through these windows.

Community-based preservation projects such as this can reinforce cultural traditions as well as offer exposure to current conservation approaches and concerns. Because the restoration of the church was a community effort, the community is more invested in the long-term preservation of this church and its altarscreen. The dedicated efforts of the community resulted in a renewed sense of pride in their collective history as represented in the church.

Claire Munzenrider
Chief Conservator
Conservation Department
Museum of New Mexico
P.O. Box 2087
Santa Fe, NM 87504
Tel: 505-827-6350; Fax: 505-827-6349

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Ann Kaupp

On May 27, 1998, the Smithsonian’s Office of Exhibits Central was the scene of a rarely observed ceremony conducted in connection with an upcoming traveling exhibit, Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People, opening at the National Museum of Natural History in April 1999. Masahiro Nomoto, an Ainu wood carver, was brought to the Smithsonian from Hokkaido, Japan to carve replicas of traditional objects for the exhibition, including a canoe and an Ainu house.

Mr. Nomoto’s first task was to build a replica of an oceangoing dugout canoe from a 10-foot long, 4 1/2 foot wide, yellow cedar log. When the exhibit staff learned that no local lumber mill had a log of the required proportions, they searched the Internet for totem pole carvers, which led to a mill on Vancouver Island, British Columbia from where this log was shipped.

The Ainu call this dugout canoe an itaomacip, which is designed with overlapping planks to broaden the canoe's width. The actual canoes were at least 50 feet in length and were used for trading with the Russians, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and other northern native peoples.

It is customary before an Ainu artist begins carving to hold a ceremony, in this case to express appreciation to god for coming to the Ainu (human) world and providing this log to produce a canoe. According to the Ainu belief system, everything has a spirit and everything is a god.

The traditional Ainu ceremony that took place required the following items: two mats, one ceremonial and decorated with a red and black design, and the other, mainly unadorned, for the participants to kneel on; red lacquerware consisting of a bowl with a stand; a bottle of saki on a lacquer tray; a prayer stick (ikupasuy) on which Mr. Nomoto carved his own personal design; two tufted sticks of willow called inaw mounted in a base; and a metal bowl containing sand and willow shavings.

For the ceremony, Mr. Nomoto and the exhibit’s co-curator, Chisato Dubreuil, wore traditional multicolor cotton robes stitched with beautiful sinuous designs. They knelt on a mat facing the log. On the ceremonial mat, positioned perpendicular to the log, was placed the lacquerware, prayer stick, and saki. David Dubreuil, project manager of the forthcoming exhibit, who gave a short introduction to the ceremony, explained that millet beer, not saki, was originally used in this ceremony.

The ceremony began with Mr. Nomoto lighting the willow shavings in the metal bowl and wafting the smoke toward his body and the ceremonial objects. After Ms. Dubreuil poured saki into the lacquer bowl, Mr. Nomoto recited prayers and with his prayer stick dripped saki over the inaw and the fire, sending his appreciation to the god of the log and to Fuchi, goddess of fire. The inaw with their shavings delicately fanned out in two layers represent a bird that will send the carver's message from the human to the spirit world. The prayer stick, with a mark representing a tongue at one end, acts as the mediator, sending Mr. Nomoto’s message between the two worlds. An ancestral sign on the prayer stick signifies who is the messenger.

Both Mr. Nomoto and Ms. Dubreuil drank from the bowl; then Mr. Nomoto stood up and while reciting another prayer anointed the log with the saki and with the prayer stick. Ms. Dubreuil then passed the bowl of saki, first to the men and then to the women involved in the making of the exhibition. The ceremony was completed when Mr. Nomoto lit one of the inaw over the fire to send his message to the gods and left it in the bowl to burn.

Mr. Nomoto had recited three prayers: the first to inform the fire god what he will carve; the second to tell the tree god that he will give the tree new life; and the third to thank all the gods for safely producing a beautiful canoe. When the boat is completed, another ceremony will take place in which the second inaw will be burned as an offering of thanksgiving.

Ann Kaupp
Head, Anthropology Outreach Office
Department of Anthropology MRC 112
Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 20560-0112
Tel: 202-357-1592; Fax: 202-357-2208; E-mail: Kaupp.Ann@NMNH.SI.EDU

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Linda Landry

Editors’ Note:

The following article addresses the issue of repatriation of artifacts that have been treated with pesticides within the museum setting. Often museum documentation on the type of pesticides used and their frequency of application is sketchy. When considering the return or repatriation of objects, it is important to inform tribal representatives about possible pesticides that may contaminate their objects. This article addresses the testing for only one of a number of possible pesticides that have been used historically in museum settings.

Nineteen sacred objects from the collections of the Indian Arts Research Center at the School of American Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico are being repatriated to the Hopi tribe of Arizona. These masks consist primarily of leather, feathers, painted wood, painted fabric, horsehair, and plant fibers. Documentation on these objects revealed that one had been treated in 1950 with Sibur™, a moth proofing spray containing approximately 9% sodium arsenite and 91% water. Efforts to locate records that would inform us further about the methodology and frequency of moth proofing applications yielded little to nothing.

Tribal advisors expressed their intent to ceremonially re-use these objects, to wear them in dance. While the option of testing for other possible pesticide residues is currently under consideration by the Hopi, they first specifically requested testing for arsenic residue. The arsenic compound, when present, remains soluble in water/moisture. The concern was that the arsenic, in combination with the moisture of perspiration, could be absorbed through the skin when the masks were used.

The nineteen objects share a common post-acquisition history, so it was decided to test all. Testing was conducted using the Merckoquant 10026 Arsenic testing kit from EM Science. Erica E. Henry in her 1996 article on the test kit outlined the basic laboratory procedures which are as follows: "Twenty five milliliters of deionized water are placed in an Erlenmeyer flask. Five swabs are prepared in the following manner: each is dampened with deionized water and rolled over a different part of the object to pick up arsenic residue. All swabs are then placed in the flask where they are allowed to soak for 30 minutes. While the swabs are soaking, an indicator strip is prepared by inserting it through a slit in a graduated test tube cap. After 30 minutes has elapsed, five milliliters of the solution is transferred to the graduated test tube and Reagent #1. Zinc powder (Zn) is added. After shaking and thoroughly mixing the solution with the powder, Reagent #2, 32% Hydrochloric acid (HCL), is added to the solution. The test tube is then capped with the cap holding the indicator strip."1 The solution is left to stand for 30 minutes, swirling gently 2 or 3 times during this period. When the object being tested contained hair, a single strand of hair was included in the testing. This was done because as Hawks and Williams explain, keratin containing materials, such as hair and feathers, tenaciously retain arsenic.2

As part of the process, a known negative and a known positive solution were also tested. The known negative was distilled water; the known positive was a 1.0 mg/l (~ppm) arsenic solution obtained from the State of New Mexico Department of Health Scientific Lab. A 1.0 mg/l solution is in the middle of the detection range for the Merckoquant 10026 kit and should turn the indicator paper a goldenrod color. To our great dismay, running the test twice on this solution produced negative results. Joe Daniels, from the Technical Support Office of EM Science, suggested that perhaps the known positive solution provided was not a trivalent or pentavalent compound of arsenic for which the test was designed. Discussion with the State Scientific Lab indicated the known positive solution was a pentavalent arsenic compound which had originated from an orthoarsenic acid. These results cast doubt on the reliability of the test kit to detect pentavalent arsenic compounds, as well as trivalent arsenic compounds, such as the sodium arsenite used in the Sibur™ moth proofing spray.

EM Science then faxed a list of interferences that could affect performance of the test. Among these interferences was 100 ppm nitrate. Upon receiving this information, Ron Amato, Principle Scientist for the State of New Mexico, Department of Health Scientific Lab Division, recognized the source of the problem. The starter for the known positive arsenic solution from the State Scientific Lab included 1% nitric acid added to keep the metal ions in solution. The State Scientific Lab provided a second known positive solution, which had to be tested quickly while it was fresh because it did not contain nitric acid. When this second known positive solution was tested, the results were positive and the indicator paper turned goldenrod in color. This solution was tested four times, each time with identical results.

Three of the nineteen objects tested positive for arsenic, two at levels of .1 mg/l and one at .5 mg/l. The latter was the object documented to have been treated with Sibur™ in 1950; the other two had no written history of pesticide applications. The question then became - what health risks do these three objects pose? and how to translate these test results into an assessment of risk? According to Randy Merker in the Office of Epidemiology for the State of New Mexico Department of Health, probably no one will be able to quantify the results and few, if any, will be willing to calculate the risk involved. Central to the problem of calculating health risk is the fact that humans react differently from animals to arsenic and animal reactions have been used to assess risk. Currently, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is preparing to release a new arsenic standard in the year 2000. In the meantime, the recommendation is to not wear or handle these three objects.

The Hopi representatives inquired about the possibility of washing the artifacts to remove arsenic residue. According to both Ron Amato and Randy Merker, washing the objects with soap and water would probably remove the arsenic. However, it would be best to test again after washing to determine whether the arsenic was successfully removed. In discussion with the Hopi representatives, it became apparent that this option of washing the objects might be undertaken to allow the masks to be used safely in dance. Physical damage incurred by washing was considered less important than preserving the non-tangible ceremonial aspects of the masks. According to Amato, washing could be done with soap and water without creating a hazardous waste situation, as long as the wash water was greatly diluted.

With repatriations in progress across the country, testing or facilitating testing for diverse pesticide residues will be necessary. In the testing and identifying of pesticide residues, conservators can serve as a critical liaison with involved parties including scientists or other scientific professionals, NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) officers, tribal advisors, and museum administrators.

This project raised many questions, including: how can a conservator, or an institution, best inform the tribal representatives who are receiving materials that have been treated with pesticides? For safety and hazards information, we rely upon MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets). However, MSDS typically address the hazards encountered in a work place upon bulk exposures to residues. Is there a suitable procedure for determining potential human health risk posed by pesticide residues in circumstances of cultural reuse? For example, when repatriated objects are intended to be used in dance or reused ceremonially, a risk of pesticide residues lies not in bulk exposure as addressed by an MSDS, but in continued exposure compounded by additional moisture from human perspiration. Who is best qualified to assess risk in this instance? And should health risks be assessed differently for the elderly or the very young? With regard to arsenic, Amato says that the young are the most vulnerable population because arsenic retards brain development.

