Art conservation students visit the Artifact Lab

Last Saturday, I was pleased to give a special tour of the Artifact Lab to a group of students from the University of Delaware.

Group photo in the Artifact Lab

This group was made up of graduate students in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Graduate Program in Conservation (WUDPAC), a pre-program intern currently working in at Winterthur, and undergraduates majoring in art conservation at the University of Delaware.

Several students gathered for our open window session

They arrived during our open window session, and then we continued the tour afterward, which gave me the opportunity to present some of my ongoing work and experiences working in an open lab. While I speak about my work every day, discussing my work with students who are learning some of the latest treatment techniques and analytical methods, and who have this information fresh in their minds, was incredibly useful for me. Since their visit, I have received some generous offers of sharing material samples and articles. I know that visiting the Artifact Lab must have been a treat for them, but I think it was equally rewarding for me!


A step a- “head”: improving storage for our mummified heads

As I mentioned previously, we have several mummified heads in the Artifact Lab. Luckily, all of them are stable and do not require much in the way of conservation treatment – instead we have focused on examination, documentation, and some light surface cleaning, and in one case, the removal of an old exhibit armature.

We have a lot of things going on at the moment, so thankfully, I’ve gotten some help with this work. A couple weeks ago we had a group of 5 undergraduate art conservation students from the University of Delaware in the lab – they spent the month of January interning in our department on a project focused on documenting and cleaning a group of Arctic boats in storage.

Ellen Nigro and Rebecca Selig condition reporting a kayak

They wrapped up that project a day early, and so on the last day of their internship, they got to work on something totally different – and several of them elected to help condition report one of the heads.

Rebecca Cruz, Emily Cummins, and David Brickhouse examining a mummified head

After fully documenting the heads and carrying out any necessary treatment, our main goal is to construct new storage mounts for these remains. Our Egyptian storage areas are fairly packed with artifacts, and because of this, many things are stored in a way that makes them hard to access or see without a lot of handling.

An example of artifacts wrapped nicely in acid-free tissue in a drawer – unfortunately, there is a lot of handling required to see these objects

New storage supports will improve access and provide better protection for these remains. Our plan is to make handling trays for the heads, which can then be housed within custom-made boxes.

An example of a handling tray, made using acid-free corrugated board and Volara polyethylene foam

I’m getting some help with this as well – Artifact Lab intern Melissa Miller has been working on the first tray and box.

Melissa working on creating a custom-made box for one of the heads

We will be sure to post photos once we’ve completed them!