Archiviana: August 2001
Susan Peckham treats a Frederick Catherwood drawing of an archaeological site in Yucatan, which hung on an office wall exposed to light and fluctuating temperatures for decades.
Tara Kennedy has cleaned, flattened and mended a set of 100-year-old paintings by Hopi artists, known as the Codex Hopiensis, which were bound in volumes and placed on library shelves for decades before coming to the NAA. The artwork will now be placed in individual protective mats.
Porfiria Riojas (shown here with Felicia Pickering, rear) has personally rehoused virtually every piece in the NAA's artwork collection.
Eloise Vitiello's custom-made mats, boxes, and four-flap enclosures provide safe housing for our artwork. At the Museum Support Center, shown here, she creates sink mats to protect the leaves of the Codex Hopiensis.
Becky Malinsky has a great reason for smiling: She's just finished scanning the BAE Collection of Glass Negatives, one of the archive's most important collections.
Daisy Njoku is scanning the USNM Division of Ethnology Collection, which includes some 22,000 ethnographic and architectural images, most collected between 1880 and 1940.
Will Greene in our digital imaging center at the Museum Support Center. (Photograph by Don Hurlbert. All other photographs by Will Greene.)
What's New (Some of Which Was Old and Falling Apart)
The staff of our Artwork Conservation Project, which soon concludes its second year, have been working steadily to reverse the cumulative effects of years of careless handling, poor storage, and degenerating materials. Many of our collections suffered unintentional damage when well-meaning individuals used clear adhesive tape to fix tears, unaware that components in the tape sink deep into paper, discoloring and degrading it. Our conservation staff has put in many hours, carefully removing tape, mending tears and reinforcing creases. Their primary goal has been to stabilize the archives artwork collections, rather than make aesthetic repairs that return the artwork to a former state. In fact, our conservators have purposely let stand occasional damage caused by wear and handling in order to retain the intellectual integrity of the artwork. Grime found on the pages of Plains ledger art, for example, may indicate that the artists didn't shut the book on their artwork, but paged through their ledger books, sharing their drawings with others.
"I want to say one word to you just one word plastics." By the time actor Dustin Hoffman received this advice in the motion picture The Graduate (1967), the nation's archives had wholeheartedly embraced plastic lamination as a method for preserving documents. Unfortunately, we now know that lamination sometimes did more harm than good, deteriorating over time and ultimately damaging the paper it enclosed. Conservators halt this trend by using acetone and other solvents to remove the damaging laminated surface, but if the inks and paints below are acetone-soluble, the images themselves may be harmed. Research fellows Tara Kennedy and Claire Grundy worked on a protocol for safely treating laminated artwork, which can be used by other conservators facing similar treament dilemmas. They have analyzed samples taken from the artwork to determine their physical and chemical properties, receiving technical advice and assistance from the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education and the National Archives and Records Administration. Last September, they hosted a roundtable at the Museum Support Center where conservators pooled their knowledge, discussing their experiences treating laminated objects.
The Artwork Conservation Project, funded by Save America's Treasures and the Getty Grant Program, has helped train the next generation of conservators. Denise Stockman, our technician, is heading off to New York for the Buffalo State College program in art conservation this fall, and intern Victoria Book is bound for conservation training at Winterthur, University of Delaware. Our two research fellows have also moved on: Claire Grundy has returned to her home in England, while Tara Kennedy has moved to Omaha, Nebraska for a job as paper conservator at the Ford Conservation Center. Our team of loyal volunteers contributed nearly 3,000 hours of their time toward the project. Working beside Porfiria Riojas and Eloise Vitiello (shown at left), computer whiz Richard Muñiz provided technical support and also created digital images for a related archives project on Native American art. (Contributed by Tara Kennedy and Marit Munson)
Manuscripts on the Move
In August, the archives move team, led by Paula Fleming, began moving the NAA's Numbered Manuscripts Collection to the Museum Support Center in Suitland, Maryland, assisted by a crew of volunteers and interns, including Charles Alexander, Cinthya Cardenas, Ed Donnen, Valerie Fend, Jill Fri, Ann Hunt, Steve Hunt, Marianne Petrino-Schaad, Porfi Riojas, Caroline Schor-Macdicken, Taini Tsou, and Eloise Vitiello.
Meanwhile, construction has begun in earnest on the the NAA's new public reading room, office space, processing area and digital imaging center at its new location in Suitland, Maryland. We expect the NAA to reopen in January 2002.
James Peacock Receives Historical Archives Program Grant
James L. Peacock, professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a past president of the American Anthropological Association (1994-1995) has donated his extensive, well-documented collection of 35mm color slides, color prints, and negatives derived from fieldwork in Indonesia (1963, 1969-70, 1979, 1996) and in North Carolina in the 1980s. The collection also includes many photographs taken in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Dubai, Egypt, India, Morocco, Kenya and Germany.
The conservation of Dr. Peacock's materials and their preparation for deposit in the NAA was made possible with an Historical Archives Grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. These grants are offered to assist individuals holding significant records and personal papers with the expenses of preparing and transferring them for archival deposit, and to support oral-history interviews with senior anthropologists.
Other individuals who have received Wenner-Gren grants to donate their professional papers to the NAA include Barbara Isaac (for preparation of the papers of Glynn Isaac) and Joan Meighan (for preparation of the papers of Clement Meighan). A complete list of recipients can be found on the Wenner-Gren Foundation Web site.
Weston La Barre Peyote Research Notes Available in New Database
Daniel C. Swan, senior curator at the Gilcrease Museum and author of Peyote Religious Art: Symbols of Faith and Belief (University Press of Mississippi, 1999), has produced a database containing the text of 2,500 noteslips assembled by Weston La Barre (1911-1996) for his early study of the Peyote Religion and the Native American Church. The La Barre peyote noteslips, containing both research notes and bibliographic data, were entered into a Filemaker Pro database by Swan's research assistant, Victoria Book. The database will be available in the NAA's reading room and, ultimately, on the Web.
Digital Imaging Program
Veteran imaging specialist Becky Malinsky recently concluded the scanning of all 9,747 images in our Bureau of American Ethnology Collection of Glass Negatives, a monumental task begun in 1999. Becky reached this milestone with the assistance of Jennifer Robertson, a graduate student in the Museum Studies Program at George Washington University, who spent 13 weeks with the digital imaging program this summer.
Daisy Njoku, our digital imaging specialist, becomes the archive's fulltime media resource specialist in October, when she returns from maternity leave. All of us extend best wishes to Daisy, as well as to Will Greene, our program's first digital photographer, who will join the photography department at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in September.
To date, the NAA's digital imaging program has scanned more than 34,000 photographs and works of art. Our imaging standards are now online.
Jeannie Sklar, a graduate of the University of Michigan's School of Information, joins the NAA as a reference archivist in September. The NAA also welcomes two new staff members to the Collections and Archives Program of the Department of Anthropology, each of whom will work closely with the National Anthropological Archives. Carrie Beauchamp, formerly of the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C., joins the department's Information Management team with responsibility for database conversion, inventory, and Web development. Amy Putnam joins the archives as program assistant, having recently worked in the office of the museum's Associate Director for Research and Collections.
The Web Pages Formerly Known as "What's New"
Publication date: August 2001
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