Once pesticide residue is detected, the person best qualified to assess risk might be an accredited industrial hygienist, toxicologist, or pharmacologist. The industrial hygienist, toxicologist, or pharmacologist could also be the appropriate expert to develop precautions or guidelines for a specific pesticide written in layman's terms that address ceremonial re-use situations. Perhaps these same experts can assist in recommending affordable sampling and testing protocols for detecting a variety of pesticide residues. Ideally, institutions and conservators could share whatever recommended guidelines evolve for specific pesticides.


  1. The Sibur™ Mothproof Company was located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
  2. In Henry's laboratory procedure a final step was omitted. According to the kit instructions, once both reagents have been added and the cap is in place, the solution is left to stand for 30 minutes, swirling gently 2 or 3 times during this period.
  3. The arsenic test kit is available from: Thomas Scientific, P.O. Box 99, Swedesboro, New Jersey 08085. Phone: 1-800-345-2100. Thomas Scientific is the distributor for EM Science.


  1. Henry, Erica E., “The Merckoquant 10026 Arsenic Test for Natural History Collections,” in WAAC Newsletter, Volume 18, Number 1, (January 1996): 19.
  2. Hawks, Catherine A. and Williams, Stephen L., “Arsenic in Natural History Collections”, in Leather Conservation News, Volume 2, Number 2 (1986): 1- 4.

Linda Landry
Private Conservator
705 East Alameda, #7
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Tel: 505-984-0708; E-mail: llandry@trail.com

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Mary-Lou E. Florian

The use of "natural products"--herbs, spices and homeopathic drugs--for insect pest or fungal control in cultural property was discussed in several papers presented at the Third International Conference on Biodeterioration of Cultural Property held in Bangkok, Thailand, July 4-7, 1995. I have been asked by the editors to review these papers. I will first give a synopsis of the papers; this will be followed by some general comments about the "natural products" tested in the papers.

The Papers:
Devaraj Urs, K.C. 1995. Management of the american cockroach, Periplaneta americana L. (Blattidae: Dictyoptera) with plant seed oils, pp. 149-153.

The insecticidal action of three plant seed oils, 1% cashew shell (Anacardium oxidentale), 6% neem (Azadirachta indica) and 6% pongamia (Pongamia glabra) was tested against a standard insecticide, Malathion 0.5% 50 EC (cythion) to obtain the above concentrations. The oil solutions also contained an emulsifier, labolene, and benzene. The experiment was run in the field at two hostel food stores which were infested with cockroaches. Food bait was placed on the floor near the food store and at night the feeding cockroaches were sprayed with the oil and control solutions. The results showed that cashew shell oil was most effective but that cockroach kills occurred with all three oil solutions. The authors stated, "Botanical compounds will help to lessen the dependence on synthetic insecticides." They also report, "plant seed oils have been reported to be possessing insect controlling properties viz. antifeedant, repellant, attractant, reproductive inhibitant, hormonal etc.”

Shaheen, F. 1995. Application of karanja seeds (Pongamia glabra Vent) for control of museum insects, pp. 121-128.

The purpose of the experiments was to discover the insecticidal, repellent, antifeedant and ovicidal properties of the oil and deoiled seed powder of Pongamia glabra, against silver fish and the furniture carpet beetle (Anthrenus vorax). The tests included: using a cm square of textile or paper covered with 1 gram of deoiled seed powder or a 0.5% or 1% solution of oil in acetone. The active ingredient in the deoiled seed powder is known to be karanjin. The abstract reports, "Both oil and deoiled seed powder represented insecticidal and antifeedant properties respectively. The insecticidal activity of oil at 0.5% level was noted to produce mortality within 18-24 hours in silverfish, whereas in case of Anthrenus larvae mortality was observed with 1% concentration within 40-48 hours. The author states, "Encouraging results on plant products, will definitely lead to effective ways of meeting many of our insect problems with a minimum of risk to man.".

Nilvilia, S. and S. Wangchareontrakul. 1995. Use of traditional Thai herbs for insect control, pp. 375-380.

The abstract reads:
"Zingiber cassumunar Roxb, commonly known as plai" -(ginger rhizome)- "and Piper retrofractum "long pepper" are traditional Thai herbs. Gas liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry(GC-MS) analysis of the essential oil of plai showed two main components. They were identified as 1-terpinen-4-ol and (E)-1-(3,4-dimethoxyphenyl) butadiene. The essential oil of plai exhibited insect repellent and insecticidal activities against Lepisma saccharina (silverfish) but was not effective against Periplaneta americana (American cockroach). Hexane extracts of plai demonstrated insect repellent activity against silverfish, however the effectiveness was less than the essential oil. The hexane extract also gave some insect repellent and insecticidal properties against American cockroach. In contrast, the hexane extract of long pepper exhibited insect repellent activity against silverfish for a short time and it showed a powerful insecticidal activity against American cockroach with 100% mortality in 24 hours."

The tests were run in small boxes, 13.0x22.0x13.0cm, for the cockroach and 8.0x14.0x5.0cm for the silverfish. The box was divided into two rooms each with food and water but in one room was placed a piece of filter paper impregnated with the test solution, 50mg for silverfish and 500mg for the cockroach. The results were compared against p-dichlorobenzene (moth balls). Observations of the movement of the insects were recorded.

Garg, K.L. 1995. Use of homoeopathic drugs as antifungal agents for the protection of books and paper materials, pp. 56-65.

The drugs tested were: bacillinum, petroleum, tuberculinum, sulphur iodatum, merzerium, and anitin crude. Of fungal species isolated from old books, Aspergillus niger was the most dominant (common) thus was chosen to be tested against the drugs. The drugs were either added to the cellulose agar medium (called poisoned food) and the growth of a piece of inoculum of the fungus measured, or the drug was placed on circles of filter papers which were placed on petri plates of cellulose agar medium which had been seeded with the fungus and the zone of inhibition around the filter paper measured. The drug concentration varied from 1 M to 0.03 M solutions. Of the six homeopathic drugs, sulphur iodatum and petroleum were found most effective. The results showed, on the poisoned food, petroleum gave a 90% growth inhibition at 0.03M but only 25% at 1M solution, and sulphur iodatum gave 100% inhibition at 1M. The zone of inhibition with 1M solution of sulphur iodatum was 28mm, and 26mm using a 0.03M and 10% using a 1M solution, compared to a known fungicide, 1000mg/ml of amphotericin which gave 30mm. The author reports that in reference to the protection of paper materials, "these drugs were found to be completely safe, as they leave no residual or adverse effect on books and are non-toxic to human beings."

Chingduang, S., P. Siriacha and M. Saito. 1995. Effect of some medicinal plants and spices on growth of fungi. pp. 143-153.

The following abstract explains well the experiments: "Seven medicinal plants and spices,i.e., Kaempferia galanga L., Amomum cardamomum L., Carum carvil L.(caraway seed), Cinnamomum iners BL. (cinnamon), Myristica fragrans (nutmeg), Euginea caryphyllus Bullock & Harrison (clove), and Cariandrum sativum L. (coriander) were tested in laboratory. Crude powder from these plants was evaluated against cultures of Aspergillus flavus, A. versicolor, A. niger, Penicillium citrinum, P. viridicatum and Cladosporium cladosporiodes grown on agar medium in petri dishes. The results revealed that clove was the most promising species which could completely inhibit all tested fungi while Kaempferia galanga was the second tentative species. In this experiment, some other plant species showed no fungitoxic activity when used at low concentration. Moreover some medicinal plants especially coriander enhanced growth of some fungi. Penicillium viridicatum was found to be the most sensitive fungus to all medicinal plant species.” Concentrations were 1000, 10,000 and 50,000 ppm of crude powder in potato dextrose agar (PDA). The inhibition of growth was measured as a percent compared to the normal growth on PDA.

Pandey, V.N. and A.K. Srivastava. 1995. Prevention [of fungal growth] of cultural heritage in wood and leather by volatile constituents of higher plants, pp. 381-386.

The abstract reads in part:
"Fungal infestations of wood and leather articles has been investigated to find the species of Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Paecilomyces as dominant infestants. Fungitoxic properties of vapours of 15 essential oils, against these fungi have been investigated. Vapours of essential oils obtained from Cinnamomum cassia leaf and Trachyspermum ammi fruits as well as their active constituents, cinnamic aldehyde and thymol respectively, have been recorded as effective. Fumigation of stored wood and leather articles, by these vapours, has been found to effectively check fungal infestations of these articles, even under moisture and temperature conditions most suitable for such infestations."

The tests were done by using inverted petri plate technique. For fungi toxicity, petri plates of Saboraud's agar medium were inoculated with a 5mm disc of fungus mycelium. The plate was inverted and a 25mm disc of filter paper impregnated with 0.5ml oil/ acetone solution placed on the inside of the lid. Acetone and sterile water were used as controls. The results were percent inhibition of mycelium growth. To test the effectiveness on wood and leather, pieces of wood or leather along with a 20mm diameter filter paper disc were impregnated with 0.5ml of oil/acetone solution. This disc was replaced weekly. The dose of volatile oil was expressed as ppm, i.e., parts (volume) of oil per million parts of aerial volume inside the petri plate.

General Comments:
There are many effects of chemicals on insects and fungi. They may kill or adversely affect their growth and development. With regard to insects, chemicals may also act as antifeedants, attractants or repellents. To cover all these effects, I have coined the word bioactants (insectactants and fungiactants). Our goal in insect and fungal pest control is prevention, but there are occasions when we have no alternative and have to use a chemical bioactant to protect our cultural property. In these situations it is imperative that we look for a bioactant:

Even though the papers reviewed are mainly preliminary investigations or screening tests, for logical research, all of the above aspects of the bioactant must be addressed when testing the effectiveness of natural products or extracts against insects or fungal pests.

