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Marcel Duchamp’s World in a Box: Fixing a Famous Valise

Museum visitors currently have the opportunity to look inside a rare treasure normally kept locked in dark storage. Marcel Duchamp: The Book and the Box, currently on view in the Logan Gallery at the Legion of Honor, features Duchamp’s iconic artwork, Boîte en Valise, which was made in the late 1930s.

Victoria and the box

July 21, 2012

Conservation in 3D: Skype, Stereographs and Silicon

Recently one of the Museums’ most generous supporters, Dorothy Saxe, purchased a sculpture for the collection in memory of our late director John E. Buchanan. Created by contemporary glass artist Beth Lipman, Candlesticks, Books, Flowers and Fruit (2010) is a complex compilation of multiple elements balanced precariously on a table. My role as an objects conservator is to ensure that all the elements of this fragile sculpture are installed safely and in keeping with the artist’s original intent.

May 18, 2012

Mystery Glass Negatives from Land's End

Before there were digital image files and even before there was film, photographers captured images on glass plate negatives. In the collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco there are over seventy of these glass plate negatives depicting scenes of Land’s End and old San Francisco. Discovered in the basement of the old de Young, these century-old negatives were in desperate need of cleaning and re-housing. When the negatives came into the paper conservation lab at the Legion of Honor for proper care, the labor intensive project proved a perfect opportunity for pre-program conservation student Jennifer Martinez.

Foundation of Cliff House

Foundation of Cliff House, c. 1895

May 10, 2012

Bird Bath: The Conservation of a William Morris Textile

The British Aesthetic Movement, which is the subject of the upcoming exhibition The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde 1860–1900 opening at the Legion of Honor on February 18, promoted the integration of beauty and art into every aspect of life. William Morris (1834–1896) was a chief proponent of the Aesthetic Movement and contributed luxe designs for wallpaper, carpets, tiles, and furniture. His career as a textiles designer, however, quickly surpassed his involvement with all other areas of artistic production.

Bird wall hanging, 1878

William Morris (English, 1834–1896). Bird wall hanging, 1878 (detail). Wool jacquard woven doublecloth. Museum purchase, Art Trust Fund. 1996.47

January 23, 2012

The Kilims Are Coming!

In anticipation of The Art of the Anatolian Kilim: Highlights from the McCoy Jones Collection (which opens September 10) the Textiles Conservation team is busy at work preparing each rug for display. It is a meticulous and time-consuming process!

First, the kilims have to be taken out of storage. Normal cardboard contains acid that can cause staining on textiles, which is why kilims are rolled onto blue, acid-free cardboard tubes for storage.To avoid harm from dust, the tubes are shrouded in unbleached cotton fabric.

August 18, 2011

Under Wraps: The furniture at the Legion gets custom-made covers

For the last several months, Textile Conservation volunteers Kathy Murphy, Jean Scardina, intern Erica Storm and Objects Conservation volunteer Tegan Broderick have all been hard at work making covers for the furniture stored at the Legion of Honor. While most of the chairs were already stored beneath loose-fitting pieces of cloth, custom covers provide the objects with better protection from light and dust. Clearly labeled covers also facilitate quick identification of the objects underneath and prevent unnecessary handling.

June 23, 2011

Preserving Images of the 1906 Earthquake

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is home to a unique collection of 167 film negatives taken by photographer Arnold Genthe chronicling the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and fires. The negatives were acquired by the Legion of Honor in 1943.

Genthe 1

Arnold Genthe (photographer), American, 1869–1942
Untitled (Earthslip on San Francisco's Union Street), 1906
Cellulose nitrate negative
Museum purchase, James D. Phelan Bequest Fund. 1943.407.6.1

On the day of the earthquake Genthe, an established photographer best known for his society portraits and views of old Chinatown, took to the streets of San Francisco equipped with a handheld Kodak camera and pockets full of roll film.

The film Genthe used was composed of a gelatin silver emulsion on a thin plastic support of cellulose nitrate. Cellulose nitrate film was introduced commercially at the end of the nineteenth century and remained in use until the mid-twentieth century. Lightweight, transparent and flexible, cellulose nitrate film freed photographers from the inconveniences of its predecessors, paper and glass plate negatives.

May 13, 2011

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