The natural products tested - are they human health hazards?
Because herbs, spices, and homeopathic drugs have been used for centuries and are considered "natural products", and, therefore "safe" to humans, this group of substances is being considered as good alternatives for insect and fungal control. The conference papers illustrate this faith in natural products. Therefore, the potential health hazard is not addressed in the papers. I suggest that we need to re-evaluate these natural substances as being potentially harmful to humans. Chemicals in these natural products are shown to be toxic to insects or fungal pests. My rule of thumb is that if it is toxic to insects or fungal pests, it is also toxic to humans because our basic physiological and chemical processes, which are affected by the toxic chemical, are identical. The bioactive chemicals in herbs and spices are mainly volatile essential oils. The chemistry of the volatile oils of most of the common herbs and spices has been well described in chemical literature on essential oils, in botanical literature on the plant species, and in pharmacology literature. Another source is in books on herbs or herbal medicine.

What do we know about these chemicals in herbs and spices?
One spice may contain a complex of oils. For example, caraway seeds contain thymol, terinene, carvacrol, etc. We are familiar with the fungicidal feature of thymol in paper conservation. However, thymol, is reported in an old Merck Index, to cause cardiac arrest. Also, cinnamon bark contains cinnamic aldehyde, safrole, cineol, borneol, sequiterpene, etc. Cinnamic aldehyde in Cinnamomum cassia leaf and thymol in Trachyspermum ammi fruits, have been reported as effective against fungal growth on wood and leather6. In the book "Thai Medicinal Plants", 19927 cinnamic aldehyde is reported to be a smooth muscle relaxant and safrole is anticipated to be a carcinogen. In another example, the essential oils of ginger root and the long pepper were tested3 as insectactants. In reference to ginger root, Farnsworth and N. Bunyapraphatsara, 19927, report that it "is a medicinal plant that has a potential for drug development. Some pharmacological reports show antiasthmatic activity but further studies on the effective dose of the active component should be carried out. Moreover, chronic toxicity should be clarified before human use can be recommended."

In the Merck Index10, piperine, the active ingredient in Piper sp. is reported to be insecticidal. In reference to Piper chaba, Farnsworth and N. Bunyapraphatsara, 19927, report, " Even though P. chaba fruits have been used as a food seasoning agent for a long time, only few pharmacological activities, and no toxicity assessments, have been reported. Thus, before promotion in primary health care programs, more pharmacological activities as well as toxicity studies should be carried out." Thus, the answer to the question of “What do we know about these chemicals?” in reference to human toxicity is- “not a lot”.

The spice shelf syndrome - something smells!
We all know that natural spices or herbs are very attractive to insects. How many times have we thrown out insect infested spices? I maintain that insects are where they are because they have been attracted by odors. Insects are in spices because the spices are easily located by their odour. The odour means available food, not necessarily the volatile oils, but the starches and proteins associated with them. Insects are in our collections because something smells. The clothes moths and carpet beetles are attracted to the odour of the oils associated with wool, leather and skeletal remains. Proteinaceous materials smelling of volatile oils are their number one food choice. The booklice are in our musty books and paper because of the odour of the fungal colonies that they eat. Sometimes we can even smell the fungi.

Insect attraction to odors reminds me of the pheromone traps used for monitoring insect pests in museums. Like the essential oils in spices, pheromones are also volatile and fat soluble. The pheromone traps were first developed to capture male insect pests of orchard or forest trees, to determine when to spray the trees with a bacterium lethal to the insects. Now the traps are used widely for monitoring insect pests in food storage warehouses. They were often used en masse to reduce the insect pest population size. This is no longer legal in the USA because the oil in food materials may adsorb the pheromone. The health hazards of pheromones have not been assessed, but government bodies are trying to determine an acceptably low level.

Besides presenting a possible health problem, these pheromone-contaminated foodstuffs are now attractants, as are the automobiles that carried the pheromone traps to the fields and the workers who spent their lifetime researching the pheromones9. So why not our oily, pheromone-monitored artifacts? Will volatile essential oils, such as in clove oil, also act as attractants to insects?

The logic of use of the chosen preparations
Some medicinal plants, especially coriander5, were shown to have a duel effect: inhibiting growth of some species of fungi while enhancing growth of other fungi. This is an important finding because, depending on the fungus species tested, a preparation may be biocidal or may enhance growth. A crude powder of clove5 was shown to inhibited growth of selected fungal species, but in the Merck Index it is listed as an insect attractant. This means that fungi activity may be inhibited at the same time that insect activity is increased. The above two examples illustrate the complexity in choosing a logical bioactant.

Moreover, the interaction of the preparation with the artifact materials must be addressed, as well. The conference papers are basically screening tests but they are in the context of treatment for cultural property. Thus, the potential interaction of the treatment with the artifact material must be considered. For example, hexane3, acetone2, benzene1 and petroleum4 are solvents used in the treatment preparations and in most cases cannot be used on most artifacts. Furthermore, volatile oils have been known to soften some varnish films. In another example, leather has the ability to continuously adsorb phenolic related chemicals like thymol until it dissolves.

The selection of the test organism is tricky
We have a mind-set in using fungi for test organisms. We always test the vegetative growth of the fungus that is or has been growing in a full nutrient medium4,5,6. The real life situation with fungi is that the small, often inconspicuous, surface molds that plague us are the result of surface conidia which have germinated and produced limited growth by using their endogenous nutrients or the small amount of nutrients on soiled or deteriorated surfaces and the small amount of water in the material. Vegetative growth only occurs when there has been excess water and usually dirty water with some nutrients. Thus, the critical thing in museums and libraries is to prevent the activation and germination of the conidia(9). The notion of prevention is the most significant comment about fungal control.

Testing insects and obtaining reproducible results is a real problem. This is addressed by Florian, 19979, under the discussion of the review of reports of experiments to determine the lethal low temperature of insects. The insect’s physiological state, age, and nutritional level, and the temperature and RH of the rearing environment all influence the results. Thus all the above should be given as a protocol of the experiment. Another problem with insects is knowing why they die. Many experiments deprive them of their unique microenvironment needed for survival. Many deaths are most probably due to body water loss rather than directly due to the test preparation. Thus, appropriate insect controls as well as reproducible experimental parameters are critical.

The problem of measurements and amounts
There are an array of methods for measuring the amounts of chemicals or ground-up plant parts. Appropriate measurements are important in reproducing results and also in looking at the logic of amounts needed for effectiveness if used on artifacts. For example, the use of the amount of 1 gram of de-oiled seed powder2 on a cm square of textile or paper seems questionable in terms of a conservation treatment.

Further, I am familiar with parts per million (ppm) when dealing with molecules or ions soluble in a solvent, but cannot see the logic when insoluble crude ground-up plant material4,5 is measured in ppm. In these papers4,5 the ppm has been used in lieu of a weight of plant material suspended in a volume of liquid. Logical concentrations need to be determined. A 1M4 (1 molar solution = a gram molecular weight in 1 liter) is a very concentrated solution. If a 1M solution of normal salt was used, when the water evaporated there would be a covering of salt crystals on the surface of the treated artifact.

This brings up the point -- which we never seem to address when using solutions in conservation treatment -- that as a solvent of a solution evaporates, the concentration of the solute is continuously increasing and can change pH. The solute remains on the surface of the treated artifact. We think it is safe to use a buffered solution, but when the surface-applied solution becomes dry the buffering chemicals are concentrated and crystallize on the surface. What are the effects of this on organic materials of artifacts?

Concentration must also be considered in testing volatile chemicals in closed containers such as inverted petri plates6. The effectiveness of the tested substances depended on the concentration in these containers. From a practical standpoint, it is impossible to maintain these concentrations in the real life of libraries, archives and museums; these can only be achieved in small chambers, such as thymol chambers.

This brings up the problem of looking at the big picture
I am the first to commend creative research. And I agree that there may be sometimes a need for some chemical bioactants to control insect and fungal pests in cultural property and certainly chemicals non-toxic to humans are the goal. I congratulate the authors in their efforts. The results of the papers show that there are some natural products that have adverse effects on insects and fungi. It is worthwhile to investigate these further, but under the umbrella of the big picture, which is the effectiveness of the preparation against the problem, as well as its interaction with humans and the materials of artifacts.

The more I deal with the complexity of chemical treatments, the more I realize how important and logical are prevention and an integrated program to deal with insect and fungal problems. Preventing insects coming in a building or coming in on infested materials; preventing conidia-filled dust settling on objects; and preventing moisture build up in materials by preventing micro environments are so easy and effective.


  1. Devaraj Urs, K.C., 1995. Management of the american cockroach, Periplaneta americana L. (Blattidae: Dictyoptera) with plant seed oils. Third International Conference on Biodeterioration of Cultural Property, Bangkok, Thailand, Preprints. Published by Organizing Committee of ICBCP-3, pp. 149-153.
  2. Shaheen, F. 1995. Application of karanja seeds (Pongamia glabra Vent) for control of museum insects. Third International Conference on Biodeterioration of Cultural Property, Bangkok, Thailand, Preprints, Published by Organizing Committee of ICBCP-3, pp. 121-128
  3. Nilvilia, S. and S. Wangchareontrakul. 1995. Use of traditional Thai herbs for insect control. Third International Conference on Biodeterioration of Cultural Property, Bangkok, Thailand, Preprints. Published by Organizing Committee of ICBCP-3, pp. 375-380.
  4. Garg, K.L. 1995. Use of homoeopathic drugs as antifungal agents for the protection of books and paper materials. Third International Conference on Biodeterioration of Cultural Property, Bangkok, Thailand, Preprints. Published by Organizing Committee of ICBCP-3, pp. 56-65
  5. Chingduang, S., P. Siriacha and M. Saito. 1995. Effect of some medicinal plants and spices on growth of fungi. Published by Organizing Committee of ICBCP-3, pp. 43-153.
  6. Pandey, V.N. and A.K. Srivastava. 1995. Prevention-[of fungal growth]-of cultural heritage in wood and leather by volatile constituents of higher plants. Third International Conference on Biodeterioration of Cultural Property, Bangkok, Thailand, Preprints, Published by Organizing Committee of ICBCP-3, pp. 381-386.
  7. Farnsworth, N. R. and N. Bunyapraphatsara, 1992. Thai Medicinal Plants, published by Medicinal Plant Information Centre, Faculty of Pharmacy, Mahidol University, Sri-ayuthaya Road, Bangkok 10400, Thailand.
  8. Merck Index. 1989. Edited by S. Budavari, Merck and Co. Inc., Rahway N.J.
  9. Florian, M-L. E. 1997. Heritage Eaters: Insect and Fungi in Heritage Collections. James and James Publisher, London, UK.
  10. Arai, H. 1995. Keynote address: Biological Researches in Conservation of Cultural Property. Third International Conference on Biodeterioration of Cultural Property, Bangkok, Thailand, Preprints. Published by Organizing Committee of ICBCP-3, pp. 1-11.
  11. Sakamoto, K., N. Kurozumi, and T. Kenjo 1996. A simple method for temporary conservation of art objects: effect of air flow for preventing fungal growth. Third International Conference on Biodeterioration of Cultural Property, Bangkok, Thailand, Preprints. Published by Organizing Committee of ICBCP-3, pp. 183-189.

Mary-Lou E. Florian
Conservation Scientist
Emerita - Royal British Columbia Museum
129 Simcoe St., Victoria, B.C.
V8V 1K5
Tel/Fax: 250 385 8263

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Dawn M. Wilson

Editors' Note: While this article refers to wooden decorative art objects, we thought the described technique would have applications for ethnographic conservators. With the author's permission it has been revised from a presentation originally entitled “Further Uses for Paraloid® B-72: Infilling Systems for Gilded, Painted and Lacquered Wood” presented at the Wooden Artifacts Group at the AIC meetings in Arlington, VA in June 1998.

Paraloid® B-72, a copolymer of ethyl methacrylate and methyl acrylate, is a chemically stable, nonreactive polymer widely used in conservation treatments as a consolidant, a varnish, and an inpainting medium. This paper discusses its additional use, and its versatility, as a binding medium for infilling systems in the restoration of complex surface coatings on wooden decorative arts.

When infilling losses on objects with sensitive surface coatings, Paraloid® B-72 can be useful as a binder due to its solubility in a wide range of organic solvents. Specifically, conservators frequently encounter objects with coatings that are sensitive to both water and other polar solvents such as alcohol or ketones. Infilling systems that utilize Paraloid® B-72 in aromatic hydrocarbons allow additional treatment options for objects that contain complex surface coatings, such as frames with varnish-coated water gilding, retablos with varnished water-sensitive paints, and lacquer objects with solvent-sensitive urushi coatings that have been damaged by UV light.

Further, Paraloid® B-72 bound infilling materials can be applied quickly, and can be polished or burnished to match the subtle reflective surfaces found on gilded and lacquered objects. Infills can also be shaped, textured, or cast from moulds to match the surface textures of aged painted wood.

Gilded Objects
In the last several years, synthetic polymers have been widely used by conservators of gilded objects to replace animal glue in water gilding systems for the loss compensation of gilded wood. Such materials include the use of polyvinyl alcohol gesso and bole; proprietary waterborne gessoes and boles such as the Kolner Burnishing Clays, which usually contain cellulose ether; and Aquazol-based gesso and bole, which contains poly(2-ethyl-2-oxazoline). The research and proposed use of these polymers was prompted by a need for materials that are more easily reversible than rabbit skin glue based water gilding, and are potentially safer for application to historic water gilded surfaces.

However, these particular ingilding systems share in common the use of water or other polar solvents for application, for leveling or smoothing, and for possible removal. Since historic water gilded surfaces are often sensitive to water, these nontraditional gesso and bole infilling systems may not always be suitable. Additionally, many water gilded objects are coated with varnishes that are sensitive to alcohol and acetone. Therefore, B-72 infilling systems based upon aromatic hydrocarbons would be more appropriate for infilling losses to historic water gilt surfaces.

Another advantage to the use of the B-72 infilling medium for gilded objects is that burnished water gilding is frequently surrounded by matte water gilding that is not only more sensitive to water, but could likely be stained by isolation barrier coats applied temporarily to protect these areas during infilling. Nonaqueous barrier coats such as Paraloid® B-67, Soluvar, and Arkon P-90 have been used by conservators to protect water-sensitive historic surfaces surrounding losses, enabling conservators to more safely apply aqueous infilling materials. In this practice, the resin is then removed after the ingilding is completed. However, the application of water-based infills used with isolation barrier resins still does not solve the problem of safe reversibility of the infills on water-sensitive objects.

As with the use of polyvinyl alcohol or Aquazol, B-72 can be successfully used to replicate a traditional water gilded surface, for both the matte and burnished water gilding. Traditional fillers are used for the gesso formula, which include gilder's whiting and kaolin, with the B-72 resin, 20% w/v in toluene.

Recipe for Paraloid® B-72 Gesso

Slowly sift whiting mixture into B-72 solution without stirring until no additional whiting can be absorbed. Gently stir until whiting is evenly incorporated into the B-72 solution. Strain through a fine cloth or screen before use.

The gesso is prepared and applied much in the manner of traditional gesso, but without the need for heating, which can cause air bubbles, resulting in unwanted pinholes in the infills. The gesso is applied by brush to the sites of loss that have first been primed with clear B-72, 20% w/v in toluene. To level the infills, cloth-covered leveling tools are used with toluene to avoid the need for abrasive materials or sand papers. The B-72 gesso approximates the same surface characteristics as rabbit skin glue gesso.

Once gesso infills are completed, a B-72 based bole is prepared and applied in preparation for the replication water gilding.

Recipe for Paraloid® B-72 Gilder's Bole

Grind the dry clay with a glass muller (pestle) on a thick glass panel, incorporating enough solvent to form a soft paste. Slowly incorporate the B-72 mixture until the proper viscosity is achieved. Strain through a fine cloth such as PECAP® (a finely woven polyester cloth) before use.

Like the gesso, the bole is prepared in the same manner as traditional bole. A dry gilder's clay is finely ground, wetted with toluene, and then incorporated into a 10% solution of B-72 in toluene to the proper viscosity. The bole can be applied with a soft brush, and lightly polished with Micro-mesh® abrasive polishing cloth or horsehair cloth once dry. Gold leaf can then be applied using a toluene/naphtha mixture for the gilding liquor, prepared with a few drops of 10% B-72. The infills can be wetted as with traditional water gilding, and the leaf applied with a gilder's tip. Later, the gilding can be burnished with an agate, in the same manner as traditional water gilding.

The use of B-72 in the treatment of polar solvent sensitive water gilt surfaces has many advantages. It can be used as a binder with the traditional fillers used in water gilding, thus achieving an exact replication of a traditional water gilt surface. Due to the fast evaporation of the solvents used to dissolve the B-72, it can be applied easily and rapidly. Its ability to dissolve in aromatic hydrocarbons enables it to be safely applied and later removed from sensitive gilding or natural resin coated water gilding.

Further, B-72 infills can be easily distinguished from historic materials under UV light and with other methods of examination. B-72 has been successfully used in the treatment of coated wood, including its use as a binder for infills that contain glass microspheres. It is compatible with organic coatings on wood, and is hard enough to withstand burnishing.

Urushi Lacquer Objects
Based upon the author's experience with the use of B-72 infilling systems for gilded objects, it followed that a similar approach could be taken with the restoration of urushi lacquer coated wood.

Western conservators who treat urushi lacquer are familiar with the use of B-72 as a varnish that can be used to color and coat infills to achieve a good match for the tone and sheen of urushi. In using nontraditional materials for loss compensation, B-72 can be a good choice because many urushi-coated objects are sensitive to both polar solvents and water, possibly due to degradation of the urushi coating when exposed to UV light over time.

Various infilling materials have been used for deep losses to urushi, including wax mixtures often containing carnauba wax; kaolin or calcium carbonate based putties with binders such as polyvinyl acetate, polyvinyl alcohol, acrylic resin emulsions, and polyvinyl acetyl; and polyester resins. B-72 has been utilized for infills with glass microspheres, particularly as underfills for lacquer that is no longer in full contact with its shrunken wooden substrate.

Most of these materials have advantages for use in the loss compensation of urushi coatings. However, some may present problems with regard to safe application or possible reversibility for solvent-sensitive objects. The use of B-72 as a binder with colored clay fillers offers advantages for the loss compensation of these complex and often sensitive coatings on Asian objects.

B-72 can be successfully mixed with clays, solvent-leveled, and polished to match exactly the character of traditional urushi. The advantage to using a clay filler with the B-72 resin is that the infills can be built up more quickly than with colored resin alone, and can be polished to any degree of surface reflection required. Experience has shown that the proportion of B-72 to clay can be higher than the above mentioned recipe for B-72 bole, but may vary from one treatment to another.

It is important that the base infill color match the undercolor of the urushi coating on Asian objects. For example, black lacquered objects often contain underlying cinnabar red colored lacquer. This is necessary to consider and replicate when trying to match exactly the tonality of a particular object. The infills can be applied by brush, or with a fine airbrush. An airbrush can be a precise and quicker method for achieving a smooth infill. As necessary, the infills can then be solvent-leveled, and when dry, polished with Micro-mesh® abrasive cloth, horsehair cloth, or traditional polishing powders.

Having completed the B-72/clay infills, a synthetic polymer such as Paraloid® B-67 in naphtha, colored to match the adjacent urushi lacquer, can be sprayed with an airbrush to match the top coatings of the urushi. However, B-72 can also be used as a colored or clear varnish over B-72 infills. A side tip worth mentioning here is that Paraloid B-67 in mineral spirits or naphtha polishes nicely to a wide range of surface sheens, including the high gloss sometimes necessary for matching urushi lacquer. Further, since B-67 is dissolved in solvents that do not disturb the B-72 resin, the colored infill layers will not blur into the overlying colored B-67 coating.

An additional advantage to the use of B-72 as a binder for infilling lacquer is that it can be used in problematic areas where lacquer has been lost over structural joints that have moved due to shrinkage or fluctuations in relative humidity. The B-72 is flexible enough to allow for movement of the original materials, and will not crack over joinery.

Painted Wooden Objects
B-72 can also be used as a binder for infills in the treatment of fragile and sensitive painted wooden objects, such as New Mexican retablos. Although New Mexican retablos do not have the smooth sheen of gilding and lacquer, they share the characteristic of being sensitive to water, since the original paints are water based. Also, they usually contain varnishes or coatings that are sensitive to polar solvents such as ethanol and acetone.

B-72 gesso can be prepared for the infills according to the above recipe. However, formulations may vary from one object to another in order to best match the character of the original materials of the object.

Infills can be brushed on, solvent-leveled, and then textured to match the original paint. Texturing can be achieved by applying 'dots' of B-72 gesso with a brush. The quick drying rate of the B-72 gesso allows for precise dots and daubs. Once completed, the infills can be inpainted without being disturbed using B-67 in mineral spirits, mixed with dry pigments to achieve a slightly matte surface sheen, matching the original varnished paint.

A different approach is needed for retablos that have uneven and severely cracked historic paint. For the sites chosen for infills, B-72 bulked with calcium carbonate can be cast from silicone rubber moulds that were made from an area adjacent to the loss area. Once dry enough to handle, the thick film can be cut to fit the loss and glued into place with the B-72 resin. If necessary, additional B-72 gesso can be brushed along the edges of the cast infill to blend it into the edge of the loss. The infills can then be inpainted to match the color and sheen of the historic paint using B-67 in mineral spirits with dry pigments.

Due to the success of recent treatments using Paraloid® B-72 as a binder for infilling systems, it is recommended that it be added to the list of stable, safe, reversible and easily workable materials used by conservators for the loss compensation and restoration of complex surface coatings on wood.


Chase, W.T. "Lacquer Examination and Treatment at the Freer Gallery of Art: Some Case Studies," in Urushi: Proceedings
of the Urushi Study Group, Tokyo (The Getty Conservation Institute, 1985), pp. 95-112.
Hatchfield, Pamela. "Note on a Fill Material for Water Sensitive Objects," in Journal of the American Institute for
Conservation Volume 25, no. 2 (Fall 1986): 93-96.
Shelton, Chris. "The Use of Aquazol-Based Gilding Preparations," in Postprints of theWooden Artifacts Group Presented
at the 24th Annual Meeting, Norfolk, Virginia (Washington, D.C.: American Institute for Conservation, 1996), pp. 39-45.
Thornton, Jonathan. "The Use of Nontraditional Gilding Methods and Materials in Conservation," in Bigelow, Deborah,
Gilded Wood: Conservation and History (Madison, Wisconsin: Sound View Press, 1991), pp. 217-228.
Webb, Marianne. "Methods and Materials for Filling Losses on Lacquer Objects," in Journal of the American Institute for
Conservation Volume 37, no. 1 (Spring 1998): 117-33.
Webb, Marianne. "An Examination of Fill Materials For Use With Lacquer Objects," in Lacquerwork and Japanning,
Postprints of the UKIC Conference (London: United Kingdom Institute for Conservation, 1994), pp. 30-35.
Materials and Products

Paraloid® B-72 (copolymer of ethyl methacrylate and methyl acrylate)
Rohm and Haas Company
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Paraloid® B-67 (poly-isobutyl methacrylate)
Rohm and Haas Company
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Aquazol [poly(2-ethyl-2-oxazoline)]
Polymer Chemistry Innovations, Inc.
Tucson, Arizona

Polyvinyl alcohol
Distributor: Conservation Support Systems
Manufacturer: Air Products Corp., under the name Vinol®

Kolner Burnishing Clay and Water Gilding System
Distributor: Sepp Leaf Products, Inc.
New York, NY
Manufacturer: Kolner-LandzGold-Grund

Arkon P-90 (A fully saturated alicyclic hydrocarbon)
Arakawa Chemical Industries
Chicago, Illinois

PECAP® (finely woven monofilament polyester cloth)
Distributor: TETKO, Inc. USA
Manufacturer: Sefar, Inc.

Micro-mesh® [abrasive cloth (available in very fine grades)]
Micro-Surface Finishing Products, Inc.
Wilton, Iowa

Dawn M. Wilson
Wooden Objects Conservator
104 Common Street
Watertown, MA 02472
Tel: 617-926-4596; Fax: 617-926-6802; E-mail: dawnwilson@erols.com

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Lucy Commoner

Among conservators, static electricity (electric charge at rest) is a well known but poorly understood phenomenon. Static electricity is a consideration in the framing and exhibition of art work; in the use of various synthetic materials, such as polyester and polyethylene films; in assessing the properties of various textile fibers; in the placement of objects in their exhibition cases; and in the protection of objects from dust and dirt.

Electrostatic Behavior
The acquisition of electrostatic charge is primarily a surface phenomenon resulting from the loss or gain of electrons. The basis of electrostatic charging is disruption of the condition of equilibrium seen in the neutral atom. The most common mechanism for generating a static charge is touching or rubbing two materials together (triboelectrification). When two materials are charged by triboelectrification, electrons migrate from the surface of one material to the surface of the other. On separation of the two surfaces, one surface loses negatively-charged electrons and becomes positively charged. The other surface gains electrons and becomes negatively charged.

Materials differ in their propensity to give up and accept electrons according to their molecular nature and the ambient conditions, such as humidity and dust. The Triboelectric Series [see Figure] ranks various materials by their tendency to develop a positive or negative charge. Although static electricity is often not a predictable phenomenon, due to the effects of ambient conditions, this material ranking is helpful in understanding static behavior. Theoretically, any substance can become positively charged when rubbed with one further down in the series or negatively charged by one further up in the series. For example, if a piece of silk is rubbed on a piece of (lower ranking) acrylic plastic, the silk will develop a positive charge and the acrylic a negative charge. Because these two materials are far apart in the series, the charge will be fairly strong. In contrast, if silk is rubbed on (higher ranking) glass, the silk will develop a negative charge, and the glass a positive charge. Since glass and silk are fairly close together on the series, the charge will be weak.

There is an interesting connection between the position of a material on the Triboelectric Series and its light fastness. Light sensitive materials have a greater tendency to lose electrons from absorbing light and are found at the positive end of the series. The pH of materials is also a factor in predicting static behavior. Given two material surfaces that are similar in nature, but one is acidic and one basic, the acidic surface usually becomes negatively charged and a basic surface becomes positively charged.

In addition to triboelectrification, a second mechanism for acquiring a static charge is induction charging. In induction charging, a neutral conductive material may become charged by entering the static field of a highly charged object or material. The strength of the electrostatic field is dependent upon the amount of charge on the charged object and the distance between the charge and the charged object.

There are several ways to measure the tendency of a material to build up and hold a charge, but in general, static behavior can be predicted by the volume resistivity of a material. Normally, the higher the resistivity, the more the material will build up and hold electrostatic charges. The relative electrical resistivity of a manufactured material, usually available in product literature, is an important piece of information in evaluating conservation materials. In general, any material with resistivity below 106 ohms/cm will not tend to build up or hold static charges, while materials over 106 in resistivity, tend to cause more static-related problems. For example, cotton has the lowest electrical resistivity of the natural fibers, and shows the least amount of static behavior. In comparison, synthetic fibers with higher resistivity, are most prone to static charge. Other properties, such as the exterior surface configuration and moisture content of the fiber or material also will affect static charge.

Removing and Controlling Static Charges
There are three ways to remove an electrostatic charge from a material: electrical discharge, conduction, and neutralization. Examples of electrical discharge are lightning and static shocks. Electrical discharge, which involves rupturing the medium with resultant spark or heat, is not useful for conservation. On the other hand, conduction and neutralization have some applicability to our field. Conduction to the ground eliminates static charge by restoring an entire surface to a neutral state. Neutralization, or replacement of oppositely charged ions, is accomplished by using a variety of air ionizing and piezoelectric equipment.

In conduction, materials lose their static charge through conduction to the ground. The earth is an excellent conductor because it contains a large number of ionically charged solutions on its surface. The human body is also a good conductor, since it consists mostly of an ionic salt solution. All materials are classified as one of the following: conductors (in which electrons are mobile), semi-conductors (in which electrons are somewhat mobile), or insulators (in which electrons are difficult to remove). Static charge distributes itself evenly over the entire surface of a conductor (such as most metals), but builds up in spots on an insulator (such as plastics or rubber) or semi-conductor (such as textiles or paper).

One of the principal factors that determines the relative conductivity of a material and its static behavior is the amount of moisture the material contains on its surface and in its interior. The amount of moisture is affected by the relative humidity of the atmosphere surrounding the object. For example, with an increase of 10% in relative humidity, a hydrophilic natural fiber will have a seven-fold increase in conductivity.

Static charges can be conducted to the ground using humidification, anti-static dressings, and materials that have anti-static substances incorporated during manufacture. Raising the relative humidity allows an insulator or semi-conductor to behave more like a conductor because the surface water on the object acts as a complete conductor and bleeds off some of the static charge by serving as a ground. Anti-static dressings are usually based on cationic compounds like quaternary ammonium compounds. The dressings are applied to the surfaces of non-conductive materials, and form a conductive film by adsorption of moisture from the air. These dressings are commonly used in museums to reduce the static charge on acrylic sheets, but should not be used on any surface in direct contact with or in the immediate environment of an artifact. Anti-static agents, such as carbon black, or thin layers of conductive metal are included in the manufacture of some plastic sheets and films, but should be tested prior to use for suitability in proximity to artifacts.

Static charge replacement or neutralization is achieved through ionization, a localized electrical breakdown of air molecules into positive and negative ions. An ionizer reduces static forces by generating positively and negatively charged ions in the vicinity of the charged material. The charged ions migrate to oppositely charged surfaces and neutralize them. The basic industrial sources of ionization are induction, nuclear and electrical. Induction and nuclear powered ionizers are less appropriate for use in conservation than electrical ionizers. Electrical air ionizers produce both positively and negatively charged gas ions. When a charged material is passed through the ionized field, it becomes neutral. Electrical ionizers are available as air blowers, air guns or wands. They are used in the electronics, plastics, textile, and printing industries where static electricity causes manufacturing problems. Their use in a conservation setting is not documented and would require additional research.

All nuclear and electrical air ionizers produce a small amount of ozone. The amount of ozone emitted is a direct function of the ionizing current. More research is required to investigate the levels of ozone produced during use and whether it could be damaging to organic materials.

Additional Static Control Techniques for Conservators
More benign static-reducing equipment that can be used by conservators includes piezoelectric anti-static guns and static dissipating dusting brushes. The piezoelectric anti-static gun is constructed with a crystal element that sends out positive ions when the trigger is pulled, and negative ions when the trigger is released. It provides a very low level of ionization. Anti-static drafting brushes operate on the same principal as anti-static carpeting, by incorporating a carbon element that serves as a ground. Although not documented, the anti-static wristband used in the computer repair industry might be applicable to the conservation field.

Problems associated with static electricity also can be reduced by choosing materials with less static behavior, using materials with charges that will neutralize each other, or by separating objects from charged surfaces. For example, glass or acrylic plastic sheets with a poly-silicate coating have less static charge than standard acrylic plastic and therefore attract less dust. The use of anti-static carpeting in exhibition areas produces fewer static problems than standard carpeting. (Anti-static carpeting tests below 3.5 kv, which is the level of human sensitivity below which a static generated shock cannot be felt.) Anti-static and static dissipating films and foams have been developed for the electronics industry, where static generation must be kept below 2 kv. Some of these products may be useful in conservation for shipping and storage containers.

The use of special synthetic blends for backing fabrics and in exhibition cases will reduce static potential. For example, by blending rayon (a hydrophillic fiber) with Dacron, nylon or Orlon (synthetic, hydrophobic fibers), static potential is reduced. Separating objects from their polyethylene or polyester storage enclosures with a tissue paper layer reduces static charge as does leaving adequate air space between the surface of a framed artifact and the inside of the acrylic glazing.

Theoretical Uses of Static Electricity in Conservation
Although a conservator's experience with static electricity is mostly problematic, static electricity is a power of some force that could be utilized in conservation. Ionizers could be used to remove dust accumulations in exhibitions. Ionizing equipment might be used to hold flaking works of art in pastel, charcoal or graphite in place. Charged combs could straighten fur or feathers. Charged rods, or ionized air theoretically could be used to draw dust out of textiles, feathers, or other delicate organic materials, as an alternative to vacuum cleaning. There are many potentially interesting applications of electrostatics in conservation, once its principles and behaviors are understood.


Trioelectric Series


Antonevich, John N. and Mark Blishteyn, "Measuring Effectiveness of Air Ionizers", SIMCO Corp. Publication 5200135. Horvath, T. and I. Berta, Static Elimination, Research Studies Press: England, 1982.
Mileaf, Harry, Editor, Electricity One, Hayden Book Company: N.J., 1976.
Schure, Alexander, Editor, Electrostatics, John F. Fider Publisher, Inc.: N.Y., 1958.

Lucy Commoner
Textile Conservator
Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum
2 East 91st St.
New York, NY 10128
Tel: (212) 849-8300; Fax: (212) 849-8401

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Lisa Goldberg

Changes in electric charge can be harnessed for cleaning fragile objects such as downy or immature flight feathers. This method was suggested by Dr. R. Laybourne (Curator Emeritus, Birds Division, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution) as a way to easily disentangle debris from downy feathers.

A simple method of reversing static charge utilizes an antistatic gun made by Discwasher. The antistatic gun, activated by a piezoelectric crystal, reverses the electric charge when the trigger is slowly released. This antistatic gun is manufactured for removal of dust from such surfaces as record discs, and other electronic devices. (Discwasher can no longer be located. As industry moves away from the production of phonograph records, piezoelectric devices have become more difficult to locate.)

In test treatments of several feathered objects, the anti-static gun was released on feathered areas that were tangled with dust, frass and other debris. The change in electric charge reduced the static electricity and allowed removal of debris without mechanical damage to the feathers. A small amount of dust, also released during this procedure, reduced the amount of vacuuming necessary. This helped prevent possible matting or tangling of immature barbules on downy sections.

Use of an anti-static gun as a cleaning aide for ethnographic objects is an elegant and delicate tool for cleaning of feathers. The same technique can be helpful for removing dust from very powdery painted surfaces or from fragile and fragmentary textiles. Static electricity is an unexplored area of the conservation field, and more research concerning its effects on various materials and its usefulness in various treatments remain to be explored.

Lisa Goldberg
Objects Conservator, Private
401 Belford Place
Takoma Park, MD 20912
Tel/Fax: (301) 270-2654

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Mrs. Amparo R. de Torres

The "Asociación para la Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural de las Americas" (APOYO) is a grassroots professional group, incorporated as a nonprofit organization that supports the conservation of the cultural heritage of the Americas. Recent surveys and personal communications indicate a pressing need for technical publications in Spanish and Portuguese, as well as information about professional meetings, training opportunities, etc. The main goals of APOYO are:

To achieve the goals of APOYO, the immediate objective has been to promote and accelerate the exchange of information on conservation and other issues related to the preservation of cultural heritage. APOYO has done this through an outreach program that identifies colleagues in Latin America and the Caribbean; integrates them into a communications network; establishes an accessible forum to present their work and current needs; and periodically provides them with timely and useful information that enhances their professional performance.

Currently the network includes more than 3,000 conservation/preservation professionals drawn from throughout the Americas, as well as Spain and other countries. Not only is there a wide geographical representation, but there is also ample participation from all specialties involved in conservation: paper, library and archival materials, textiles, photographs, paintings, ethnographic objects, sculpture, metals, stone, and natural science. Aside from conservators, the network includes individuals in related fields, such as curators, collections managers, educators, archaeologists, and architects. And the network continues to grow.

APOYO produces a newsletter co-edited by Amparo R. de Torres and Ann Seibert, in collaboration with a group of volunteers and with the support of the Preservation Directorate of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The volunteers gather articles and news about events of interest for the newsletter. They also translate articles into Spanish and Portuguese. The newsletter has been continually produced since 1990, with one (often two) issues per year. The upcoming issue (Volume 8, No. 1) will feature the topic of Emergency Preparedness and Response. It will include translations of material published by the American Institute for Conservation, Heritage Preservation, Western Association for Art Conservation and the National Park Service. The newsletter is printed and distributed with the support of the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE -- formerly known as CAL).

The ever-growing mailing list is maintained and updated by the Database Management Office of the International Center for the Study of Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) in Rome. The database is used to produce the mailing labels and a directory of individuals and institutions involved in the conservation and preservation of the cultural patrimony of the Americas, published for the first time in 1996 by ICCROM, SCMRE, and APOYO as a joint initiative. The "Directorio de la Comunidad Profesional Activa en la Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural Latino Americano" is now under revision for re-publication in the Fall of 1998, and will include e-mail addresses. It can be obtained from the publishing institutions.

APOYO volunteers, Seth Raphael and Whitney Baker, initiated the work to create an APOYO homepage and to post past issues of the APOYO Newsletter on the Internet. SCMRE would also like to feature APOYO on their own website (http://www.si.edu/scmre). By the Fall of 1998 APOYO will have a homepage that will include all past issues of the newsletter. This is a natural home for APOYO. Ann N'Gadi, Technical Information Specialist, SCMRE, and Dr. Lambertus van Zelst, SCMRE Director, are to be commended for making this possible.

A bibliographic information database of material in Spanish and Portuguese has also been created by APOYO. This includes conservation information (mostly preventive conservation) from many different sources in Latin America, the United States, and Europe. The second phase of this project will include annotating the bibliographic database in Spanish with information on how to obtain each publication (article reprints or books). Contacts with several institutions to find a permanent home with Internet access for this database will hopefully make it available to a larger audience.

Careful planning, much editing, and sufficient funds are necessary to produce a quality technical translation. APOYO's goal is to serve as a clearinghouse for information to avoid duplication of efforts in translation initiatives. APOYO also has taken on the project of translating the entire set of AIC educational brochures into Spanish over the next two years. The first one, "Caring for Works of Art on Paper," was translated by María Auxiliadora Fraino, Paper Conservator in Private Practice in Caracas, Venezuela, and Amparo R. de Torres. This brochure was posted on the AIC Homepage (http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/aic/) by John Burke, Director, Professional Education, AIC Board. Additionally, there is a Venezuelan Foundation interested in printing and distributing the brochures in Spanish to libraries, archives and museums in Latin America.

A joint translation project now in its final stages involves APOYO, the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI), the Preservation Directorate of the Library of Congress, and the IFLA PAC Programme (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, Preservation and Conservation Programme) for Latin America, at the National Library of Venezuela in Caracas. In this project CCI's outline in poster format "Framework for Preservation of Museum Collections" has been translated into Spanish by Isabel García and Arianne Vanrell, and edited by Amparo R. de Torres and other APOYO volunteers. Along with the poster, three articles by Charlie Costain, Tom Strang and Stefan Michalski, Conservation Scientists, CCI, on the use of the "Framework for Preservation of Museum Collections," will be supplied in Spanish. The "Plan para la preservación de colecciones" will be distributed to over 3,000 individuals, libraries, archives and museums on the APOYO mailing list. This endeavor was supported by CCI, YUPO Corporation, Reese Press, Library of Congress, and ICCROM.

For more information about APOYO please contact:

Amparo R. de Torres or Ann Seibert
P. O. Box 76932
Washington, DC 20013
Tel: 202-707-1026/5634
Fax: 202-707-1525;
Amparo R. De Torres
Special Projects Officer
Library of Congress
Conservation Office, LMG38
101 Independence Ave, S. E.
Washington, DC 20540-4530

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Professor Luiz A. C. Souza

Editors’ Note: This text was first distributed through the Conservation Distribution List on the Internet on August 5, 1998. It is presented here with minor changes for clarification.

We are pleased to announce the recently opened “Conserva-Lista” -- a moderated discussion list on the Internet. Presented in Spanish and Portuguese, it is devoted to the discussion of issues related to conservation and restoration of cultural properties in Ibero-America. The list is open to conservators, restorers, architects, scientists, engineers, students, and all individuals and institutions interested in conservation subjects related to training in conservation, materials, techniques, treatments, and ethics.

Conserva-Lista has been on line for the last few months, and now has subscriptions from the following countries: Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Brazil, Venezuela, Chile, Mexico, USA, UK, France, Spain, Peru, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Belgium and Italy.

For subscriptions please e-mail the following address:

conserva-lista@coremans.eba.ufmg.br with the word “subscribe” in the subject field.

Prof. Luiz A. C. Souza
CECOR--Escola de Belas Artes/ Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
31270-901 Belo Horizonte MG
Tel: 55 31 4995375; E-mail: conserv@dedalus.lcc.ufmg.br

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Editors’ Note: We are delighted to hear from colleagues in China and Poland and have included here descriptions of their respective labs and work.

Professor Xu Yuming

The major tasks of our department are the study and research of scientific and technological methodology applied to the conservation and restoration of important or famous historical and cultural heritages throughout China that are under state care or of provincial importance; design of conservation strategy for and technological supervision of conservation projects; conservation and restoration of different kinds of cultural relics (including stone artifacts, wall painting, polychrome sculpture and other types of museum collections such as textiles, paper, metallic artifacts, lacquer ware, wooden ware, bamboo ware etc.); research of analytical and examination methods; dating and identification of cultural relics; and the study of scientific archaeological methods. We also have the task of training conservators and restoration technicians from different provinces. Methods and treatment of ethnographic conservation in China are also included in our field.

Professor Xu Yuming
The Scientific and Technological Center for Conservation and Restoration
China National Institute of Cultural Property
2 Gaoyuan Street
Beijing 100029
Tel: 86 010 64922221 ext. 348; Fax: 86 010 64930824; E-mail:cnicp@public3.bta.net.cn

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Prof. Maria Niedzielska et al.

Our workshop is located in Collegium Maius, site of the Museum of Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. Established in 1364, Jagiellonian University is one of the oldest universities in Europe. Collegium Maius, its oldest college, was formerly used for professors’ living quarters and lecture space, but now houses priceless collections of approximately eighty thousand items. The Museum’s collections are wide in range, from archeological collections to contemporary art, including 1365 paintings and 1200 sculptures. Collegium Maius also stores old scientific instruments - it is one of the most interesting collections of this kind in Poland.

The Art Conservation Workshop, created in the 1970s, employs five people who focus on the conservation of painting, sculpture and gilding. Other specialized workshops provide care for special collections types such as scientific instruments, ceramics, or textiles. The Art Conservation Workshop also conducts scientific research and collaborates with art historians. Workshop members resolve questions of technical analysis and dating through the use of chemical and photographic techniques, as well as dendrochronology. Other types of analysis are commissioned to laboratories outside the college.

An example of the results of conservation research and treatment include the painting by Jan Massys, “Venus with Cupid” (1560) where the artist’s signature was discovered during conservation treatment. It was painted on thin oak, with XIX century canvas stretchers in resin-oil technique. The removal of colored varnish revealed many retouches and a large area of restoration. Analysis and careful study of the painting allowed conservators to reconstruct areas of the painting with a special sensitivity to the original. The conservation of “Scientist in His Atelier” by Philips Konnick also revealed the artist’s signature, and the authenticity of the painting was confirmed through stylistic and technological analysis. The pigments were studied using a quartz spectrograph Q-24, and by emission analysis using a laser micronanaliser LMA 10. Chromatographic analysis of the glue, and close examination of ultraviolet photographs provided further information. In addition the wood was examined for a dendrochronological date using a computerized instrument. After its authenticity was assured, the painting only needed a supplemental varnish layer.

Some technological and aesthetic problems have risen with our interesting Gothic sculptures: we had to resolve the dilemma of whether to reconstruct or not, and, if so, up to which point. With a very damaged sculpture, what kind of aesthetic standard to adapt is a hard question constantly confronting us.

We are currently completing a government sponsored research programme on seven Italian and Dutch paintings from our own collection. It will determine the technology, provenience, and dates of execution. The results will be published at a later date.

We hope that this letter will provide an exchange of experience, and will encourage an interchange of conservation information.

Prof. Maria Niedzielska
Danuta Budzillo-Skowron
Natalia Grzechowiak
Jolanta Pollesch
Jacek Kuma½ski
Muzeum Uniwersytetu Jagiellonskiego
Collegium Maius
31-010 Krakow, ul.Jagiellonska 15
Tel: (0-12) 422 05 49; Fax: (0-12) 422 27 34; E-mail:info@maius.in.uj.edu.pl

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Mark R. T. Lewis

Health and safety issues raised by the storage and handling of poisonous ethnographic artefacts were recently highlighted during a localised flood in the ethnography store of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter, England. As a result of the flood, gourds, darts and arrows that were either known to have been poisoned,or suspected of having been poisoned, had become wet. It was decided to consider the entire artefact and its storage packaging as now potentially poisoned due to the possibility that some of the poisons may be water soluble and have migrated during the flood. Some of the objects had clearly visible residues that could well have been poisonous applications whilst others were not obviously coated in any way, yet had been labelled as poisonous at some time in their past. How could one begin to assess the likely risks from such artefacts? It was against this background that I was asked to look into the health and safety aspects of handling, storage and display of such collections. The preliminary findings of my research, conducted over the initial five days after the flood at Exeter, are contained within this brief report with a view to the continuation of research aided by any comments that its publication will hopefully generate.

As it was not always visually apparent whether an artefact from the store was actually poisoned or not, it was decided that it would be useful to generate a database containing the known geographical distributions of (1) the poison sources, (2) the usage of poisons and (3) the types of objects that are likely to have been poisoned. Sources for this information would come from accessions registers, catalogues, and curatorial visual examination. Such a database could then be used as a checklist against which the available information about an artefact could be compared, with a view to establishing the likelihood of the use of poison on such an artefact. Information on the degree of danger associated with each poison and recommendations for its safe handling would be included where available. It must be stressed that this database should not be regarded as exhaustive, but as an aid to making more informed health and safety decisions.

Brief descriptions of some of the problems encountered whilst researching in this area will help to explain the inclusion of certain nomenclature and the format chosen to present the data. Much of the literature that contains references to the ethnographic use of poisons was written during Colonial times. This has two main implications. Firstly, placenames have often changed during and since the Colonial period and rarely equate to modern political regions. Secondly, descriptions of sources, chemical constituents and actions of poisons that were used by indigenous peoples are usually from old, unsystematic chemical or medical nomenclature. Old placenames, and medical or chemical nomenclature were included in the database as they were found in past museum records or labels. Inclusion of the old as well as the new nomenclature, where ascertained, is designed to make the identification of potentially poisonous material in museum collections less time-consuming for those not familiar with the modern equivalents for old nomenclature (and vice versa).

This initial study focused primarily on the use of poisons in Central America, South America and Africa, which were the geographical regions from which the majority of the flooded material at Exeter had originated. Brief background information regarding the use of poisons in these and other regions is given, followed by a database in its current format. Conclusions for health and safety recommendations regarding storage and handling of potentially poisonous ethnographic obejects are included at the end of this paper.

South America, Central America
Poisons have been utilised for both arrowheads and blowgun darts in parts of South and Central America. Blowgun darts are generally ineffective against any quarry larger than a small bird unless they are poisoned. It may therefore be assumed, unless proven otherwise, that any blowgun darts within museum collections are poisoned. Darts are usually made from bamboo, wood, palm leaf or bone and vary from a few centimetres to around a metre in length. The dart is usually very thin with a wider cone-like piece of pith or twist of fibre at the base of the dart to make it closely fit the aperture of the blowgun for maximum propulsion. Sometimes darts are notched so that the poisoned tip will break off in the victim. References commonly state that the poisons used for both darts and arrows have no ill effect on the meat, which is safe to eat.

Both the darts and arrows of the peoples of Central and South America were commonly poisoned with curare which attacks the motor nerves, causing death by respiratory paralysis. Crude preparations of curare were mainly obtained from the bark and stems of South American vines, more specifically, chondodenron species of the family Menispermaceae and strychnos species of the family Loganiaceae [1]. The appearance of curare varies slightly, especially with age. Curare is dark brown/black, resinous (sticky) and has an aromatic tarry odour. It becomes darker, harder, less sticky and more brittle with age as observed in the collection at Exeter. Certain kinds of curare are very stable substances and remain a health hazard where present in museum collections [2]. Preparations of curare have been classified by the containers used for them: pot curare in earthenware jars, tube curare in bamboo and calabash curare in gourds. Such containers, still with their poisons intact, are commonly found within museum collections. References to the use of curare include Ecuador, (specifically the Jivaro/Shuar) where curare was obtained from traders [3]; and the Arawak of South America who traded blowguns in exchange for curare [4].

The Carib Indians of the Lesser Antilles, Guyanas and as far south as the Amazon River used the blowgun and poisoned their arrows with the sap of the poison guava or manchineel tree (Hippomane mancinella). This tree is native to the Gulf of Mexico as far north as Florida, the West Indies, and South and Central America [5].

The Indian people of northern South America and Central America have also utilised the poisonous skin secretions (batrachotoxins) of frogs of the species dendrobates, physalaemus and rana to poison their arrows [6]. Batrachotoxin in the amount of 0.00001oz. is fatal to a man [7]. The common names for the dendrobates species used are the South American arrow-poison frog or the kokoi (or kokoa) frog. Tree frogs of some of the species of hyla and phyllobates also secrete poisonous substances which have been used as arrow poisons.

Extracts of Strophanthus species, containing the active poison strophanthin, were most widely used as arrow poisons in tropical Africa. References for their use have been found for the Gaboon (modern Gabon) [8], central Sudan [9], Guinea and Senegambia (modern Senegal and Gambia) [10]. Reference to the use of Strophanthus by the Kamba tribes on their Musi arrows by Spring [11] may be the same as the Kombe in Manganja country referred to by Grieve [12], and from which Strophanthus kombe was given its botanical name. In Gabon the poison was called inec, onaye or onage [13]. According to Grieve, Strophanthus poison closely resembles that of the genus Acocanthera which have been used for similar purposes, the active component being Ouobain.

Strophanthin is water soluble. It may be tested for, because it gives a dark green colour with sulphuric acid when diluted by one fifth of its volume of water. The effects of strophanthin are not cumulative but there is no antidote according to Grieve. Spring describes the musi arrows of the Kamba tribes as flighted and having iron points which were frequently wrapped in strips of hide when carried in a quiver to prevent the archer from injury and to keep the poison moist to aid its absorption into the body of a victim. Arrows with iron points still wrapped in hide strips have been observed in the ethnography collection at Exeter [14]. Spring describes the use of Strophanthus as part of a cocktail used in central Sudan to poison arrows. The other components of the cocktail appear to have been the products of putrefaction, or puss from infected sores [15].

The Midgan people of the Ogaden region of southwestern Ethiopia and Somalia used short, flighted arrows that were poisoned with "Wabayo" obtained from the root of the waba or poison tree [16]. The use of Wabayo is recorded from Faizoghli to the Cape of Good Hope by Burton. He states that this poison has been mistakenly thought by Western travellers to have originated from euphorbium species but he claims that euphorbia (spurges) were not the source of East African arrow poisons [17]. Reference to the use of the milky sap of euphorbia as a source for arrow poisons has been found in the Encyclopaedia Britannica but no specific geographical information regarding its use as such is given [18].

A correspondence in the archives of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, which refers to an accession of Somali arrows wrapped in goat skin, warns that they were poisoned by being dipped in mud heavily infected with tetanus [19]. It warns of continued danger from such arrows, given suitable conditions. Arrowheads poisoned with an extract of the plant swartzia have been discovered at the prehistoric site of Gwisho Hotsprings, Southern Zambia [20].

Scorpion and snake venoms have been widely utilised as arrow poisons [21]. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica the sap of the upas tree (Antaris toxicaria) was a commonly used dart and arrow poison outside the Americas having fatal cardiac effects [22]. Strychnos strychnos was also utilised. According to Spring, the bushmen of South Africa used poison on four types of arrow, the female archers (the Amazons) of Dahomey used poisoned arrows and bird bolts, and the Yoruba (Aerobe) and Igbo (Ibo) peoples of Benin used poisoned arrows mainly in warfare [23]. Ashanti, Kavirondo (Luo) and Wakamba arrows in the store at Exeter have been labelled as poisoned at some point in the past without any poison being visually apparent.

Discussion of Preliminary Findings with Conclusions
Because it is not possible to be sure of the absence, presence or exact composition of a poison solely by visual examination of an artefact, it is suggested to approach with caution any artefact suspected of having been poisoned. Poisonous applications on arrows have become brittle in storage at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery; pieces are cracked and spalling, creating a potentially hazardous dust. The actively poisonous constituent(s) of most of the plant derived poisons discussed in this paper are alkaloids [24]. As all pure alkaloids are basic, they combine with acids to form crystalline salts [25]. It is in this form that they are found on artefacts. These salts are usually water soluble [26]. This presents the possibility of the migration of the poisons during incidents such as flooding, thus poisoning packaging, quivers, etc. Poisons such as certain Strophanthus preparations are very stable substances, so it is important that historic poisoned material is still taken seriously as a health and safety issue.

Minimum protective measures for the handling of potentially poisoned and poisoned material should be the use of nitrile gloves, a dust respirator and a plastic apron. It is suggested that storage packaging be designed so the objects are clearly visible without necessitating their removal and handling. Such packaging should clearly be labelled, "POISON" and should be annotated with any health and safety guidelines for the handling of the object. Emergency telephone numbers should be included somewhere on the packaging along with duplicate and further information stored with the first-aid box. All packaging should protect the object and any poison application from damage through movement (such as the loosening of a dry, powdering application of poison) by preventing its movement within the packaging.

Past attempts at addressing these health and safety aspects of the storage of poisoned material at Exeter resulted in the wrapping of poisoned quivers, arrows and darts in polythene sheeting and storing them in plywood boxes that were painted red and marked, "POISON". The polythene sheet had not been sealed but was tied with string or elastic bands (which were perishing). The objects within these packages could not clearly be seen through the polythene. Such wrapping methods are clearly unsuitable for fletched arrows as they could damage the feather flights.

Ethical issues which have been raised surrounding the storage of quivered arrows include the possibility of the removal of poisoned arrows from their quivers to prevent damage from handling, and the possibility of the removal of poisonous residues in order to "deactivate" them. My recommendations are to leave the arrows in context within their quivers and not to allow their removal unless absolutely necessary. Residues of poisons are an integral part of the object and should be preserved in situ. Attention should be placed on safe storage and handling rather than the removal of original substances from the objects, with subsequent loss of information.

Recommendations for the repackaging of the arrows at Exeter are the following:

1. Removal of arrows from their current wraps of polythene sheets.
2. Construction of rigid acid-free card trays that can be stacked within a corrugated polyethylene board (e.g., Correx™) box (fig.1). Within each tray arrows are pinned to expanded polyethylene foam (e.g.. Plastizote™) blocks to protect the feather flights and prevent movement. Arrows should be visible and not have to be removed from the trays. Areas of the arrow which may contain information, such as the dots often used to denote ownership of the arrow, should not be obscured. Stainless steel pins should be used and may be coated in a stable acrylic polymer such as Paraloid B-72 (Acryloid B-72 in U.S.A) or covered with a stable plastic tubing sheath to lessen the likelihood of harming the artefact.
3. Clear labelling and/or colour coding of the whole box so that it stands out amongst the rest of the store as being different in some way.
4. Creation and maintenance of a database of artefacts and poisons. An example is given is provided.

1. NEB Vol. 3, p797.
2. Durrans, B. (1987). p77.
3. Fyfe, H. (Undated). p1624.
4. NEB Vol. 12, p593.
5. NEB Vol. 25, p922.
6. NEB Vol. 25, p928; Vol. 25, plate 6 & Vol. 1, p588.
7. Burton & Burton (1976). p 245.
8. Grieve, M. (1931).
10. Spring, C. (1993). pp34-35 & 45-46.
11. Grieve, M. (1931).
12. Spring, C. (1993). pp117-119.
13. Grieve, M. (1931).
14. Grieve, M. (1931).
15. Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter. Accession: No Number.
16. Spring, C. (1993). p46.
17. Burton, R.F. (1894) Vol.1, p25 & Vol. 1, pp 138-142.
18. Burton, R.F. (1894) Vol.1, p138.
19. NEB Vol. 2, p297.
20.Paget, M.Y. (1905). Letter in the ethnography archives of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter.
21. Phillipson, D.W. (1977). p51.
22. Spring, C. (1993). p46 & p117.
23. NEB Vol. 2, p297.
24. Spring, C. (1993). p49; p52; p58; p64 & pp 137-138.
25. Durrans, B. (1987). p77.
26. Walton et al. (1986). pp33-34; Sharp, D.W.A. (1981).
27. Murrell & Robertson (1914). pp90-91; Sharp, D.W.A. (1981). p14.

Anon. (1995). BDH Hazard Data Sheets. Strophanthin-G, p.994.
Anon. (1995). The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. 15th Edition. Chicago, USA: Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc.
Anon. (1979). British Pharmaceutical Codex. 11th Edition. London: The Pharmaceutical Press.
Burton, R.F. (1894). First Footsteps in East Africa or an Exploration of Harar. New York: Dover Reprint (1989).
Burton, M. & R. (1976). Encyclopaedia of the Animal Kingdom. London: Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd.
Durrans, B. (1987). Note on ethnographic poisons from a 1986 meeting. Published in the Museum Ethnographer's Group Newsletter (August1988). pp.76-77.
Fyfe, H. (Undated). Ecuador: the Republic of the Equator and its people. In Peoples of all Nations Vol. 3. Edited by J.A. Hamilton. London: Educational Book Co. Ltd. p.1624.
Grieve, Mrs. M. [Ed.] (1931). A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publications Inc.
Dover Reprint (1971) Vol. II, pp. 592-593 & pp. 777-779.
Murrell, W. (1914). Aids to forensic medicine and toxicology. 8th edition. Revised by W. G Aitcheson Robertson. London: Balliere, Tindall & Cox.
Phillipson, D.W. (1971). The Later Prehistory of Eastern & South Eastern Africa. Edinburgh: Heinemann Educational Books. p.51.
Sharp. D.W.A. [Ed.] (1981). Miall's Dictionary of Chemistry. 5th edition. Harlow: Longman Group Ltd.
Spring, C. (1993). African Arms & Armour. London: Trustees of the British Museum; British Museum Press.
Walton, J.; Beeson, P.B. & Scott, R.B. [Eds.] (1986). The Oxford Companion To Medicine. Oxford: OUP

Mark Lewis
Conservation Student
University of Wales, Cardiff
The Gardens
92 Newport Road
Caldicot, Monmouthshire
South Wales
United Kingdom
Tel: 01291 424100; E-mail: lewism1@cardiff.ac.uk

The Ethnographic Conservation Newsletter of the Working Group on Ethnographic Materials of the ICOM Committee for Conservation is available free of charge to those with a professional interest in the care and research of ethnological collections. It is published twice a year with a mailing in October and April.

Authors are asked to submit articles in English only. A Guidelines for Authors is available from the address below or from your regional coordinator. We request that contributions be provided in a typed format - typed in standard typeface, on 8 1/2 by 11 white paper, one side only, and double-spaced. Electronic contributions via Internet will also be accepted, but submissions must be sent in an E-mail message in ASCII text format ONLY and not more than 80 characters wide.


Please forward inquiries regarding the newsletter to:

Anthropology Conservation Laboratory
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
MRC 112 10th and Constitution
Washington, D.C. 20560
Tel: 301-238-3270; Fax : 301-238-3109; E-mail: ecn@nmnh.si.edu  

Please forward contributions to the newsletter through your regional coordinator. All submissions must be received two months before the mailing date for inclusion - by August 1 for the October mailing and by February 1 for the April mailing.

Permission to reprint ICOM Ethnographic Conservation Newsletter contributions may be obtained in writing from the Editors.

For information regarding the International Council of Museums (ICOM), and the ICOM Committee for Conservation, please contact:

Maison de l'UNESCO
1, rue Miollis
75732 Paris cedex 15
Fax: 33(1)43-06-78-62

The Ethnographic Conservation Newsletter provides a forum for ideas, but this does not imply an endorsement of any products or procedures; it cannot, therefore, be responsible for the recommendation or application of same. This same principle of neutrality applies to individuals and institutions; the Newsletter is not a judge in regard to either the aforementioned or of related articles published herein. This information presents brief views of issues related to ethnographic conservation, and is not intended to replace the advice of a conservator with respect to particular circumstances.

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